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In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth 1St Edition Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1441162328
ISBN-10: 1441162321
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In Search of the City on a Hill challenges the widespread assumption that Americans have always used this potent metaphor to define their national identity. It demonstrates that America's 'redeemer myth' owes more to nineteenth- and twentieth-century reinventions of the Puritans than to the colonists' own conceptions of divine election.

This book reconstructs the complete story of 'the city on a hill' from its Puritan origins to the present day for the first time. From John Winthrop's 1630 'Model of Christian Charity' and the history books of the nineteenth century to the metaphor's sudden prominence in the 1960s and Reagan's skillful incorporation of it into his rhetoric in the 80s, 'the city on a hill' has had a complex history: this history reveals much about received notions of American exceptionalism, America's identity as a Christian nation, and the impact of America's civil religion.

The conclusion considers the current status of 'the city on a hill' and summarizes what this story of national myth eclipsing biblical metaphor teaches us about the evolution of America's identity.

From the Back Cover

In Search of the City on a Hill is the most important study of the origins and of the evolution of a national myth. For the second time Richard Gamble took it upon himself to reveal and prove the insidious and particularly American historical tendency to employ religion for political purposes - indeed, to subordinate matters of faith to populist publicity, to enhance the latter by the former. This is a lone cry in the midst of a deafening wilderness, but one enriched with a most serious scholarly amassing of historical evidence.
John Lukacs, author of Five Days in London: May 1940 and A New Republic
'Civil religion is voracious and will gobble up anything it thinks useful'. That stark observation of Rowland Sherrill has never been more conclusively proven than by Richard M. Gamble's In Search of the City on a Hill. His discovery of the recent and artificial provenance of a holy verse in the American Creed proves even more astounding for the evidence that doesn't exist than for the evidence it unearths. This concise masterpiece of historical detection blew my mind. It will also blow the circuits of misguided conservatives, neoconservatives, and evangelicals who have been duped (or duped others) into an idolatrous interpretation of their nation, their history, themselves.
Walter A. McDougall, University of Pennsylvania, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian, author of Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1St Edition edition (August 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441162321
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441162328
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do you believe that America is the "city on the hill" that Christ was referring to in his Sermon on the Mount? Are there more than one of these cities? Was Jesus talking about a civil nation at all, or was this a metaphor of the church?
Ding, ding, ding...1,000 cyber-points awarded to those of you who agree with question #3.
In his book, Richard Gamble gives us a history lesson on how Americans have refashioned this metaphor of the church into the myth of the redeemer nation. "The first two chapters of this book set out to free the Puritans, John Winthrop, and the Model of Christian Charity from nearly 400 years of accumulated clutter" (16). The reader will discover that not only was Winthrop's infamous "city on a hill" line insignificant to the discourse as a whole, but that we really don't know if he ever delivered The Model of Christian Charity as a sermon while aboard the Arbella. If you are now thinking, "Wait a minute, I read about Winthrop preaching about the city on a hill aboard the Arbella in my history books," you probably did. This story has been refashioned to fit the ideologies of historians and politicians on both the left and the right.
If you are interested in how this could have happened, you need to read Gamble's book. Although he does free the Puritans, Winthrop, and the Model from accumulated clutter, he presents them as the messy selves that they were. In cautioning the reader not to read America's future into the Puritan's purpose and context, Gamble demonstrates that this was not a political discourse, but a model of Christian love. And yet, in it there is certainly a rendition of Deuteronomy 30 that does show Winthrop's conviction of a national covenant in which he was leading his Puritan community to the Promised Land.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Bible may indeed be the inspired word of God, but it also inspires politicians to use it for their own ends. Am sure the Divine Master finds great enjoyment in the tortured way our would-be temporal deities use the Good Book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really good going-through, could probably be to heavy for many non-academics though.
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Format: Hardcover
This fine work is recommended by The Society of Independent Southern Historians. View our recommendations at southernhistorians . org .
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