Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment From New England to 9/11  -     By: Andrew R. Murphy
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Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment From New England to 9/11

Oxford University Press / 2008 / Hardcover

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Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 248
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2008
ISBN: 0195321286
ISBN-13: 9780195321289
Availability: Expected to ship on or about 01/11/15.
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Publisher's Description

"Original and wide-ranging, Murphy's discerning and important study is another reminder that America is 'the nation with the soul of a church.'"
-Journal of American History

"A wide-ranging and thoughtful meditation on how the theo-political stories we Americans tell ourselves resonate with and sometimes even create the communities we inhabit. This book deserves an honored place among the oeuvre of work by political scientists and historians on the jeremiad."
-- Politics and Religion

"A significant contribution to the historical account of the role of religion in American politics."
--Perspectives on Politics

"Prodigal Nation is a careful account of how theologies function politically and deserves attention from political scientists, political theologians, American historians, and others interested in the interface of religion and culture."
--Religious Studies Review

"This highly original and wonderfully written analysis will be invaluable to anyone interested in the meaning of America." --Harry S. Stout, author of The New England Soul and Upon the Altar of the Nation

"A brilliant analysis of the American jeremiad. Elegant, powerful, hopeful, and wise - Prodigal Nation is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand the fitful history of the American spirit." --James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and The Democratic Wish

Author Bio


Andrew R. Murphy is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University, New Bruswick. He is the author of Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America, the co-editor of Religion, Politics, and the American Identity: New Directions, New Controversies, and the editor of The Political Writings of William Penn.

Publisher's Weekly

Thirty years ago in his seminal classic, The American Jeremiad, Sacvan Bercovitch elegantly identified the contours of this rhetorical form by observing that it joined social criticism to spiritual renewal, and he traced the American jeremiad from its origins in Europe's pulpits to its use in nineteenth-century America. Murphy picks up where Bercovitch left off in this workmanlike, though ultimately helpful, book, examining the jeremiad in Puritan New England, in antebellum and Civil War America, and in its use by the Christian right in the twentieth century. He observes that various public figures—from Jerry Falwell to Robert Kennedy—used the jeremiad to remind Americans that any despair they might feel over America's moral decline (whether in the Civil War or in the culture wars of the 1980s) can be balanced by the hope provided by the knowledge that God's providential work in human affairs can reverse such a decline. Murphy traces the historical development of the American jeremiad and usefully demonstrates the ways that this rhetorical thread weaves through our social fabric from the Puritans to 9/11. (Nov.)Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews


"Scholars of Puritanism and American 'civil religion' have long recognized the unique -- and uniquely American -- power of the 'jeremiad' to shape a national identity. But despite its undeniable importance and longevity, no one before Andrew Murphy has traced the jeremiad's career over such an enduring span of time. By imaginatively combining historical themes with thorough surveys of a rich variety of sources, this highly original and wonderfully written analysis will be invaluable to anyone interested in the meaning of America." --Harry S. Stout, author of The New England Soul and Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War


"A brilliant analysis of the American jeremiad. Andrew Murphy traces the lamentations of decline and the dreams of deliverance that haunt every American generation. Elegant, powerful, hopeful, and wise -- Prodigal Nation is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand the fitful history of the American spirit." --James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and The Democratic Wish


"Prodigal Nation is a careful account of how theologies function politically and deserves attention from political scientists, political theologians, American historians, and others interested in the interface of religion and culture."--Religious Studies Review


"[A} discerning and important study." --Journal of American History


"A significant contribution to the historical account of the role of religion in American politics." --Perspectives on Politics


"A wide-ranging and thoughtful meditation on how the theo-political stories we Americans tell ourselves resonate with and sometimes even create the communities we inhabit. This book deserves an honored place among the oeuvre of work by political scientists and historians on the jeremiad."-- Politics and Religion


"Murphy offers a careful and discerning analysis of the continuing importance of the jeremiad in American thought and culture, from its colonial origins to the present post-9/11 world. . . Anyone interested in American religious history, the creation of a national identity, and the perplexing battle over the place of religion in public life will profit by reading Prodigal Nation.--H-Law


"Prodigal Nation is an insightful volume, lucidly written."--Reviews in Religion and Theology


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Author/Artist Review

Author: Andrew Murphy
Located in: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Submitted: November 17, 2008

    Tell us a little about yourself.  I teach in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University.

    What was your motivation behind this project?  I was very eager to understand the widespread American tendency to interpret the nation's political history in light of developments in its moral and religious history. Where did this tendency come from? What are the advantages and disadvantages of thinking of the United States as a "city on a hill"?

    What do you hope folks will gain from this project?  I hope that readers will come away from this book with a renewed appreciation of the many ways in which Americans have drawn on their religious values as they have tried to make their nation more fully embody its founding ideals.

    Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists?  I am especially drawn to thinkers like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Frederick Douglass, who grappled with the nation's promise in times of real crisis.

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