UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Jesus Made in America

Writer untangles the historical weave of a uniquely American Jesus

By Mark Giuliano

Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ
By Stephen J. Nichols
(Intervarsity Press) $22.99

With its catchy pop title and retro baseball cover, Jesus Made in America will surprise and delight readers with the thoughtful research and academic rigour  within its pages. While many Americans have an intuitive sense of Jesus’ cultural importance, author Stephen J. Nichols untangles the historical weave of what he has identified as a uniquely American Jesus.

In his quest to uncover the American Jesus, Nichols examines most of the important cultural developments in America’s history, from colonial preacher Jonathan Edwards’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” to 1980s punk band Bad Religion and its anti-war, anti-George H.W. Bush song, American Jesus. Nichols leaves few stones unturned, delving into para-church movements, the commodification of Christ, contemporary Christian music, as well as Jesus through the eyes of Hollywood notables such as Mel Gibson (The Passion) and Martin Scorsese (The Last Temptation of Christ).

Nichols’s fine book falls short in a number of ways, however. Most striking is the book’s lack of attention to the African influence on the American Jesus. While Nichols addresses the issue of slavery, he almost entirely misses the influence of the slave’s religion on American evangelical Christianity and its Jesus. And while he acknowledges an African American hermeneutic, he dismisses it, claiming that white American evangelicals have been “conditioned by a different set of cultural influences.” Cultural icons such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who not only empowered blacks but transformed the hearts and minds of whites, find little place in this book.

Rev. R. Mark Giuliano is the senior pastor of the Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian) in Cleveland.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Environment

Song leader, police and gate blockers in front of the Kinder Morgan gates. Photo by Kimiko Karpoff

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

A faith leader reflects on protesting the pipeline with the Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. Photo: Lindsay Palmer

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Society

June 2018

Why some women of colour are hesitant to say #MeToo

by Jacky Habib

Three women share their stories in the hope of creating safe spaces they never had.

Environment

May 2018

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

On April 28, 2018, faith leaders from many traditions, including the United Church, stood in solidarity with Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C.. Kimiko Karpoff captured the day in pictures.

Faith

June 2018

After 93 years, this will be the United Church's last General Council meeting

by Mike Milne

When the United Church meets in July, top priorities will be a streamlined governance structure and Indigenous ministries.

Justice

June 2018

#MeToo in the United Church

by Trisha Elliott

9 women share their stories of harassment and sexual assault in the United Church.

Columns

May 2018

On grief and the healing power of gardening

by Paul Fraumeni

A writer reflects on how growing tomatoes is helping him find peace while dealing with the loss of loved ones, including his son.

Editorials

June 2018

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image