The evangelical personification of wisdom, sacrifice, love, and mercy is, of course, referred to Jesus Christ. The figure of the Son of God is well related to the liberal democracies so popular with Western countries. However, in the United States, Jesus Chrsit is a manifestation of the symbolic meaning of the historic and cultural achievements of Americans. In this respect the book American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen Prothero’s illuminates a series of topics and facts on the social and religious development of the Church and state. Moreover, making Jesus as a living human being has become as a result of cultural prescriptions applied to the religious idea throughout the country. Hence, by making Jesus into a person earlier evangelicals made him more like a man and less like a God.
First of all, Jesus has become a national icon for the US due to the trends of pure religion similar to the earlier periods of Christianity. However, it is the liberal trend in Christianity that let people pay their attention to Jesus Christ as a folk next door. It was an attempt of different branches of Christianity to get more popularity with the society or particular communities. It was a quest for a new personification of Jesus that is compatible with modern humanity and fits into the cultural diversity within the society.
Prothero identifies an attempt of Americans to create Jesus that satisfies all individuals even of other religions gathered in the United States: “But the power of Christians to put Jesus on the national agenda has compelled Americans of all faiths to weigh in on him” (Prothero, 2003, p. 8). It is all about no compartmentalizing since the American nation stands on the etalon of Jesus Christ’s behavior shared also by others eager to follow the same “united” way.
The author presupposes that the cultural identity within America was bubbling over regarding religious features. A land of religious liberty, it was stated to have the central religious figure of Jesus Christ. It remains a conundrum for everyone why strong and consistent Gospel of Jesus Christ was not that important for Americans than the figure of the Son? In this respect the author claims that the first to follow historical Jesus (not cultural) was Thomas Jefferson (Prothero, 2003). Hence, a cultural Jesus runs into a historical Jesus.
Notably, it was a quest for the “right” Jesus. Thereupon, the term “right” responds to the meaning of overall satisfaction and compatibility of his figure with the society. Rather peaceful intentions were leading officials and clergymen toward getting juxtaposition in that issue. It was a precursor for democratic as well as liberal relationships so needful for a new country. Prothero (2003) provides causative-consecutive relations between American Jesus and democratic values respectively: “Today the country boasts a sprawling spiritual marketplace, where religious shoppers can choose among all the world’s great religions, and form a huge menu of offerings inside each” (p. 6).
Capitalism is well referred to consumerism. This tradition was once maintained and is now widely spread and used by Americans. Is it possible to suppose Jesus appreciating such actions? Definitely, it would be a positive evaluation on the part of statesmen and clergymen trying to interpret Jesus’ predominant humanness (understanding and loyalty) than his divine nature (radical and straight-forward gospel).
In the society preaching political and economic values as if they were taken from above and adopted in the name of Jesus there is a controversial look at how contemporary Americans perceive their Savior. It s something that carries Americans along. Putting up to what the Church says and how the officials behave accordingly Americans see their prosperous future in finding out a personal Jesus for everyone. However, it should respect the Commandments of Christ.
Each branch of Christian religion stands along with the artifacts of other widely spread religions of the world (Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.). The author copes with the dilemma of making a right justification about religious life of Americans and their preferences accordingly. Thereupon, Prothero (2003) sheds light on the real picture of religious affairs going on in America:
The only way to make sense of all these facts – on both sides of the ledger – is to refuse to make a Solomonic choice between Christian America and multireligious America, between the country’s de facto religiosity and its de jure secularity (p. 7)
This is the focal piece of discussion. America is a multinational and multireligious country where different choices and likes of Americans are well guarded by the law. As a matter of fact, it makes America that unique in the world arena, namely its versatility of religions. There is no one to argue that Jesus in his teachings follows a democratic way of social, political, and economic development. Americans are likely to believe solely in that Jesus who gave them numerous opportunities to be so powerful and magnificent.
With three Americans out of five affiliated to the Church, it is possible to assume that the national spirit is full of the iconic implementation of the figure of Christ so appreciated and wanted by Americans insofar (Prothero, 2003). People living in the US stand united in their attitude toward Jesus Christ. It makes them feel mutual support notwithstanding probable differences in religious issues. The author outlines that “polls reveal that Americans of all faiths view Jesus “overwhelmingly in a favorable light” and that he has “a strong hold even on those with no religious training” (Prothero, 2003, p. 11).
