In 1804, Thomas Jefferson took a straight-edge razor to his copies of the New Testament and cut out everything that suggested a divine nature for Jesus. And then he praised that Jesus to the heavens. Fast forward to the 1970s. Jesus cut a huge swath on Broadway in the smash hits “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell.” In 2003, Jesus is making more movie headlines with Mel Gibson’s “The Passion.” Christian rock is hot. The scripture’s Son of God is front and center in the Bush White House.
Americans, both Christians and not, have made and remade their understanding of Jesus over centuries, says religious scholar Stephen Prothero . In a new book, Prothero contends that Jesus is so much a part of the American culture and experience that “one way you figure out your place in America is figuring out what you think about Jesus. Tonight, On Point: Tracing the Evolution of the “American Jesus.”
Stephen Prothero, chairman of the Department of Religion at Boston University, author of the new book “American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon”