Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity

Bruce Bawer, Author
Bruce Bawer, Author Crown Publishers $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-517-70682-4
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-609-80222-9
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Essayist Bawer, whose books include examinations of American poetry (The Middle Generation), the religious aspect of American fiction (The Aspect of Eternity) and the cultural response to homosexuality (A Place at the Table), turns his attention to the relationship between fundamentalist Christianity and American culture. Relying on personal experience, anecdotal evidence and his own study of contemporary religious history in the United States, Bawer contends that fundamentalist Christianity, what he calls the ""Church of Law,"" has been preaching a message of wrath and judgment to modern American culture that Bawer believes is incompatible with Jesus' message of love. In America, Bawer argues, Christianity is taken by the media and by the culture at large to refer to fundamentalist Christianity. Such a mistake is dangerous, he warns, since it changes the very nature of Christianity, at least as Bawer understands it, from a ""nonlegalistic religion"" marked by love and compassion to a ""legalistic religion"" with no room for love or compassion. Bawer's sometimes strident tone often results in unsupported generalizations: ""Children raised by gay parents have been shown to suffer no ill effects therefrom and to do at least as well in all respects as other children; meanwhile, sociological studies and voluminous anecdotal evidence suggest that children raised in legalistic Christian families tend to suffer to an unusual degree from severe alienation, emotional and sexual abuse, drug problems, and compulsive sexual behavior."" On the whole, however, 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. (Nov.)
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