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Rediscovering Christianity: A History of Modern Democracy and the Christian Ethic Hardcover – January, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this challenging essay, Smith, a professor emeritus at UC-Santa Cruz, argues that Christianity over the centuries has been a tireless critic of capitalism, rather than its handmaiden. He believes that St. Augustine's inspiring vision of a "city of God" has kept alive the hope of equality, democracy and world unity. He contends that Protestantism, far from undergirding modern capitalism (as German sociologist Max Weber maintained) actually resisted the rising tide of capitalist exploitation and competitiveness. In 19th-century America, socialists, utopians, women's rights advocates, populists and abolitionists--many driven by Christian convictions--fought the injustices of capitalism. Smith characterizes Roosevelt's New Deal as an odd alliance between Christian reformers and Marxists, noting that prominent New Dealers (e.g., FDR's cabinet members Henry Wallace and Frances Perkins) were fervent Christians. To those who rejoice over the current "triumph of capitalism" and the collapse of state socialism, Smith's inquiry serves as a strong antidote to complacency.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

One of the persistent themes of conservatives, particularly of the Christian variety, is that liberalism, like its farther-left cousin, Marxism, is as inimical to Christianity as to democracy. But here comes Smith, one of the most liberal U.S. historians going, demonstrating connections between Christianity and American notions of justice, freedom, and equality under law that go back to, most obviously, St. Augustine and even the Gospels. Augustine's City of God was an inspiration to many a Protestant, beginning with Wyclif and including Luther, Calvin, and in America, the Pilgrims and Puritans, who aimed in their New World communities to create, Smith avers, "true egalitarian Christian democracy." And in the word egalitarian there is a hint of Smith's other main endeavor, "to disentangle Christianity--and democracy--from capitalism." So the enlightenment Smith imparts (about such usually ignored things as the animating deep Christian faith of the Founding Fathers and the political radicalism of nineteenth-century American fundamentalist-evangelical Protestantism) disturbs the complacent "received wisdom" of both the Left and the Right. For on the evidence Smith presents, the U.S. really and not at all accidentally is a Christian nation and Christianity and capitalism mix much more like oil and water than sugar and water. Topflight intellectual history. Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (January 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312105312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312105310
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Wilson on April 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Thesis: Christianity, rightly practiced, is critical of and resistant to capitalism, not a friend, not an ally; entangling Christianity with capitalism is a theological error, an American perversion, this author says, of the Christian ethic. Christianity, distilled to its essence and property practiced, is the friend not of capitalism - certainly not of robber baron and cut-throat and Donald Trump capitalism - but of democracy, equality, and unity. I agree with this thesis!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Ralph Randolph on June 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book seemed to lack focus and is poorly titled. I sure didn't think it was about "rediscovering Christianity" or maybe the author just didn't connect his subject matter and the title. Does have some topics of interest but there must be better treatments of the topic.
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