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The Search For Christian America: History’s Echo

1623 words - 6 pages

In The Search for Christian America historians Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch and George M. Marsden address the recent insurgence of desire to return to the American nation’s “Christian Heritage”; a call to revisit the solid and revered foundations of the colonial period (15). This premise frames the authors’ two-part thesis: first, that America was never a Christian nation and secondly, that the very concept of a Christian nation, after the time of Christ, can be harmful to Christian action and effectiveness within society (17). This assertion, and the evidence which surrounds it, proves that Christians find great value in elements of the founding. When considering the reason behind this assumption the authors suggest many possibilities: love of a glorious myth, preaching and identification with the Mosaic prophecy, a “city on the hill” mentality, and or nationalistic necessity (108-116). However, these points still with standing, the authors do not fully develop the possibility that Protestants doctrinally resonate with the ideals of the founding. The authors do assert that many use the past as a mirror simply reflecting one’s already established views: “by a subtle and often unconscious process we pick out . . . those strands which reinforce our point of view” (145, 148). This paper will attempt to bring these two concepts together: asserting that the ideals of the founding, mainly liberty, freedom and individualism, are mirrored in Protestant doctrine itself, providing an echo American Christians can identify with, allowing reverence to be felt toward the founding and urgency to drive the search for Christian America.
Toward the end of the text the authors set out to explain the difficulties and the necessity of “opening windows to ‘the clean sea-breeze of the centuries.’” The value in this “breeze” is the possibility of new vision through which and by which Christians can affectively relate to the current world and culture (145-7). Under the heading “The Past as Mirror” the writers describe the risk of hearing one’s own “echo” from history, never learning a new perspective, a danger many face. The search for a reverberated America is an exploration that has gone on for decades. This continual duet is made possible by the fact that various core beliefs of Protestants, their song, are in fact echoed politically within the founding. Protestants are guilty of allowing such an echo to color their view of history and affect their actions within society; they fall into the folly the authors describe and warn against. This folly stops Christians from fulfilling their place in society; they can never reach “. . . a more realistic view of history to disperse our foggy notions of the past and to clarify our perceptions of the present” (155). Awareness of this echo starts with understanding the notions found in Protestantism that are mirrored within America’s founding. To do this, one need not look further than Martin Luther and John...

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