I just finished the new book from Stephen Nichols, Jesus, Made in America. Dr. Nichols was my favorite prof during my time at Lancaster Bible College, so I was excited to see this book come out. Most importantly, he is tackling a very important topic–the American view of Jesus. He gives the reader a guided tour of how Jesus has been popularly understood in America from the time of the Puritans right up to today, and along the way are many interesting stops, including: Precious Moments, Jonathan Edwards, WWJD, the Jesus Action Figure, Billy Graham, Monty Python and more.
So what’s so important about this? Our culture profoundly influences our view of Jesus, and accordingly, our understanding of who he is as our Savior and Lord. Most of American culture does not outright deny Jesus, but subtly manipulates him: in The Passion of the Christ he’s the great Sufferer who endures the most horrific violence. In Precious Moments he’s the cuddly and adorable figurine who will always be your Bestest Buddy. In WWJD? paraphernalia he’s a moral inspiration, ready to inspire you with a glance. There are elements of truth to all of these depictions, but also significant and telling weaknesses. Nichols does a brilliant job at exposing the deviations and pointing us back to the real Jesus, not our Americanized version.