American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation
Simmons, Paul, Journal of Church and State
American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. By Ton Meacham. New York: Random House, 2006. 415 pp. $23.95 cloth, $15.95 paper.
High marks should be given Jon Meacham, Managing Editor of Newsweek, for this insightful treatment of the role of religion in public affairs. Meacham argues that two factors should guide and control such activity in America. The first is to recognize the God of public religion and, second, to uphold the First Amendment which is a vital safeguard to private conscience.
The religious right misrepresents while claiming both guidelines. They are simply wrong in their zeal to portray America as a Christian nation and to deny equal rights to certain groups. America was founded as a nation in which all people-believers and non-believers alikehave equal rights and protections of conscience. Pluralism was assumed as was the secular nature of government. The "national religion" is based on reason, not the Bible or any other religious dogma. The Deist, the Jew, Muslim, Christian or Hindu can interpret references to the "Creator," "Nature's God," "the Supreme Judge of the world" and to "divine providence" in their own way. Religion is forced on no one.
Meacham provides a succinct but insightful overview of American Presidents and reformers. Presidents set the pattern for public discussions of religion and the use of power in church-state relations. Ronald Reagan encouraged evangelical intolerance and complicated foreign policy by incorporating apocalyptic theology. George W. Bush has encouraged the free exercise" of religion to the neglect of prohibitions against establishment. Unfortunately, Meacham says, the Further we get from the founders the lower the wall becomes.
Discussions of social reformers bring to mind James Madison's warning that religion can be a source of tyranny and discord. Meacham says Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye and others are "simply wrong in their portrayal of America's public religion." The dangers of extremism make it necessary that each generation defend the liberties envisioned at …
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Publication information: Article title: American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. Contributors: Simmons, Paul - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 50. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2008. Page number: 145+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.