American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation

American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation

by Jon Meacham
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American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham

The American Gospel–literally, the good news about America–is that religion shapes our public life without controlling it. In this vivid book, New York Times bestselling author Jon Meacham tells the human story of how the Founding Fathers viewed faith, and how they ultimately created a nation in which belief in God is a matter of choice.

At a time when our country seems divided by extremism, American Gospel draws on the past to offer a new perspective. Meacham re-creates the fascinating history of a nation grappling with religion and politics–from John Winthrop’s “city on a hill” sermon to Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence; from the Revolution to the Civil War; from a proposed nineteenth-century Christian Amendment to the Constitution to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for civil rights; from George Washington to Ronald Reagan.

Debates about religion and politics are often more divisive than illuminating. Secularists point to a “wall of separation between church and state,” while many conservatives act as though the Founding Fathers were apostles in knee britches. As Meacham shows in this brisk narrative, neither extreme has it right. At the heart of the American experiment lies the God of what Benjamin Franklin called “public religion,” a God who invests all human beings with inalienable rights while protecting private religion from government interference. It is a great American balancing act, and it has served us well.

Meacham has written and spoken extensively about religion and politics, and he brings historical authority and a sense of hope to the issue. American Gospel makes it compellingly clear that the nation’s best chance of summoning what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” lies in recovering the spirit and sense of the Founding. In looking back, we may find the light to lead us forward.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781588365774
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/20/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 126,327
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jon Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion. He is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Gospel, and Franklin and Winston. Meacham, who teaches at Vanderbilt University and at The University of the South, is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He lives in Nashville and in Sewanee with his wife and children.

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American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jon Meacham's American Gospel is one volume every American household should have on the bookshelf. He rises to protect the center--the strength--of American polity rather than support (or bash) one side or the other in the continuing debate over whether The United States is a Christian country founded on Christian principles -- or not. And that's where he takes a stand: in the center ableit, not a safe place to be. There are no Golden Cows in the text. Meacham's analysis, synthesis and evaluation of the historical record, from John Winthrop to Ronald Reagan, is almost perfect, but not quite: There could have been more attention given to Hugo Black's 'Everson' decision which, in effect, resurrected the 'Wall', a Jeffersonian idea which to this day remains a most nebulous and confusing concept. Many Americans don't understand the context of Black's opion relevant to Jefferson's involvement, i.e., his letter to the Danbury Baptist Assn. Black points to Jefferson, in his 1947 Everson opinion, as being the absolute authority on the First Amendment yet Jefferson was no where near the Constitutional Convention, much less near the process of coming up with a Bill of Rights, of which, '...Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .' became 'The Clause' celeb, so to speak. Although Jefferson wrote many letters stating his opinion on the process of the Convention to his friend and protege James Madison on a regular basis, Jefferson was more occupied with the process of pursuing one Maria Cosway somewhere between Paris and Versailles during his mission in France. It may seem trivial, but it's no small matter: the 'Wall' still sparks mindless arguements that solve nothing -- the very theme that embodies Meacham's message. And it's a good mesaage! Other than that, the book is well structured, fluid, eminently informative, and readable. I enjoyed it. Couldn't put it down! I learned a thing or two.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book on my Nook. It seems that the last third of the book did not fit the nook profile. I'll have to visit Barnes & Noble for an explanation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy reading books that make me think about the way I feel about life in the United States today. This book is a good read for anyone with an open mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's always interesting to read that our founding fathers, who thought up separation of church and state, were very religious men indeed.