At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Fox, Richard Wightman. Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, national Obsession. Harper, $27.95

Library Journal: “very successful…exciting…a fresh history that will likely be influential for years to come. Highly recommended.” New Republic: “An extraordinary blend of historical sophistication, theological discrimination, and spiritual understanding.” Booklist: “Sophisticated.” Commonweal: “Entertaining, well-researched, and compelling study. A great read, as well as a superb ecumenical overview. The intellectual coherence, clean narrative line, and readability of these discussions offer a template for scholars doing the cultural history of religion in America. Yet there are a few fissures. Fox’s cultural history largely ignores how religious institutions affected popular conceptions of Jesus. Likewise, Fox never addresses the complex relationship between denominational belief and the transdenominational popularity of Jesus. Nevertheless, these criticisms should not detract form the larger success of Fox’s achievement here. Run out and buy this book.” First Things: “A popular history for the general reader written in a friendly prose. Beneath this cordial classroom manner is considerable scholarship, of which readers can avail themselves in Fox’s generous and well-written endnotes. It does seem a weakness in Fox’s treatment that he never suggests whether or how we Americans can discover any shaping limitations, any integrating constraints, either inherent or derived from authority, on our Jesus-reinterpretation. Mel Gibson earns the distinction of being the only American in four hundred years of whose Jesus Fox unequivocally disapproves, because as a ‘Latin traditionalist’ he is marketing a retrograde and discredited Jesus.” National Catholic Reporter: “A fine book, but would have been enriched and complicated by a deeper consideration of American Catholic traditions.” Publishers Weekly: “Fox’s scholarship is dependable, and he does a fine job of distilling the essence of figures ranging from Jonathan Edwards to Aimee Semple McPherson. But Fox’s net is so broadly cast that the book ends up contributing little to a story that has been exceedingly well told, and more persuasively interpreted, by historians like Mark Noll. This book will undoubtedly be compared to, and confused with, Stephen Prothero’s American Jesus, but the text lacks Prothero’s deftness with historical sources and his interpretive boldness—there is little here to challenge historians’ conventional wisdom or mainstream readers’ assumptions. Nor does Fox, unlike Prothero, give much attention to non-Christian encounters with Jesus. But Fox still does a very serviceable job.”


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