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Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession [Paperback]

By Richard W. Fox (Author)
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Item description for Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession by Richard W. Fox...

Overview
Where else but America do people ask: What Would Jesus Do? What Would Jesus Drive? What Would Jesus Eat? "This book is for believers and non-believers alike. It is not a book about whether one should believe in Jesus, but about how Americans have believed in and portrayed him."-from the Introduction Jesus in America is a comprehensive exploration of the vital role that the figure of Jesus has played throughout American history. Written by one of our most distinguished historians, Richard Wightman Fox, this book provides a brilliant cultural history of Jesus in America from its origins to today, demonstrating how Jesus is the most influential symbolic figure in our history. Benjamin Franklin understood Jesus as a wise man worthy of imitation. Thomas Jefferson regarded him as a moral teacher. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which occurred on Good Friday, was popularly interpreted as paralleling the crucifixion of Jesus . . . as one preacher put it, "Jesus Christ died for the world, Abraham Lincoln died for his country." Elizabeth Cady Stanton appropriated Jesus' message to champion women's rights. George W. Bush named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher-and several other GOP candidates followed suit-during the last presidential race. As we have seen in recent presidential elections, the name of Jesus is often thrust into the center of political debates, and many Americans regularly enlist Jesus, their ultimate arbiter of value, as the standard-bearer for their views and causes. Fox shows how Jesus influenced such major turning points in American history as: Columbus's voyage of discovery The arrival of the English puritans and Spanish missionaries The American Revolution The abolition of slavery and the Civil War Labor movements Social and cultural revolutions of the sixties and beyond The swelling tide of Christian voices in the politics and entertainment of today Fox gives an expert, lively account of all the ways that Jesus is portrayed and understood in American culture. Extensively illustrated with images representing the multitude of American views of Jesus, Jesus in America reveals how fully and deeply Jesus is ingrained in the American experience.

Publishers Description

Where else but America do people ask: What Would Jesus Do? What Would Jesus Drive?What Would Jesus Eat?

"This book is for believers and non-believers alike. It is not a book about whether one should believe in Jesus, but about how Americans have believed in and portrayed him."--from the Introduction

Jesus in America is a comprehensive exploration of the vital role that the figure of Jesus has played throughout American history. Written by one of our most distinguished historians, Richard Wightman Fox, this book provides a brilliant cultural history of Jesus in America from its origins to today, demonstrating how Jesus is the most influential symbolic figure in our history.

Benjamin Franklin understood Jesus as a wise man worthy of imitation. Thomas Jefferson regarded him as a moral teacher. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which occurred on Good Friday, was popularly interpreted as paralleling the crucifixion of Jesus . . . as one preacher put it, "Jesus Christ died for the world, Abraham Lincoln died for his country." Elizabeth Cady Stanton appropriated Jesus' message to champion women's rights. George W. Bush named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher--and several other GOP candidates followed suit--during the last presidential race. As we have seen in recent presidential elections, the name of Jesus is often thrust into the center of political debates, and many Americans regularly enlist Jesus, their ultimate arbiter of value, as the standard-bearer for their views and causes.

Fox shows how Jesus influenced such major turning points in American history as: Columbus's voyage of discoveryThe arrival of the English puritans and Spanish missionariesThe American RevolutionThe abolition of slavery and the Civil WarLabor movementsSocial and cultural revolutions of the sixties and beyondThe swelling tide of Christian voices in the politics and entertainment of today

Fox gives an expert, lively account of all the ways that Jesus is portrayed and understood in American culture. Extensively illustrated with images representing the multitude of American views of Jesus, Jesus in America reveals how fully and deeply Jesus is ingrained in the American experience.

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Item Specifications...


Studio: HarperOne
Pages   496
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.04" Height: 1.36"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 3, 2005
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  006062874X  
ISBN13  9780060628741  


Availability  0 units.


More About Richard W. Fox


Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard Wightman Fox, Ph.D., has taught American intellectual and cultural history, with an emphasis on religion, at Yale, Reed, and Boston University. He recently returned home to Los Angeles to a prestigious teaching position in the history department of the University of Southern California. He is the author of Trials of Intimacy and Reinhold Niebuhr: A Biography.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History


Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > General



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Reviews - What do customers think about Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession?

Inclusive and indepth...Jesus  May 28, 2007
Detailed, long lasting impressions are what you are left with after reading and hopefully chewing over key issues in this book. I love seeing Christ move across our country in bold and vivid color. This book gave me an appreciation for the Catholic church and insight into modern day Calvinism and more. Great read for the serious students of theology.

However, this book tends to manifest Christ in a way that takes Him out of your heart and places Him into your head. That was kind of a bummer to me. Good read but my money is on the bible.
 
the many faces of the savior  Jan 17, 2007
Think about your earliest memories and images of Jesus. If you are a white, American Protestant, it is likely that you will recall a painting by Warner Sallman, The Head of Christ (1940)--Jesus with flowing blond hair and saccharine blue eyes. This painting has enjoyed some 500 million copies, and is a reminder that in America, but not only in America, the ideas and images about Jesus are extraordinarily malleable. There is clearly no interpretive monopoly upon Jesus; instead, at least to some extent, each believer and generation, across times and cultures, creates Jesus in its own image. That is what these two theological and cultural histories explore.

