Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 16:2 (Summer 2012)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Christian America?: Perspectives on our Religious Heritage. Ed. by Daryl C. Cornett. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2011, 353 pp., $14.99 paper.

Americans are deeply divided concerning the role that religion currently plays in American public life. Concern about religion in public life is driving renewed interest in the history of our nation’s founding, especially Christianity’s role in it. Witness a sampling of recent books that address these subjects, including John Fea’s Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? (Westminster John Knox, 2011), Thomas Kidd’s God of Liberty (Basic, 2010) and The Founding Fathers and the Debate over Religion in Revolutionary America (Oxford University Press, 2011), and John Wilsey’s One Nation Under God? (Pickwick, 2011). Daryl Cornett has added a “counterpoint” book to the growing collection of books on these topics, one which presents a variety of viewpoints and rebuttals under one cover. David Barton, Jonathan Sassi, William Henard, and Daryl Cornett each provide their own perspectives on the role of Christianity in American life in this book, with George Marsden contributing a forward.

The discussion in this engaging book centers on whether or not America is a “Christian nation.” Marsden opens the book by highlighting the need to carefully define one’s terms when addressing this question. Some might use such a label to mean nothing more than that most of its earliest citizens “were of [a] generically Christian heritage,” while others might use it to assert that most of America’s citizens or earliest leaders “were practicing Christians of a certain sort.” On the other hand, some might call America a Christian nation to assert that “the nation’s government [is] officially Christian in some specified ways.” Some who assert this might only use the label “Christian America” in a “descriptive sense,” thus affirming that “its ethos and laws were predominantly, or at least substantially, shaped by a broadly Christian heritage.” Others might go further and press the point that “those laws and practices that were considerably shaped by a Christian heritage were therefore ‘Christian’ in the normative sense of being examples that

Christians today ought to follow” in national life (xvii). The various ways individuals may use the label “Christian nation” highlights the complexity of engaging the “Christian America” issue.

The essays of the four authors fall on a continuum, with Barton arguing that America is a “distinctly Christian” nation and Sassi arguing that America is a “distinctly secular” nation. Henard and Cornett seek mediating positions, w...

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