Monday, October 31, 2016

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

My history/historical fiction book group is meeting next week and the book choice is American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, by Jon Meacham. This book examines the religiosity of American political life from the founding of the nation up to modern times. Is the U.S. a Christian nation or a nation founded by Christians, and what is the difference?

Well-researched and well-organized, American Gospel is an intelligent and balanced discussion of the importance of God in the nation’s history. Meacham makes clear that freedom of religion was a cornerstone of the founding principles of liberty and justice. The Founding Fathers and more recent leaders who have grappled with religion and politics have generally kept to the message that private religion may be specific and denominational, but public religion, while necessary, is more inclusive and is not exclusively Christian. It matters not so much how we pray, but that we are praying. And no one, not even--or especially not--our political leaders, can say that our way of praying is wrong and should not be allowed.

The book follows a chronological format and is peppered with entertaining anecdotes, particularly when relating Abraham Lincoln stories. (He’s a very funny man.)

For those feeling battered by the particularly fractious and lengthy campaign season, it’s a good book to provide historical perspective and reassurance.