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American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon

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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 ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon

Overall customer rating: 4.000
Curran B

A generally fair depiction of a wax nose

by Curran B on Nov 5, 2011

Prothero?s goal is to search ?for the American Jesus?Jesus as he has been interpreted and reinterpreted, construed and misconstrued, in the messy midrash of American culture.? Though Prothero?s pre-modern and early modern history seems more critique of caricature than actual history (typifying Calvinism as having little place for a human Jesus and depicting the Council of Laodicea al la Ehrman with the council ?inexplicably? choosing an Irenaean version of the canon over a Marcionite version), his history of American appropriations of Jesus seems very thoroughly researched and careful, and seems to be a fair depiction of the American portrait of Jesus. Prothero examines the birth of a relatively American phenomenon of making a cut-and-paste Jesus, starting with Jefferson?s razor in the NT up to the Jesus Seminar?s more complicated version of the same thing in the 1990s. He looks at the feminization of Jesus by the victorians, then the re-masculinization of Jesus from the 1890s through the Word Wars, then the creation of the Superstar icon in the 1960s with the Jesus Movement, rise of CCM and Broadway and Hollywood caricatures. Turning from ?resurrections? within the mainline White, Protestant, Christian tradition to ?reincarnations? from ?outsiders,? Prothero looks at the Mormon, Black, Jewish and Eastern appropriations of Jesus. Prothero concludes, developing to the present day what Nathan O. Hatch described of the democratization of Jesus in the Second Great Awakening, that Jesus has been co-opted by American culture, making his appeal more broad, relevant, compelling and appealing, at the same time that his message and essence has been reshaped by those forces to something of their own making. Jefferson started a trend which Eastern moderns have continued by setting the religion of Jesus at odds with the religion about Jesus, while evangelicals, fundamentalists and liberals have reshaped Jesus according to the needs of their various contexts ? the result being that in the many appropriations and permutations of Jesus in American culture Jesus has become thoroughly American at the same time that America has become thoroughly permeated with Jesus. ?The fact that the United States is a Jesus nation does not make it a Christian one? however (301). It demonstrates that America is both a Christian country and a multireligious country. Also, it shows how in the United States the sacred and the secular are inextricably intertwined? (302). The ?internalization of the sacred? and the ?immanentization of the transcendent? has led the Second Person of the Trinity to eclipse the First in the American psyche and, Prothero suspects, will lead to an even greater focus on the Holy Spirit than even the Pentecostal/charismatic movement has accounted for in coming years.

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