Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

Article excerpt

God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. By Walter Russell Mead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 464 pp. $27.95 (cloth).

Walter Russell Mead has offered a ground-breaking study on American exceptionalism and how the sense of divine providence has been shaped by the economic, political, and military realities of the United States. God and Gold is a book of intellectual history and a book on American foreign policy. But more than these, this is a book about God, about how and why Americans conceive of God's presence and providence and the consequences that has for our lives-from individualistic views of human rights and the embrace of free markets and technological advance to the complex mix of unilateralism and isolationism in American foreign policy. Understanding the religious sources of our deepest convictions illumines the choices American democracy confronts and reveals the deeper need to understand religion critically in light of human sinfulness and the nature of human transcendence.

Mead begins with the story of providence, or at least providence as seen first by the British and then the Americans. A look from the other side-"How They Hate Us"-gives cause for pause and a more thorough, critical look at the British Empire and the American Empire, tied as they both are to controlling the seas and with that the development of a global economy reflecting American principles, values, and interests. Materialist readings of American culture and society are, however, inadequate alone. Rather, Anglo-American history with its confidence in material and social progress must be read theologically, just as it is moved forward by such beliefs. This yields a rich understanding of the experiences and understandings that give rise to an American sense of providence. …

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