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American Gospel


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About the Author

Jon Meachamis a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer. The author of theNew York TimesbestsellersThomas Jefferson- The Art of Power, American Lion- Andrew Jackson in the White House, Franklin and Winston,Destiny and Power- The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,andThe Soul of America- The Battle for Our Better Angels,he is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, a contributing writer forThe New York Times Book Review,and a fellow of the Society of American Historians. Meacham lives in Nashville and in Sewanee with his wife and children.


Newsweek managing editor Meacham here holds that, despite the strong religious differences of the Founding Fathers, religion became a force for unity, not division; it shaped the Constitution and the nation without strangling it. This is quite an argument to make given the history chronicled. Quakers were at odds with Anglicans, and New Englanders engaged in witch trials while building a "City of God." Others massacred Indians. The Virginia charter provided for Christian mission but also for taking land and searching for gold. To boot, early settlers of that state purchased slaves. Meanwhile, deists Jefferson and Franklin looked at Jesus as the great moral teacher. The religious spirit was "more sectarian than ecumenical," the author maintains, yet it was recognized that a moral and religious force that God provided could and would serve as a uniting factor. Meacham provides a balanced account of this "American Gospel" as to how it was formed and how it is shaping our history down to such present-day challenges as holiday displays, prayer in schools, abortion, euthanasia, and gay rights. Highly recommended for all libraries.-George Westerlund, formerly with Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"In his American Gospel, Jon Meacham provides a refreshingly clear, balanced, and wise historical portrait of religion and American politics at exactly the moment when such fairness and understanding are much needed. Anyone who doubts the relevance of history to our own time has only to read this exceptional book."-David McCullough, author of 1776

"Jon Meacham has given us an insightful and eloquent account of the spiritual foundation of the early days of the American republic. It is especially instructive reading at a time when the nation is at once engaged in and deeply divided on the question of religion and its place in public life."-Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation

"An absorbing narrative full of vivid characters and fresh thinking, American Gospel tells how the Founding Fathers-and their successors-struggled with their own religious and political convictions to work out the basic structure for freedom of religion. For me this book was nonstop reading."-Elaine Pagels, professor of religion, Princeton University, author of Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

"Jon Meacham is one of our country's most brilliant thinkers about religion's impact on American society. In this scintillating and provocative book, Meacham reveals the often-hidden influence of religious belief on the Founding Fathers and on later generations of American citizens and leaders up to our own. Today, as we argue more strenuously than ever about the proper place of religion in our politics and the rest of American life, Meacham's important book should serve as the touchstone of the debate."-Michael Beschloss, author of The Conquerors

"At a time when faith and freedom seem increasingly polarized, American Gospel recovers our vital center-the middle ground where, historically, religion and public life strike a delicate balance. Well researched, well written, inspiring, and persuasive, this is a welcome addition to the literature."-Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, author of American Judaism: A History

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