The American Bible How our words unite, divide, and define a nation

Stephen R. Prothero

Book - 2012

"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. Prothero takes the reader into the heart of America's culture wars. These 'scriptures...9; provide the words that continue to unite, divide, and define Americans today."--Book jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New York : HarperOne 2012.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
vii, 533 p. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 491-516) and index.
ISBN
9780062123435
0062123432
Main Author
Stephen R. Prothero (-)
  • Genesis. The Exodus story ; John Winthrop: "A model of Christian charity" (1630) ; Thomas Paine: Common sense (1776) ; The Declaration of Independence (1776) ; Noah Webster: The blue-back speller (1783- )
  • Law. The Constitution (1787) ; Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ; Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • Chronicles. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's cabin (1852) ; Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) ; Ayn Rand: Atlas shrugged (1957)
  • Psalms. Francis Scott Key: "The star-spangled banner" (1814)
  • Irving Berlin : "God bless America" (1938) ; Woody Guthrie: "This land is your land" (1940)
  • Proverbs. Benjamin Franklin: "Remember that time is money" (1748) ; Benjamin Franklin: "God helps those who help themselves" (1758) ; Patrick Henry : "Give me liberty or give me death" (1775) ; Abigail Adams: "Remember the ladies" (1776) ; Sojourner Truth: "Ain't I a woman?" (1851) ; Abraham Lincoln: "With malice toward none, with charity for all" (1865) ; Chief Joseph : "I will fight no more forever" (1877) ; Calvin Coolidge: "The business of America is business" (1925) ; Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people" (1932) ; John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" (1962) ; Ronald Reagan: "evil empire" (1983)
  • Prophets. Henry David Thoreau: "Civil Disobedience" (1849) ; Dwight Eisenhower: Farewell Address (1961) ; Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I have a dream" (1963) ; Malcolm X: The autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
  • Lamentations. Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg address (1863) ; Maya Lin: Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982)
  • Gospels. Thomas Jefferson: First inaugural address (1801) ; Franklin Delano Roosevelt: First inaugural address (1933) ; Ronald Reagan: "The speech" (1964)
  • Acts. The Pledge of Allegiance (1892, 1954)
  • Epistles. George Washington: Farewell address (1796) ; Thomas Jefferson: "Letter to the Danbury Baptists" (1802) ; Martin Luther King Jr.: "Letter from Birmingham jail" (1963).
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. (June) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

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. (June) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The New York Times best-selling author of Religious Literacy identifies the most crucial texts written by Americans and published in America, which have profoundly shaped our national identity, including the speeches of Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan, and the novels of Melville, Salinger and Rand. 60,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Identifies the most crucial texts written by Americans and published in America, which have profoundly shaped the national identity, including the speeches of Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan, and the novels of Melville, Salinger, and Rand.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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 Paine's Common Sense to Maya Lin's 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, Prothero's stirring and provocative handbook peels back the curtain on the inner workings of what makes America tick.