It sounds quite consistent and full of rational approach toward judging upon religion at large. On the other hand, it defines America as a country likely to take hold of the gospel of Christ in a new close-to-modern-culture form. Making Jesus one’s personal savior sounds too intimate for an American having not such a closer look at the New Testament. Conversely, preachers are now trying to make it sound more live and vivid for an individual in order to bring good news summarized in a few words. It works and it is now taken as a given.
“Jesus gives freedom,” as the Bible reads. Freedom and liberty are focal points of a democratic capitalist country like the United States. This is why it a cultural or national mark that everyone living in America should take for granted. It is similar to all and is hinted on the part of natives toward immigrants, for instance. Sharing American values means sharing the supreme religion, i.e. Christianity, and its pivotal figure of Jesus Christ. To omit social misbalance, Americans of any religion follows the supremacy of Christ as a symbol of power, wisdom, and discretion.
It seems like there is nothing to say in addition. However, Prothero (2003) takes a glimpse at what makes Jesus so comprehensive among Americans. In the era of high technologies, it is obvious that Jesus has become ubiquitous. Broadcasting channels, radio programs, cinematograph, mass media on the whole are all responding to the topic of Jesus Christ. The author gives an example of Mick Jagger and Bono’s song “about looking for the Buddha but finding Jesus Christ” (Prothero, 2003, p. 11). A host of movies andd other media products devoted to Jesus are also heard, seen, read or discussed in the society.
Mass media generates public opinion with new ideas and new forms of expression so as Americans could take it into consideration. Moreover, Americans live with the idea of Jesus who personifies goodness and protection. It is all about one’s hesitations between good and evil bearing in mind that Jesus (good) should break down any manifestation of evil in you.
Nonetheless, Jesus appears a product of consumerism for Americans trying to make an acquisition of divinity through making financial sacrifice or by means of ministry. Jesus is proposed to every ordinary American as a universal symbol of peace and salvation. Notably, America would possibly not exist unless it has a multiform of Jesus:
In a country where Jesus is as multiform as Proteus, it is difficult to point to any one representation of him and say it is particularly over the top. But the laughing Jesus may fit the bill, particularly because he seems to have been born in a graveyard (Prothero, 2003, p. 291).
The aforementioned justification of an American Jesus sheds light on his figure as pursuant to every single sphere of living. The United States of America seems to respect the Son of God, as the only pivot to make people peaceful and reliable. Furthermore, the author grasps the vision of Jesus Christ for different layers of the society as a liturgical traditionally-based depiction excluding Jesus of Natives and Hispanics (Prothero, 2003).
However, an iconic manifestation of Christ is not underlined in the book in a mere theological viewpoint. Americans should address to Jesus as if Jesus is his name when Christ is his last name (Prothero, 2003). This is the way things go on in America. Nothing should provide a conundrum if the global goals like spiritual salvation and following the pathway of righteousness are pointed out.
A universal definition for Jesus as widely acclaimed among Americans in the historical cut is as follows: “Ever eager to please, he has been all things to all people, adjusting his message and appearance in order to be loved by his peers” (Prothero, 2003, p. 294). Thus, cultural captivity of the gospel of Christ was inevitable for Americans trying their best to get out of the Church dogmas with no refreshment throughout centuries.
Paying attention to the image of Jesus, an American is likely to find out everything coming above and beyond sometimes. It makes the whole nation believe in the future and that everything is going to be all right. Conservative Christianity seems to be largely removed by liberal Christianity. A frozen Christ on pictures and sculptures has become an imaginary Christ who is for everybody. Different religions, therefore, tend to get mutual points with Christianity while taking socially significant features into account.
At least rallying cry of the Gospel is now heard and associated with the supremacy of Jesus even though he is more likely to be imagined as human more than as God. However, the only dispute takes place between theological and historical versus cultural religious viewpoints on Jesus. The idea is that “from the perspective of cultural and religious history, however, Jesus is anything but unchanging” (Prothero, 2003, p. 298). Thereupon, Jesus as a spiritual figure is a set of virtues and good intentions likely to be broadly appreciated among Americans and definitely accepted by the Church. Nonetheless, his uniqueness is that he was a man once and got through resurrection and reincarnations. This is why contemporary American Jesus is an implementation of everything making the US take off among the rest of the world’s countries.