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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: American Gospel

In lieu of a hymn today, your Head Trucker would like to post this excerpt from a brilliantly written book by Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer-prize-winning historian and former editor of Newsweek, entitled American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, published in 2006.  In this thoughtful, well-balanced survey of the relationship between religion and reason, faith and freedom, from the birth of the Republic down till today, Meacham (who is, by the way, both a Tennessee boy and an Episcopalian) conducts the reader through a fascinating summary of the twin poles of American thought, beginning with the Founding Fathers, who were indeed, most of them, of a religious cast of mind, but widely varied about the details and application of religious principles.

Even Jefferson, the most secular-minded of them all, wrote, it must be remembered, the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom, a ringing declaration of Americans' liberty to believe everything or nothing at all, without coercion or penalty by government - a principle later incorporated into the Bill of Rights.  And yet, as Meacham demonstrates in his masterly synthesis of American history and thought, the separation of church and state has never meant the complete eradication of one or the other, for liberty as we understand it in this country depends upon the complementarity of both to sustain what Meacham calls the "sensible center."

I hope this short excerpt, which displays to your Head Trucker the thoroughly Anglican ethos of the via media, the middle way, will whet the appetite of some of my truckbuddies to read the book, which is partly viewable on Google Books, or can be had for about five bucks in print form from Amazon, or for twelve bucks on Kindle.

Remarkably, upon publication Meacham's book was praised by critics and commentators on both the right and the left, deservedly so.  It's quite pertitent to today's headlines, and I recommend it very highly it to all of you.  Click to enlarge these screen captures, where Meacham is speaking about today's poisonous divide between the ultra-religious and the ultra-secular:


Davis said...

John Meacham is a delightful man (met him once as we have a mutual close friend). His writing is excellent and this was a helpful book in understanding the current state of affairs in these United States.

Russ Manley said...

So you have met how him, how interesting. Six degrees . . .

Frank said...

A very reasoned exposition; however, I am cynical: Americans, for the most part, will continue to adhere to their extreme views, despite Meacham, and his work.

Russ Manley said...

Well you may be right. The haters are getting more and more vicious every day - there have been some widely-reported recent statements I've not blogged about, but that you've probably heard on TV.

Still, even though the candle of Reason flickers and dims, when it does glow brightly, it makes a lovely light.

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