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American Gospel

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American Gospel:

Authored by Jon Meacham

The American Gospel

At this time in our nation's history, two-hundred thirty years and counting, there is a great debate raging on. In many peoples' eyes our country has made a turn for the worse. We have thrown our Forefather's to the wayside, and there belief in strong Christian influence along with it. To them all could be solved if we merely "re-instituted" the Christian morals and teachings that this country was founded on. On the other hand, there are many who are calling for the complete and utter extraction of all Christian and other religious beliefs from public life and governmental law. To these individuals nothing good and beneficial can ever come from religion. Both of these belief structures are sadly flawed to their very core. But where is the middle ground and why haven't we been able to find it. This is precisely where Jon Meacham's American Gospel shines like no other. If nothing else Meacham's book is an answer to the times. American Gospel covers religion, philosophy, and ideology that shaped American law and thought from the birth of our rich and diverse nation to the time of the Reagan presidency.

Where would a good book be without great characters? In this regard Meacham does not disappoint. George Washington is shown in such a realistic way that it makes the man seem more legendary than all the stories and exaggerations. Thomas Jefferson is shown as a two sided coin. At first he is completely objected to "irrational religious babble", but on his deathbed he calls out many of the things he objected (Meacham 15). Benjamin Franklin comes across as an accepter of all and one of the greatest fighters for religious equality. Abraham Lincoln is shown as not only a man of great thought and conviction, but also one who greatly understands the balance of religion and government. F.D.R. is shown as both a great good and an unintentional evil. And finally Ronald Reagan cast the image of being the one to eradicate the separation of the Church from the State. Of course there are also many sub characters, such as Andrew Jackson, Jim Crow, Billy Graham, and so on. Even though they may not be as essential to the book as the primary characters, these men and women are explored to satisfying ends. Through all of these characters this great American story is told and explained so well, it is near impossible to finish without feeling more educated and more ready to face the issues that are at hand.

American Gospel starts with founding of America, the documents instituted, and the incredibly gifted people who made it possible. The author gives great detail of the personal beliefs and convictions of these great men within the first few pages. One finds that all the founding fathers were religious to some degree or another, some more so than others. George Washington was a firm believer in God and Jesus, yet he never attended church. Thomas Jefferson, who also rarely attended services, took a razor to his Bible one night and cut out all the parts that dealt with the divinity of Jesus. Benjamin Franklin, who also had problems with Jesus' divinity, was a Quaker by birth and yet easily conversed with anyone from any denomination. Andrew Jackson was the most devout of the Founders and even attended church. All of this insight is merely a preparation for what lies on the continuing pages of the rest of the book. Without an understanding of where the Founders were mentally and spiritually it is impossible to grasp the meaning of their most influential writings, and even the lesser known documents.

When the Founders sat down to decide the laws of the land, they knew there was one thing they could all agree on, absolutely no state sanctioned church. After seeing all the blood shed and strife that came from Europe, the Founders knew that oppression is not far off when religion is made law. Thomas Jefferson even goes so far as to say that anytime a religion is held over another nothing more than violence and tyranny will reign. If fact Jefferson was so worried about this that he intentionally put "God of Nature" in the Declaration of Independence to signify and advocate that these rights were given to all by a greater power regardless of what that higher power was called



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