This book will make a lot of readers mad. Readers, particularly, who adhere to a vision of America as a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by Christian men whose goal was to propagate and defend the Christian faith in the political realm. The Godless Constitution suggests exactly what its title implies—that the U.S. Constitution was purposefully written to exclude reference to religion specific or general in order to maintain personal liberty for every citizen.
If you're looking for attacks on the character of America's founders, you won't find it here. Authors Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore (both Cornell professors) admit their book is a polemic, but their goal isn't to show how bad Thomas Jefferson was in contrast to the golden portraits painted by Christian America proponents. To the contrary, in fact; it was the founders' wisdom and learning that led them to devise an entirely secular constitutional government that neither explicitly protects or prohibits religious freedom.
At the outset, the authors turn the phrase "politically correct" on its head, calling those who claim America was founded on explicitly Christian principles and long for a "return" to Christian-based laws and policies "religiously correct." They admit it's a pejorative term, and also that, although there are many articulate defenders of that view, it is as damaging to our national unity as political correctness is alleged to be by the Christian right. That, while many of the religiously correct cry out against the marginalization of religion in the public sphere, their actions effect just such marginalization.
Neither Kramnick nor Moore are anti-religious or anti-Chrsitian. While they wisely keep their own convictions and religious affiliations quiet, they clearly have, if nothing else, profound respect for religious practice and belief. Their point is not to decry Christianity, but to illustrate the nature of church-state separation and why it must be preserved if liberty is to be preserved. Using historical, philosophical and logical arguments (as well as demonstrating that Christianity actually suffers when mixed with politics), the authors present a case that bears at the very least close investigation.
This revised edition includes a new final chapter in which the dangers of mixing politics and religion injudiciously is practically evidenced through a brief look at the George W. Bush administration. This chapter will probably yield the most disagreement from Christian readers (it should), but the point made throughout the book is still clear: once political morality is conflated with the voice of God, both become trivial and ultimately inconsequential. This isn't the final word on a long debate, but it offers a side far more Christians would do well to consider before spouting off about "Christian America."
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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