American Jesus: Pawn or King?

Unknown-2In Stephen Prothero’s book American Jesus, the Boston University Professor of Religion details how Jesus became a national iconoclast and icon. The purpose of Prothero’s book is to discern the “cultural Jesus:” the Jesus understood by Americans both historically and today.

It seems that it is Jesus, and not the Apostle Paul, who, in America, has “become all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22): to the Jew a Jewish Rabbi, to the Hindu an avatar, to the black community a Black Moses, to the Mormon an American Messiah, to the disenfranchised women a Prince Charming, to the emasculated man a Superhero, to the disenchanted rationalist a Great Moral Teacher. As Prothero puts it:

In the book of Genesis, God creates humans in His own image; in the United States, Americans have created Jesus, over and over again, in theirs.[1]

The American Jesus is a smorgasbord Jesus, a multi-faceted portrait of human desire, imagination, and beliefs about themselves, their destiny, and their causes.

The problem with the American Jesus is that it makes Jesus “more a pawn than a king, pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess, sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.”[2]

But the real Jesus is no pawn. He is not content to be used in as a mascot for our own personal agenda. He did not come to bring political liberation, self-realization, economic freedom, or the American Dream. None of those visions of life and happiness cut deep enough. None get at our fundamental need. We don’t need the American Jesus. We need Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all, the redeemer of mankind who bled on a cross so that we might find forgiveness for sins.

We don’t need a pawn. We need a King.

There is one thing right about the American Jesus. He is an iconoclast. He is in the business of shattering our own images of himself so that we might see him as he really is. May the divine iconoclast shatter any false image of Jesus so that you might see him as he is: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Check out this video about Jesus as the King of Kings:

[1] Stephen Prothero, American Jesus (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), 298.

 [2] Ibid., 297.

One Response to American Jesus: Pawn or King?

  1. Pingback: The Illusory Freedom of Pop Culture | Paul Gould

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