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The time is past, says Bruce Bawer, when denominational names and other traditional labels provided an accurate reflection of Christian America's religious beliefs and practices. The meaningful distinction today is not between Protestant and Catholic, or Baptist and Episcopalian, but rather between "legalistic" and "nonlegalistic" religion, between the Church of Law and the Church of Love. On one side is the fundamentalist right, which draws a sharp distinction between "saved" and "unsaved" and worships a God of wrath and judgment; on the other are more mainstream Christians who view all humankind as children of a loving God who calls them to break down barriers of hate, prejudice, and distrust.
Pointing out that the supposedly "traditional" beliefs of American fundamentalism--about which most mainstream Christians, clergy included, know shockingly little--are in fact of relatively recent origin, are distinctively American in many ways, and are dramatically at odds with the values that Jesus actually spread, Bawer fascinatingly demonstrates the way in which these beliefs have increasingly come to supplant genuinely fundamental Christian tenets in the American church and to become synonymous with Christianity in the minds of many people.
Stealing Jesus is the ringing testament of a man who is equally disturbed by the notion of an America without Christianity and the notion of an American Christianity without love and compassion.
PRAISE FOR Stealing Jesus:
"Bawer's graceful prose and lucid insights make this a must-read book for anyone concerned with the relationship of Christianity to contemporary American culture."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Passionately outspoken, impeccably researched, and cogently reasoned, Stealing Jesus exposes the great danger posed to Christianity today by fundamentalism. A groundbreaking book."
"Stealing Jesus may prove of value simply for its clear exposition of what todays American fundamentalists believe and want to do. Bawers readers will no longer be able to greet that term with a condescending smile."
--Walter Kendrick, New York Times Book Review
"This book is an adventure in American religious thought, exciting and intelligent."
"Bawer lauds liberal Christianity as the essence of the Gospel, the kind of religion that Jesus would both recognize and practice because he preached it. This is a passionate, articulate, timely, and utterly useful book."
--Peter J. Gomes, Wilson Quarterly
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly and a Notable Book by the New York Times