What do you get when you take four evangelical Christians with a blend of academic expertise and pastoral experience and pose the simple question: What has been the relationship between Christianity and the United States of America? Well, one thing you get is some differing opinions. Hopefully, the chief product is a thought-provoking discussion about our American history and the degree of impact the Christian faith has had on American culture and ideas.
This new book, Christian America? Perspectives on Our Religious Heritage, ought to be on book store shelves now. Besides myself (pastor and former teacher) other contributors include David Barton (historian and founder of Wall Builders Ministries), William Henard (pastor and teacher), and Jonathan Sassi (teacher). In addition, I was thrilled that George Marsden (American Christian historian extraordinaire)consented to write a foreword for the book. What a privilege to have such a renowned scholar give his time and efforts to endorse and help promote this work. He's also an incredibly nice guy.
I believe this discussion about American identity is important today. Our country has experienced dramatic change in its collective attitude toward Christianity. Everywhere you turn it seems that the old assumptions of Christian belief and custom are being torn down and met with increasing intolerance. And I think it is understandable that many sense these changes, which begs several relevant questions. How have we gotten to this present state of affairs? How did it used to be? What kind of ideas was this country founded on? What has been the role of religion in the public arena? How do we go forward from where we are?
This work consists of four chapters, each with a different perspective concerning how Christianity has informed our American culture and politics. At the end of each chapter, the other three writers offer short responses. In this way, the book is more like a conversation, and at times a quite spirited one! However, the discussion always remains respectful in spite in significant disagreement.
I'm grateful to Broadman Holman for making my idea for a book into a reality. In no way do I think that this work offers any definitive word on the subject. It probably raises more questions for the critical thinker than provides answers. But I think that is a good thing. This book is designed to help the reader consider the subject and examine different arguments and interpretations of American history. If you do decide to put it on your reading list, I hope you consider it time well spent because it made you think more deeply. I hope particularly that teachers and students will find it a good tool for discussion, critical historical analysis and in what ways Christians can engage their culture.