The American Bible-Whose America Is This?: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation

The American Bible-Whose America Is This?: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation

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by Stephen Prothero
     
 

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Bestselling author Stephen Prothero addresses the question of "Whose America is this," by exploring American political discourse and the significant texts that make up the living history of the American people.

American politics is broken because we have forgotten how to talk with one another. Instead of arguing on behalf of of our nation, we argue on behalf

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Overview

Bestselling author Stephen Prothero addresses the question of "Whose America is this," by exploring American political discourse and the significant texts that make up the living history of the American people.

American politics is broken because we have forgotten how to talk with one another. Instead of arguing on behalf of of our nation, we argue on behalf of our party.

The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation reacquaints us with the oft-quoted (and misquoted) speeches, songs, and sayings that animate our politics, inspire social action, and drive our debates about who is—and is not—a real American. It reconnects us with a surprising tradition of civility that manages to be both critical of Americans shortcomings and hopeful for positive change.

To explore these "scriptures," is to revisit what Americans have said about liberty and equality and to revitalize our ongoing conversation about the future of the American experiment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What makes America unique, Prothero convincingly argues, is that the words that manifest its "core ideas and values—" from the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged—continue to be debated by its citizens. To illustrate this, Prothero (God Is Not One) takes excerpts from important American speeches and documents and places them next to various commentaries. A particularly rich result of this juxtaposition comes in the supplements to John Winthrop's 1630 sermon "A Model of Christian Charity," wherein themes from Winthrop's speech are used by John O'Sullivan to justify Manifest Destiny, by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to posit the 9/11 attacks as divine retribution, and by Sarah Palin to praise America while misattributing the coinage of the "shining city on a hill" to Ronald Reagan. Despite the book's arrangement according to biblical headings (e.g., Genesis, Acts, Law, Epistles, etc.), Prothero deftly balances the debate between religious and secular voices, such as on the godlessness of the Constitution. The book's greatest strength lies in this neutrality, offering commentaries from both sides of the discussion—all enlightening, encouraging, and frustrating in equal measure. (June)
Washington Post
In The American Bible, Prothero has turned his considerable talents to assembling a version of the American canon. The author’s prose is, as usual, spritely, informed and incisive.”
Religion News Service
“There are certain speeches, songs, books, letters, laws, and axioms that Americans honor enough to argue about, says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. Like the Declaration of Independence, this almost consecrated canon inspires endless commentary about what it means to be American-and what ‘America’ means.”
Jon Meacham
"In these pages Stephen Prothero has brilliantly captured the American spirit-a spirit that has always seen us through hours of division and disagreement. With Prothero’s expert analysis, these texts should spark civil conversation, informed debate, and intelligent discussion."
Harvard University Colloquy
The American Bible is a provocative, brilliantly realized illumination of American values by means of excerpted historical documents.”
-Jon Meacham
“In these pages Stephen Prothero has brilliantly captured the American spirit-a spirit that has always seen us through hours of division and disagreement. With Prothero’s expert analysis, these texts should spark civil conversation, informed debate, and intelligent discussion.”
Kirkus Reviews
A religious scholar's compendium of essential American texts. Prothero (Religion/Boston Univ.; God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter, 2010, etc.) assembles a canon of what he suggests are the nation's most sacred documents and a selection of Talmud-like commentary on them over history. Few would challenge his inclusion of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Washington's Farewell, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or King's "I Have a Dream" speech, but some might question the presence of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (the only "scripture" not actually quoted because the author's estate denied permission) or Malcolm X's Autobiography, among others, for having been most influential only to narrow interests. Others may wish for more women, Native American or Latino voices, even among the commentators. But it is difficult to fault Prothero for selecting texts that, as his subtitle indicates, may unite or divide us according to our party, race or class, but remain central to the ongoing discussion of what it means to be American. The book should be required reading just for putting in one place so many historic pieces that are more opined over than actually read. Perhaps frustratingly for some, Prothero declines to hint about where he stands on any of the controversies--slavery, race, abortion, the proper role of government in the economy, the proper role of religion in politics--his "scriptures" engender. But his object is not to settle these difficult questions, but to bring Americans "together to argue" about them. Awesome scholarship to an admirable purpose.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062123428
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
1,094,185
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

Jon Meacham
“In these pages Stephen Prothero has brilliantly captured the American spirit-a spirit that has always seen us through hours of division and disagreement. With Prothero’s expert analysis, these texts should spark civil conversation, informed debate, and intelligent discussion.”

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