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The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nationby Stephen Prothero
Synopses & Reviews
Since Thomas Jefferson first recorded those self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, America has been a nation that has unfolded as much on the page and the podium as on battlefields or in statehouses. Here Stephen Prothero reveals which texts continue to generate controversy and drive debate. He then puts these voices into conversation, tracing how prominent leaders and thinkers of one generation have commented upon the core texts of another, and invites readers to join in.
Few can question that the Constitution is part of our shared cultural lexicon, that the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision still impacts lives, or that "The Star-Spangled Banner" informs our national identity. But Prothero also considers lesser known texts that have sparked our war of words, including Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In The American Bible Christopher Hitchens weighs in on Huck Finn, and Sarah Palin on Martin Luther King Jr. From the speeches of Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan to the novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ayn Rand—Prothero takes the reader into the heart of America's culture wars. These "scriptures" provide the words that continue to unite, divide, and define Americans today.
"What makes America unique, Prothero convincingly argues, is that the words that manifest its 'core ideas and values-' from the Declaration of Independence to Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged-continue to be debated by its citizens. To illustrate this, Prothero (God Is Not One) takes excerpts from important American speeches and documents and places them next to various commentaries. A particularly rich result of this juxtaposition comes in the supplements to John Winthrop's 1630 sermon 'A Model of Christian Charity,' wherein themes from Winthrop's speech are used by John O'Sullivan to justify Manifest Destiny, by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to posit the 9/11 attacks as divine retribution, and by Sarah Palin to praise America while misattributing the coinage of the 'shining city on a hill' to Ronald Reagan. Despite the book's arrangement according to biblical headings (e.g., Genesis, Acts, Law, Epistles, etc.), Prothero deftly balances the debate between religious and secular voices, such as on the godlessness of the Constitution. The book's greatest strength lies in this neutrality, offering commentaries from both sides of the discussion-all enlightening, encouraging, and frustrating in equal measure. "
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and God Is Not One presents a provocative crash course in the great “American scriptures”—those texts that have both divided and defined our understanding of what it is to be American. Stephen Prothero gives readers an exciting and user-friendly introduction to American cultural history in The American Bible. Highlighting the touchstones of our collective cultural legacy, from Thomas Paines Common Sense to Maya Lins Vietnam Veterans Memorial; from the speeches of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan to the novels of Mark Twain and Ayn Rand, and beyond, Protheros stirring and provocative handbook peels back the curtain on the inner workings of what makes America tick.
About the Author
STEPHEN PROTHERO is the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and God Is Not One, a professor of religion at Boston University, and a senior fellow at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. His work has been featured on the cover of Time magazine, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, National Public Radio, and other top national media outlets. He blogs for CNN's Belief Blog and writes for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, The Washington Post
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