Hellfire nation : the politics of sin in American history New Haven : Yale University Press, c 2003 James A. Morone Religion and politics United States History Hardcover. xii, 575 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
The publisher begins their description of this book by calling it an, “extraordinary retelling of American political history shows that — despite the clear separation of church and state — religion lies at the heart of American politics.” They thereby expose both their failure as well as the author’s failure to understand that the essence of the American experiment rested upon both a reasoned and historical understanding of the rights of man within a Christian context.
It is impossible, for instance, to allow the full expression of the particulars of the Bill of Rights in a society ruled by sharia law or any other theocratic autocracy.
Morone frames four centuries of U.S. history as a struggle between moralizers and social reformers. Since the first Puritan settlements, Americans have defined themselves in moral terms that require an immoral “other” as foil. Morone portrays an American soul torn in two by the clash between the individualist and the sect of social reformers seeking heaven through government programs. Political and social influence have shifted back and forth between those who preach about social decay, individual responsibility, and government strictures and “social gospel” believers who look to the government to alleviate society’s ill.
Puritans used political power to punish dissenters; abolitionists beseeched the federal government to end the sin of slavery; temperance crusaders forced the entire country to take the pledge under Prohibition; and today, self-styled American patriots pay lip service to democracy while ignoring many demands of social justice in their own lives.
So long as the government is proscribed from punishing any legitimate expression of individual rights and – equally important – is proscribed from granting any privileges, for any reason, to the expression of rights to any individual or group of individuals the system may remain in equilibrium – or may be able to regain equilibrium when it becomes unbalanced. Morone has too many axes to grind to either recognize or support this first truth and is far more interested in blaming Christianity and looking forward to what he perceives to be a happy day when we are no longer, one nation, under God, without realizing that that will mean neither liberty nor justice for anyone.