A Nation with the Soul of a Church: How Christian Proclamation Has Shaped American History

A Nation with the Soul of a Church: How Christian Proclamation Has Shaped American History

A Nation with the Soul of a Church: How Christian Proclamation Has Shaped American History

A Nation with the Soul of a Church: How Christian Proclamation Has Shaped American History

Synopsis

What did 18th-century preacher Jonathan Edwards really mean to convey with is "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon? What Southern minister did most to encourage secession of the Southern states from the Union? And why does Martin Luther King Jr. need to be remembered for more than his "I Have a Dream" speech? This book examines the sermons that have shaped American history from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the Obama administration. It provides extended biographical treatments of those who preached them, thereby providing readers with the historical context of the sermon, an explanation of what made these orations so effective, and an understanding of the role of religion in American history.

Author O.C. Edwards Jr. supplies insightful and interesting coverage of Christian preachers and sermons that will engage anyone interested in America's religious or social history. The book addresses the religious philosophies and speeches of individuals such as William Sloan Coffin Jr., Russell Conwell, Charles Coughlin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Billy Graham, Anne Hutchinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Patricia Merchant, John Winthrop, and Jeremiah Wright.

Excerpt

The condition indicated in the title of this book is what makes the transaction identified in the subtitle possible and of interest: it is because the United States has the “soul of a church” that Christian proclamation has been able to shape its history and thus become a matter of concern beyond the religious communities for which it was prepared. The description of this country as having the soul of a church was coined by the English writer G. K. Chesterton, whose many books on a wide range of subjects include an example of the genre of descriptions of America by European tourists. What he meant by it, however, is more specific than the phrase suggests. The phrase occurs only once, and there it refers to the fact that the United States “is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed,” that creed being the section of the Declaration of Independence that “enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just.”

Chesterton never alludes to the wider meaning of the phrase, its suggestion that the American people are particularly pious or at least deeply wedded to their religious convictions. The tourist who remarked on that was the aristocratic French one, Alexis de Tocqueville, who arrived in 1831. It was he who said, “There is no country in the world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.” In this country, he said, it has “little influence on laws and public opinion,” but it “directs the manners of the community and thus regulates the State.” The Pew Forum reports that 78.4 percent of the American people claim affiliation with . . .

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