Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America

Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America

Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America

Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America

Excerpt

This book traces the rise of republican government, and the republican spirit of consent and individual dignity, from key sources in Western Christian Protestant civilization—with particular attention to the Bible and to the emergence of the American mind in the eighteenth century culminating in 1776 and the constitutional founding of free government. “There has never been anything like America!” it has been well said by one of our staunchest friends, former British prime minister Lady Margaret Thatcher. Just why and how that may be true is a theme of the present study.

Central to my account is the analysis of the religious debt of the emergent eighteenth-century American community and its elevation of the individual person and citizen as unique in the eyes of his Creator. This grounding of the notion of human dignity, and of the citizen's vocation in spiritual individualism, I have argued, along with the understanding of human capacity for self-government under Providential guidance, emerges as the core distinction of American republicanism. It is to be considered as the seminal matrix of the more familiar socalled “Enlightenment” features, and as integral to the founding and to the heart of Americanism itself to this day.

While it is a collection of studies in political philosophy, the thematic unity of the volume arises from the non-reductionist philosophical framework within which the questions I address are examined. A theoretical perspective unifies the book, one for which I am indebted to Eric Voegelin, who figures prominently in the pages that follow. Among other things, this specifically means that the spiritual and noetic dimensions of experience as historically ascertained are seriously attended to and given their deserved empirical weight in the analysis. My purpose is not polemical but diagnostic and therapeutic. This persuasive purpose goes to the heart of the deformations exhibited in a contemporary climate of opinion whose relentlessly reductionist orthodoxy, oppressively . . .

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