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Americanism:The Fourth Great Western Religion Hardcover – June 19, 2007
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American Enterprise Institute fellow Gelernter argues that America is a biblical republic and Americanism a biblical religion encompassing an American Creed with three political ideals (liberty, equality, and democracy) and a doctrine, American Zionism, incorporating the biblically derived ideas of a chosen people in a promised land. Americanism is global. There's no need to be American, or to believe in God, to subscribe to it. Still, to understand Americanism, you need to understand America. Gelernter discusses the emergence of Americanism through several crucial events in American history: the Puritan exodus from England, the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, the cold war, and Islamic terrorism. He insists that his book is neither history nor group portrait but instead "an essay in folk philosophy." Not everyone will agree with Gelernter's conclusions (e.g., "If there is to be justice in the world, America must create it"), but he offers fascinating food for thought. Sawyers, June
Advance Praise for Americanism
"David Gelernter is a national treasure, a patriot-scholar. In Americanism, he explains what America is to him—an idea, a belief, a religion. The City on a Hill has no greater or more powerful an advocate.”
—Bill Bennett, host of Bill Bennett's Morning in America and author of America: The Last Best Hope
“David Gelernter always has something fresh to say about any subject he touches, but never has he been so original as in this brilliant analysis of what is truly distinctive about America and in the new idea he propounds of the role played by the Bible—and especially the Old Testament—in the evolution of our special national character.”
—Norman Podhoretz, author of The Prophets and editor-at-large, Commentary magazine
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He emphasises the Puritan foundations of America but he refuses to recognize that what the Puritans sought to establish, what John Winthrop had in mind in 1630 when he said that "wee shall be as a city upon a Hill", citing Jesus, never materialized. Winthrop and company would have been appalled to see what happen to their experiment. Reagan can echo the words, "a great shinning city on a hill" but what he and others mean doesn't seriously resemble what the Puritans had in mind. Their "city" was the company of the converted. They were church first of all. A Jew like the author would not have been received with opened arms. Of course the author knows that there is a vast gap between then and now. "Puritanism turned into the American Religion, and it survives today in an altered form" (p.9). The Puritans would have seen it as a disfigured form.
He insists that Americanism the religion is not at odds with Christianity or Judaism. I beg to differ. Nationistic religion when embraced by a faith tradition always distorts that faith and enlists it to serve a purpose foreign to the nature of that faith. But Gelernter suggests that those who resist his vision of America as a "biblical republic" are anti-religious. This reminds me of how Christians were labeled as "atheists" by the Romans in the early years of the church because they would not adopt the emperor cult alongside their own faith. The religious adoration of America that the author advocates needs to be named for what it is: idolatry. I deplore Gelernter's views, not because I'm anti-religious but precisely because I'm a minister who recognizes the dangers of self-glorifying religious nationalism and the narrow agenda accompanies it. Americanism has already infiltrated too many churches and religious organizations. It is something that needs to be resisted, not embraced.
I would suggest Captain America And The Crusade Against Evil: The Dilemma Of Zealous Nationalism by Robert Jewett and John Lawrence for a different, more insightful perspective.
THe only slight qualm is that the author describes something called 'American Zionism' when he should properly have called it American israelitism, which was the term for it in the 19th century. It is no secret that from the earliest pilgrims such as Winthrop through the present day America has been seen as a 'city on the hill' or the 'new Jerusalem'. Mormons took this a step further and created a religion where America literally became the new Zion.
This book examines the religious heritage of America, her Protestant origins and her insistance on freedom and individualism.
A very well written account that provides further understanding of American heritage, history and culture.
Seth J. Frantzman