Of course, every sincere believer longs for the "real" Jesus, Jesus pure and pristine, original, "unbesmirched by tradition." But that is impossible. So, for example, Frederick Douglass excoriated a "slave holding, women-whipping" Christendom. Thomas Jefferson took scissors to all he did not like and ended up with Jesus as sage. George Bush claimed him as his most important political philosopher. And on it goes. These two books take us through the almost limitless images of Jesus we have created--in stage and theater, movies and song, portraits and theological texts, Jesus of the the intellectuals and Jesus of uneducated peasants, Jesus of the European colonizers and Jesus of the beleaguered slaves, and even Jesus of cultural kitsch. The elasticity of these images is disconcerting; we should be very wary about absolutizing the relative. Countee Cullen, author of the long narrative poem "The Black Christ" (1929), was at least aware of the dangers: "Lord, forgive me if my need/Sometimes shapes a human creed."
 
Personal Jesus  Jan 31, 2006
My first take on this book is that Wightman has been reading Jaroslav Pelikan's masterful and readable Jesus Through the Centuries. What he shares with Pelikan, however, is not so much a thesis as an angle of approach. When Wightman declares, late in the book, that he teaches a class on the subject, you realize that this book was probably pulled together from his class notes. Regardless, it will prove both enjoyable and intriguing to those interested in either the time period (pre-Colonial to the present) or the subject (cultural history).

Wightman almost never plays his hand as to his own viewpoints, but his enthusiasms are entirely evident. This is to the good, as they are the best parts of the book. All the better that his heroes are not an obvious mix. He obviously likes or is interested in Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards and Emerson. Being so partisan to them perhaps enables him to be more honest than many reviewers who lightly gloss over those they induct into the pantheon of American heroes. I found the parts about Emerson as a Unitarian to be the most gripping, and why in the millieu of Transcendentalism, Mormonism, Christian Science and New Thought, he among others rejected the creed of the Trinitarian churches (and why those churches didn't).

The other topic he is absolutely mad about is the trinity of liberal Protestant thinkers in the 'fifties: the brothers Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Surprisingly, though, he spends no time on Tillich, whose The Courage to Be was a bestselling touchstone of 'fifties liberal Protestants, and all of his time on the Niebuhrs. At this point the book also bogs down, with all sorts of pyschological terminology introduced to take the place of the traditional language jettisoned in the 'fifties.

But Wightman, nearly alone of his ilk, is mostly fair to the various believers who at least make cameos in his book (except to Billy Graham who was disliked by the Niebuhrs). As he points out, when then governor George W. Bush named Jesus as his favorite philosopher, it may not be the choice of trendy thinkers, but it's what a lot of Americans would do.

This is also one of the few books to even consider the Catholic presence and viewpoint in relation to largely Protestant American history. The ideas and vocabulary of the misunderstood Puritans, no more than the lionized Transcendentalists meant different things then than they do now, as Ellwood Johnson points out in The Goodly Word, where he examines the seminal ideas of both the Puritans and their secular offspring rather more clearly than does Wightman. A subtle undertone in the book is taken from Charles Sheldon's 1896 novel, In His Steps, in which characters ask a question that would resonate a century later: "what would Jesus do?" That's a question liberal Protestants of the 'fifties would continue to ask long after they had ceased asking the questions posed by Protestants and Catholics in this book about who Jesus is.
 
Fascinating Overview of American History  May 23, 2005
Richard Fox's book is not a Church History, a Christian History,
or even a religious history. What it is is an American History
analyzed through the lens of how people responded to the life,
example, and image of Jesus. It takes the reader through the
life of the early Catholic missionaries, then the Protestant Puritans, the American Revolution, the Revival Movements, World
War I and pacifism, to modern evangelicism. I believe that
every high school student should be required to read this book
in order to develop a more balanced view of the role of religion
in American culture and government.
 
Disjointed but often brilliant  Apr 16, 2005
"In all likelihood, Jesus is permanently layered into the American cultural soil. Yet his identity is elastic. There is no single Jesus, in America or anywhere else," he writes.

This isn't the best church history I've read. In fact it took me awhile to fall in love with it. His humility and lack of stuffinss kept me reading. But about a third of the way through he got me. It is an impressionist work , so I'll give it a similarly disjointed, impresisonistic review. Some random highlights for me:

p. 129: his take on Edwards joy in doing theology is better phrased than anything Marsden, Gerstner, I. Murray, Lee, McDermott or anybody else I've ever read on Edwards. Its only a few paragraphs but it lit me up for hours.

p. 263: His thing on Hodge on Bushnell has been said before in bits and pieces by others. But never so clearly and potently in such a short space. I finally get it. For years I hated Bushnell (for reducing the faith to a socializing process); then when I finally began to shake off my revivalism I started to think I shouldn't have been so harsh on him. Fox straightened me out in two paragraphs via Hodge.

p. 274: his sutble disdain for Henry Ward Beecher is wonderful.

p. 358 -- his thing on Niebuhr's appreciation for Edwards -- great.

p. 396 -- "evangelical Protestants like to ask 'What WOULD Jesus do?,' but many Catholics and non-evangelical Protestants prefer to ask "What DOES Jesus do?' "

p. 397 "Machen was naive, (Niebuhr) thought, to attack liberalism without also taking on the popular revivalists who did as much to undermine a proper respect for the supernatural as the liberals did. Revivalists too were reducing the Gospel to a self-help creed, an empowerment doctrine adorned in pious trappings...."

I could go on like this. This is a rather awful book if its the only American chucrh history you will read in a year or two. But read critically it has a few dozen moments that will make it wwll worth it.
 

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