American Jesus

How the Son of God Became a National Icon

This book first took shape when I started noticing American Hindus celebrating Christmas and Buddhists referring to Jesus as a bodhisattva. This happened around the same time that George W. Bush was referring to Jesus as his favorite philosopher. The book that emerged out of these curiosities looks at the many ways that Americans, both Christians and otherwise, have made Jesus over in their own image, eventually turning him into a national icon. Along the way it contends that the United States is a "Jesus nation" in which virtually everyone reveres Jesus, yet everyone reveres him in their own way.

Albert Schweitzer famously compared those who tried to reconstruct the Real Jesus to a man looking into a well, who sees the reflection of his own face staring up at him. In American Jesus, Stephen Prothero catalogues the dazzling array of Jesus reflections that Americans have contemplated over the years. Let me say at once, with no disrespect to Prothero's impressive scholarship, that the resulting book is enormous fun. It is well written, and offers a host of insights even on topics that the reader might think are thoroughly familiar. - Philip Jenkins, Christianity Today

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