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

by Jon Meacham, 2007, read by Grover Gardiner, Random House Audiobook.

I got this audiobook from the library last fall to listen to in the car when we made our annual trip to Florida from Rhode Island.  I finally got around to finishing it.  I downloaded it onto my MP3 player and I listen to it while I walk.  The reason it took so long to listen to it is that I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with my walking.  I will strive to do better in the future.

I was pretty harsh in my assessment of Meacham’s book on Andrew Jackson (Review), but he does a pretty good job on this one.  He apparently spends a lot of time observing the American scene and those observations on current religious practice and tone, coupled with his research on American religion, ring fairly true.  His contention is that we do have a “public” religion in the United States that is a part of the fabric of American society and that it is essentially a good thing.  Furthermore, despite the concept of separation of church and state, it is not about to go away.  On the other hand, this public religion is a very watered down kind of religion and is definately not the kind of religion that evangelical Christians would like to impose on our government and schools.

Meacham walks us through the use of religion throughout our history to provide some perspective on this view of religion in the public sector.  The examples he cites are interesting, even though the points that he makes seem to be a bit obvious.  I left the book thinking that if only more individuals would accept the premises that he outlines and not attempt to take it further, we would certainly have a much more tolerant society than that which we seem to encounter these days.  Some persons feel that Christianity is under attack in our country and their response seems to be to try to insert it into our government and schools.  Meacham makes the case that a form of public religion exists in our government institutions and has been there from the inception of our republic.  In his view, there isn’t much need to extend it further.

As I mentioned above, the book sometimes seems to state the obvious, but it is interesting nonetheless.  3 1/2 stars

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