Books Explore God's Influence on America

Article excerpt

Teaching history can be an uphill slog for many of us. This is especially true when our own learning experiences consisted of memorizing dates and thumbnail descriptions of various events.

This is like trying to find out about the past by strolling through a cemetery with a notebook, writing down the names and dates of birth and death of the people buried there. Even if you can remember the date, does it really have any meaning for you?

I had already finished my formal education before I ever became aware that history could be exciting and relevant.

Once I discovered how vital it is to understand history, I have always tried to make it come alive for my own children. Therefore, I am always on the prowl for resources that can illuminate the meaning behind the events of the past.

One rather fascinating glimpse into America's history is provided by a series of books written by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. The authors are Christians who sought to understand how God has been guiding America's destiny.

They embarked on a quest to discover the underlying principles that have been at work in our nation's development. Along the way, they uncovered many amazing stories about the actual events and the real people who helped build this country.

The first in the series is "The Light and the Glory" (Fleming H. Revell Co., 1980). Beginning with Columbus, the authors trace the good and bad choices of the key figures in the founding of America, up until the writing of the Constitution.

This is the first account I have read of most of the events of that period that really dissects the motivations of the historical figures, and then demonstrates how those motivations affected the eventual outcome.

For instance, Columbus, Pizarro and Cortez harbored motivations of greed for money and power, and the result of their explorations was cruelty, disease and massive human loss on all sides. But the unselfish missionary explorers created respect, harmony and development, even despite initial hostility from the indigenous peoples.

This is not to say that all religious people were unselfishly motivated, and the authors show that the self-righteous and arrogant religious people brought destruction instead of goodness - both to others and to themselves.

I must say I was a bit shocked to realize how scanty my own knowledge was on some points. Did you know that the Pilgrims and the Puritans were actually two separate groups?

The Pilgrims were Separatists, who felt that the Church of England was corrupt and separated from it to follow their inner convictions. The Puritans, although similar in religious belief and fervor, stayed within the Anglican church believing they should purify it from within by their example.

The Pilgrims were the pioneers, coming on the Mayflower and setting up the foundations for the New England Colonies; the Puritans came several years later, when they despaired of being able to build a thriving faith community within the corruption and decay of Europe. …