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

de Stephen J. Nichols

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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.… (mais)
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Nichols gives a broad overview of how culture and the leading voices in a culture have affected the church's view of Jesus Christ. It is a rough skimming of the surface, but he does provide ample documentation for those who want to look a bit deeper. Simply put, this is a summary/compendium of what others have said. And Nichols's main beef is clear: we have left the soundness of the creeds in terms of Jesus' person. Point well-taken.

But when Nichols hits the current era, his tone turns bitter, and he seems to cherry pick his examples, which leads me to wonder what he has left out earlier. He has harsh words (and rightly so in many cases) for CCM, but he offers his own interpretation of some lyrics, which, quite frankly, I have never thought was the meaning, and I do listen to lyrics carefully. He also picks particular songs which he thinks are lacking in their Christology and paints the artist as somehow lacking in their theological depth. But it is one song and not a complete survey of the artist's work. Is every song by every artist supposed to present a full-orbed treatment of Christology? Nichols seems to think so. But could I not pick from a line in one of David's Psalms and accuse him of lacking a full orbed orthodoxy? His treatment of movies also leaves a little to be desired, finally ending with the thought that presenting the God-man on screen might just be a little difficult.

He returns to his prior style when he hits politics. He still has harsh words for those on the left and right, castigating both for thinking they can co-opt Jesus for their own agenda.

All in all a good book, minus the small digressions in the chapters on music and movies, which still offer helpful words for thought as Evangelical Christianity seems to buy whatever sounds "Christian" without thinking about the theology behind it. This is a helpful response to our cultural abduction of the biblical Jesus. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
Nichols gives a broad overview of how culture and the leading voices in a culture have affected the church's view of Jesus Christ. It is a rough skimming of the surface, but he does provide ample documentation for those who want to look a bit deeper. Simply put, this is a summary/compendium of what others have said. And Nichols's main beef is clear: we have left the soundness of the creeds in terms of Jesus' person. Point well-taken.

But when Nichols hits the current era, his tone turns bitter, and he seems to cherry pick his examples, which leads me to wonder what he has left out earlier. He has harsh words (and rightly so in many cases) for CCM, but he offers his own interpretation of some lyrics, which, quite frankly, I have never thought was the meaning, and I do listen to lyrics carefully. He also picks particular songs which he thinks are lacking in their Christology and paints the artist as somehow lacking in their theological depth. But it is one song and not a complete survey of the artist's work. Is every song by every artist supposed to present a full-orbed treatment of Christology? Nichols seems to think so. But could I not pick from a line in one of David's Psalms and accuse him of lacking a full orbed orthodoxy? His treatment of movies also leaves a little to be desired, finally ending with the thought that presenting the God-man on screen might just be a little difficult.

He returns to his prior style when he hits politics. He still has harsh words for those on the left and right, castigating both for thinking they can co-opt Jesus for their own agenda.

All in all a good book, minus the small digressions in the chapters on music and movies, which still offer helpful words for thought as Evangelical Christianity seems to buy whatever sounds "Christian" without thinking about the theology behind it. This is a helpful response to our cultural abduction of the biblical Jesus. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
NCLA Review - Cultural pressure governs how people through the decades view Jesus and Americans have imagined Jesus differently through the years. Nichols takes the reader on a history of America through the person of Jesus . How have we formulated Him to fit our collective conscience? We have a Jesus like Socrates , a Jesus like a western cowboy, a Jesus as a romantic love story hero to name a few. In the late 20th Century, this retooling of Jesus was best exemplified in the writings of Max Lucado. Lucado observes Jesus as our “best friend.” Another method of observation is to look at the Hollywood films made about His life. Americans are drawn to romance and so Jesus and Mary Magdalene appear in many movies throughout the 20th Century. In conclusion, Nichols advises: listen to scripture first, listen to tradition, and listen to experience. Rating: 4 —JD. 237p, paper, Intervarsity 2008, $24.95 [277.3] ( )
  ncla | Feb 22, 2009 |
Often with little attention to the historical figure, each subsequent generation of American Christians have re-created the person and ministry of Jesus. This is particularly true to American Evangelicals, the subject of Nichols’ “cultural history.” Using the Puritans (e.g. Jonathan Edwards and Edward Taylor) as the theological standard of American orthodox Christology, Nichols traces the cultural trajectory of Christological beliefs in ensuing generations – as represented by frontier Jesus, modernist Jesus, Jesus People Jesus, Hollywood Jesus, T-Shirt Jesus, and Republican Jesus. Nichols provides an insightful cultural exegesis, but seems guilty of theological and historical reductionism – or at least favoritism. B ( )
  bsanner | Sep 4, 2008 |
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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.

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