American Jesus by Stephen Prothero
How the Son of God Became a National Icon

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Synopsis

The Story of the Transformation of Jesus from Divinity to Celebrity

The United States (it is often pointed out) is one of the most religious countries on earth, and most Americans belong to one Christian church or another. But as Stephen Prothero argues in American Jesus, many of the most interesting appraisals of Jesus have emerged outside the churches: in music, film, and popular culture; and among Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and people of no religion at all.

Popular revisions of Jesus are nothing new: Thomas Jefferson famously took scissors to the New Testament to produce a Jesus he could call his own. In Prothero's incisive chronicle, the emergence of a cult of Jesus--as folk hero and commercial icon--is America's most distinctive contribution to Western religion. Prothero describes how Jesus was enlisted by abolitionists and Klansmen, by Teddy Roosevelt and Marcus Garvey. He explains how, in our own time, the proliferation of Jesus' image on Broadway stages and bumper stickers, on the cover of Time and on the Internet, in a Holy Land theme park and on a hot-air balloon, expresses the strange mix of the secular and the sacred in contemporary America.

American Jesus is a lively and often witty work of history. As an account of the ways Americans have cast the carpenter from Nazareth in their own image, it is also an examination, through the looking glass, of the American character.

 

About Stephen Prothero

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Stephen Prothero is the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and God Is Not One, and a professor of religion at Boston University. His work has been featured on the cover of Time magazine, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily show with Jon Stewart, National Public Radio, and other top national media outlets. He writes and reviews for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Salon, Slate, and other publications.
 
Published September 18, 2004 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 388 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

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Abjuring open discussions of his or anyone’s religion, Jefferson literally cut the mystery away from Jesus by taking scissors and paste pot to the New Testament on two occasions while in the White House and producing two “very thin books” on what he considered the essence of those teachings—empha...

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Publishers Weekly

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Prothero (American Jesus ), chair of the religion department at Boston University, begins this valuable primer by noting that religious illiteracy is rampant in the United States, where most Americans, even Christians, cannot name even one of the four Gospels.

Nov 20 2006 | Read Full Review of American Jesus: How the Son o...

Publishers Weekly

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What makes America unique, Prothero convincingly argues, is that the words that manifest its "core ideas and values—" from the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged—continue to be debated by its citizens.

Jun 04 2012 | Read Full Review of American Jesus: How the Son o...

Publishers Weekly

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From Thomas Jefferson's cut-and-paste Bible to Jesus Christ Superstar , from the feminized Christ of the Victorians to the "manly redeemer" of Teddy Roosevelt's era, from Buddhist bodhisattva to Black Moses, Prothero surveys the myriad ways Americans have remade Jesus in their own image.

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Project MUSE

Prothero's account of how Jesus has become a national symbol, if not the icon in the United States, is a highly accessible cultural history, one that examines how Jesus has been imagined and reimagined by Americans.

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