Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ

Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ

Nichols, Stephen J.


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Listen to an episode of Christ the Center entitled Made in the USA. (Reformed Forum)

"Stephen Nichols's account of how Jesus has been perceived throughout American history is long on wisdom and short on tedium." - Mark Noll

Pubisher's Description: Jesus is as American as baseball and apple pie. But how this came to be is a complex story--one that Stephen Nichols tells with care and ease. Beginning with the Puritans, he leads readers through the various cultural epochs of American history, showing at each stage how American notions of Jesus were shaped by the cultural sensibilities of the times, often with unfortunate results.

Always fascinating and often humorous, Jesus Made in America offers a frank assessment of the story of Christianity in America, including the present. For those interested in the cultural implications of that story, this book is a must-read.

210 pages
Published May 2008

Table of Contents

1 The Puritan Christ: Image and Word in Early New England
2 Jesus for a New Republic: The Politics and Piety of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington and Paine
3 Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild: Nineteenth-Century Makeovers from the Frontier to Victorian Culture
4 Jesus, Hero for the Modern World: Harry Emerson Fosdick, J. Gresham Machen and the Real Meaning of Christmas
5 Jesus on Vinyl: From the Jesus People to CCM
6 Jesus on the Big Screen: The Passion for Hollywood
7 Jesus on a Bracelet: Christ, Commodification and Consumer Culture
8 Jesus on the Right Wing: Christ and Politics in America
Epilogue: Jesus and the Gospel in the Twenty-first Century

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Book Details

210 Pages
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Publication Date: May 2008
ISBN 13: 9780830828494

"Stephen Nichols's account of how Jesus has been perceived throughout American history is long on wisdom and short on tedium. His lively account is especially noteworthy as it explains what the nation's first presidents made of Jesus and how he has been depicted by some of its most popular movie producers. Not the least of the book's many merits is Nichols's ability to sort through the extraordinary mix of cultural nonsense and profound theological insight that make up this story."
- Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

"Could it be that in their 'personal relationship with Jesus' evangelicals in the United States have gotten the better end of the deal? This is certainly one question that readers can plausibly take away from Stephen Nichols's imaginative and knowledgeable study of evangelical conceptions of Jesus. As he shows, 'having Jesus in my heart' often means reducing the eternal Son of God to the proportions of believers' limited imaginations more than it does being conformed to the image of God revealed in Christ. As somber and difficult as that lesson may be to receive, Nichols packages it in a lively narrative that is sure to entertain even while hitting the reader right between the eyes."
- D. G. Hart, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and author of That Old-Time Religion in Modern America: Evangelical Protestants in the Twentieth Century

"This is a fascinating historical chronicle of the many different ways we have attempted to 'Americanize' Jesus. But reading it is also an important spiritual exercise. Stephen Nichols points us beyond the distorted images of Jesus that so easily tempt us to the reality of a Savior who is the Lord of the nations."
- Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

""I hate to say it, but Nichols is right: 'Too often American evangelicals have settled for a Christology that can be reduced to a bumper sticker.' My hope and prayer for this book is that our leading preachers will read it, learn from Nichols about the profound Christian heritage of reflection on the natures and person of Christ, and work to edify their audiences with meaty biblical preaching about this most important doctrine. I am more optimistic than Nichols about the potential of recent cultural trends to fortify such efforts--especially the recent emphasis on Jesus' concern for the poor. But I applaud Nichols's attempt to take us beyond our own little worlds and help us learn from other people, past and present, about the excellency of Christ."
- Doug Sweeney, associate professor of church history and director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School