American Jesus by Stephen Prothero

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

This is the first clause of the first amendment of the United States Constitution. It is probably one of the most important lines (and most debated) in all of American freedoms. It is what makes the United States unique.

Christianity has a very unique history in the United States because there is no central authority. There is no pope to monitor the flock. Every American has the right to view Jesus in his or her own way and thus worship and share this Jesus with whomever they want. Our third president and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, was one of the first to challenge the accepted status quo of Jesus in America. His Jesus was different from his citizens. He did not force his subjects to accept his Jesus. He did not mistreat or torture his dissenters. They were free to express their opinions, as so was he.

American Jesus walks through the different views of Jesus throughout the nation’s history. Jesus is a national icon because he is up for interpretation. If you don’t like someone’s view of Jesus, you can change it to make it yours. Your view of Jesus is up to you. This book presents the different popular views of Jesus over the years and how he has developed over the decades.

The first couple of chapters were interesting, but overall, this book was too long and not super interesting. At the end of the book, I was hoping to read more about the modern Jesus during the moral majority and Reagan years. Though this book was well-researched as better than others, it still does not reach the top of my suggestion list.