What makes us all Americans--whatever our differences--is adherence to a creed, a creed based upon cornerstone truths the founders believed "self-evident." From the earliest days, the survival of the new republic hinged not merely upon the expression of these grand principles of liberty and equality but upon their spiritual underpinnings. Freedom and faith were intertwined. America, as a foreign observer once put it, is a nation with the soul of a church.
In this stirring and timely book, Forrest Church charts the progress of this creed from the America's beginnings to the present day by evoking those whose words-whether in declarations, songs, inaugural addresses, speeches, or prayers-have expressed its letter and captured its spirit. What emerges is our shared destiny. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that this country might someday "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed," echoes Thomas Jefferson's belief that "equal and exact justice to all" is the "creed of our political faith." Our connection with the past represents our commitment to the future and vice versa.
A "spiritual and patriotic primer," The American Creed distills the essence of American history while also matching its sweep. Church lets the story of the Declaration of Independence unfold before our eyes, giving us both the big picture and the details that place it into brilliant focus. Those steeped in our nation's heritage will find fresh insight and renewed purpose. Those still discovering its riches could have no finer introduction. In its scope and embrace, this is a book for us all.
Church, senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan and author of Bringing God Home and Life Lines, digs deeply into the American past in this brief treatise on history and faith. Church argues that the "American Creed" which employs a language of faith but transcends "religious particulars, uniting all citizens in a single covenant" is an appropriate and generous principle upon which to found a great nation. This creed, he says, is distilled in the Declaration of Independence, which he dissects here alongside many other American standards. He examines the motto "In God We Trust," analyzes national hymns such as "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" and studies the holiday tradition of Thanksgiving, which he calls "an American Seder." Those who are familiar with Church's opus, which often features him as a kind of bemused and even cynical observer of the national scene, will be startled to find him optimistic and open-handed here. He resists cheap shots at easy targets, such as the religious right, even while lauding such liberal icons as Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt alongside American presidents such as Washington and Lincoln. Innovative chapters also herald the theological contributions of Jonathan Edwards and Roger Williams to the fashioning of American ideals. Church argues for a middle course between fundamentalists who want to inject a narrow Christianity into the national agenda (and claim that the nation's founders would have approved of such an encroachment) and secularists who wish to divorce the state entirely from its roots, which are steeped in faith. This marvelous primer accessibly and fairly explores the intersection of freedom and faith in American life.