"Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession" by Richard Wightman Fox (HarperSanFrancisco, $27.95).
"American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon" by Stephen Prothero (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $25)
One of the staples of American humor is the "three proofs that Jesus was..." joke, whose completion is always an ethnic identifier.
Thus, three proofs that Jesus was Jewish:
1. He went into his father's business.
2. He lived at home until the age of 33.
3. He was sure his mother was a virgin, and his mother was sure he was God.
Interestingly enough, this ongoing joke series includes no entry headed, "Three proofs that Jesus was American." Only in a country like Israel, where "American" names an ethnic group within the nation, could such a joke be told. If such has been told, I hope somebody will be kind enough to send me the three proofs.
Mel Gibson's Jesus movie, "The Passion of the Christ," became controversial long before its release when learned critics, Christians as well as Jews, who had been invited to read a draft of the script objected that the film was, if not actually anti-Semitic, then all too apt for anti-Semitic exploitation. The initial response of the Gibson camp to these charges included a lawsuit charging the critics with a malicious attempt to sabotage the film.