Author: Bruce Bawer
Paperback, 340 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publication date: November 1998
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If you've never understood how anyone could think of themselves as both a Christian and a Pagan, you may be a victim of Fundamentalism's co-opting of the term "Christian" in America. If you think most Christians believe that the Bible is literally true or that they believe all other religions are just Satan trying fool mankind into a literal hell, then you also may be a victim of Fundamentalism's co-opting of the the term "Christian."
In Stealing Jesus, Bruce Bawer traces the relatively recent origin of Christian Fundamentalism in America. He does an excellent job of comparing the beliefs of Fundamentalist Christianity with the beliefs of "mainline" Protestantism. He explodes the myth that the American Founding Fathers were legalistic Christians with the same religious and political beliefs as the Religious Right of the 1990s.
This book is a must-read for any Pagan who has to deal with Fundamentalist Christians. By reading it, you will learn to understand where Fundamentalist beliefs come from and how they differ in most important respects from the beliefs of traditional American Christianity. More importantly, you will learn what the silent majority of American Christians, the non-Fundamentalists, believe. You will probably come away with a much better opinion of Christianity as a whole for the experience. Just because Fundamentalists are very loud and claim that all true Christians believe that Pagans really follow Satan and are damned to hellfire if they don't say a few magic words accepting Jesus Christ and strictly follow laws and prophecies plucked almost at random from the Bible, does not mean that this is what mainstream Protestantism in America really believes.
Stealing Jesus, however, is not perfect. The chapters on the religious right as a political movement leave quite a bit to be desired in the area of documentation. Bawer tosses around quotes from James Dobson, Ralph Reed, and Pat Robertson without a single footnote that would allow you to check context or even know what the quote is taken from. However, the rest of the book is excellent, particularly the first and last chapters. The entire first chapter (which summarizes the differences between Fundamentalist Protestantism and mainstream American Protestantism) is sometimes available online from Amazon.com's web page for this book. This chapter is worth reading even if you have no desire to buy the book.
Reviewed by Randall