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Review: American Covenant

American Covenant (Princeton University Press, 2017) is Philip Gorski's attempt to trace the dynamics of civil religion in America. The United States has a deep religious mythology woven into its history. Over the past few hundred years, there has been a tension between what Gorski sees as religious nationalism and radical secularism. On the one hand, some desire to turn America into God's instrument for administering divine justice. On the other hand, some see America as a place free from public spiritual influence. The long-standing conflict between these two, Gorski asserts, threatens the original vision of the country's founders, who sought to bring both religious ethics and republican politics together.

Gorski embarks on a journey through the history of American religion, from the ethical vision of the Puritans to the republican vision of the American Revolution and Civil War to the complicated religious back-and-forth from World War II to the present. Through it all, Gorski stresses the urgency for recapturing the founders' desire for "prophetic republicanism," an ideal nation that he sees corrupted through the war between the sacred church and secular culture.

This book dares to set forth a path that transcends the church-and-state question. With eloquence, careful research, and noticeable passion, Gorski shows how the story of the American experiment can continue in an increasingly polarized world. His writing is clear and his argument easy to follow. This is an interesting read for Christians and non-Christians alike, from historians to theologians to armchair thinkers.

(My thanks is given to PUP for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review.)

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