Freedom of – not from – religion is the cornerstone of our personal liberty and our political freedom

Christian participation in public life is to be guided by, not separated from, fundamental moral concerns—the promotion and defense of public order and peace, freedom and equality, respect for human life and the environment, justice and solidarity. And in making their distinctive contribution to society and political life through the democratic process, Christians, like all conscientious moral actors, will base their political views on their particular understanding of the human person and the common good.

This insistence that moral beliefs inform policy choices is, in the end, a matter of integrity. It is,  a question of our duty to be morally coherent, a duty that is found within one’s conscience, which is one and indivisible. We do not lead parallel moral lives that can be compartmentalized into separate spheres, one spiritual and one secular: Living and acting in conformity with one’s own conscience on questions of politics is…the way in which Christians offer their concrete contributions so that, through political life, society will become more just and more consistent with the dignity of the human person.

This is why religious freedom is the basis of political freedom, it is the reason for separation of church and state – in the sense that the state may not recognize ANY particular religion and NOT that it may not embrace religious truths, especially regarding the dignity of man, and it is the true basis of American exceptionalism as recognized by De Tocqueville.

American gospel : God, the founding fathers, and the making of a nation   Jon Meacham New York : Random House, c 2006  United States History Religious aspects Christianity Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xii, 399 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [359]-387). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The American Gospel – literally, the good news about America – is that religion shapes our public life without controlling it. In this  book  Jon Meacham tells the human story of how the Founding Fathers viewed faith, and how they ultimately created a nation in which belief in God is a matter of choice.

At a time when our country seems divided by extremism, American Gospel draws on the past to offer a new perspective. Meacham re-creates the fascinating history of a nation grappling with religion and politics–from John Winthrop’s “city on a hill” sermon to Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence; from the Revolution to the Civil War; from a proposed nineteenth-century Christian Amendment to the Constitution to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for civil rights; from George Washington to Ronald Reagan.

Debates about religion and politics are often more divisive than illuminating. Secularists point to a “wall of separation between church and state,” while many conservatives act as though the Founding Fathers were apostles in knee britches. As Meacham shows in this brisk narrative, neither extreme has it right. At the heart of the American experiment lies the God of what Benjamin Franklin called “public religion,” a God who invests all human beings with inalienable rights while protecting private religion from government interference. It is a great American balancing act, and it has served us well.

Meacham has written and spoken extensively about religion and politics, and he brings historical authority and a sense of hope to the issue. American Gospel makes it compellingly clear that the nation’s best chance of summoning what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” lies in recovering the spirit and sense of the Founding. In looking back, we may find the light to lead us forward.


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