Fea offers an even-handed primer on whether America was founded to be a Christian nation, as many evangelicals assert, or a secular state, as others contend. He approaches the title's question from a historical perspective, helping readers see past the emotional rhetoric of today to the recorded facts of our past. Readers on both sides of the issues will appreciate that this book occupies a middle ground, noting the good points and the less-nuanced arguments of both sides and leading us always back to the primary sources that our shared American history comprises.
John Fea is Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania.
Fea, history professor at Messiah College, does not answer the title query because, he says, "it's a bad question." Instead, Fea urges, think like a historian. Turns out, history is not about picking the best fruit off the vine to support your opinion--or the opinions of TV talkers--it's about doing your homework. He does just that to produce this primer, as he calls it, which defines "history," "nation," and "Christian." Fea studied current position papers of proponents and opponents of the title's question, and he read from the past: the Federalist papers, John Adams and Jefferson's writings, state constitutions, debate resolutions. In part one, the author traces the concept of a Christian nation from 1789 to today; part two focuses on the American Revolution, from the British colonies' points of view to the constitutional "wall of separation between church and state." Part three, the most fluid and fascinating, profiles specific founders, their orthodoxy vs. their orthopraxy, especially concerning the topic of complex, un-Christian slavery. Fea's style, clean and simple, persuades by history, not histrionics. (Feb.)Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.
"A remarkably useful guide for navigating the arguments about America's 'Christian' origins." Randall Balmer, Barnard College, author of God in the White House.
"Should be the last word for all who would claim America as a Christian nation. . . . Deserves to be widely read." Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School, coauthor of Resident Aliens (with Will Willimon) and The Peaceable Kingdom.
"Should be the last word for all who would claim America as a Christian nation. . . . Deserves to be widely read." Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School, coauthor of Resident Aliens (with Will Willimon) and The Peaceable Kingdom
"This is a timely book that will help make sense of one of the most important divides in American politics. John Fea offers a clear and balanced reinterpretation of how this debate has shaped American culture and society for more than 200 years." John Wigger, University of Missouri, author of American Saint and Taking Heaven by Storm
"Fea challenges his readers to think like historians, and presents them with the facts they need to weigh the evidence for themselves. Those who are ready to move past simplistic answers will be well served by this thought-provoking work." Mary V. Thompson, author of In the Hands of a Good Providence: Religion in the Life of George Washington