Christian America and the Kingdom of God
Richard T. Hughes
A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, 2010
Narrated by Jim Seitz
Approximately 8.5 hours
Book published by University of Illinois Press
A provocative indictment of the fundamentalist myth of Christian America.
The idea of the United States as a Christian nation is a powerful, seductive, and potentially destructive theme in American life, culture, and politics. Many fundamentalist and evangelical leaders routinely promote this notion, and millions of Americans simply assume the Christian character of the United States. And yet, as Richard T. Hughes reveals in this powerful book, the biblical vision of the "kingdom of God" stands at odds with the values and actions of an American empire that sanctions war instead of peace, promotes dominance and oppression instead of reconciliation, and exalts wealth and power instead of justice for the poor and needy.
With conviction and careful consideration, Hughes reviews the myth of Christian America from its earliest history in the founding of the republic to the present day. Extensively analyzing the Old and New Testaments, Hughes provides a solid, scripturally-based explanation of the kingdom of God—a kingdom defined by love, peace, patience, and generosity. Throughout American history, however, this concept has been appropriated by religious and political leaders and distorted into a messianic nationalism that champions the United States as God's "chosen nation" and bears little resemblance to the teachings of Jesus.
Pointing to a systemic biblical and theological illiteracy running rampant in the United States, Hughes investigates the reasons why so many Americans think of the United States as a Christian nation despite the Constitution's outright prohibition against establishing any national religion by law or coercion. He traces the development of fundamentalist Christianity throughout American history, noting especially the increased power and widespread influence of fundamentalism at the dawn of the twenty-first century, embodied and enacted by the administration of President George W. Bush and America's reaction to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Timely and provocative, Christian America and the Kingdom of God illuminates the devastating irony of a "Christian America" that so often behaves in unchristian ways.
Richard T. Hughes is Director of the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies and Distinguished Professor of Religion at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, and author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Myths America Lives By and How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind.
“Hughes busts the myth of America as a Christian nation by quoting widely from the Bible and showing how American actions since the founding of the republic have often contradicted the central scriptural teaching of peace on earth and goodwill to man.... A genuinely thought-provoking read, Christian America and the Kingdom of God makes one wonder if those who wage wars and bloodshed in the name of God do really know the holy canon.”
“In this timely contribution to widespread discussion about the United States as a Christian nation, Hughes offers a concise history of the cultural influence of the idea, a critique based on careful reading of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, an interpretation of the appeal of religious fundamentalism to Americans, and an answer to the question, why do we think of the U.S. as a Christian nation? ... Highly recommended.”
“Richard T. Hughes gives us a powerful and eloquent critique of those who would use a distorted interpretation of Christian belief to further their political agenda. He does this with impressive theological scholarship and with an unswerving commitment to peace and social justice.”
—Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
“An important sign of the times. Its passion, clarity and critical piety make it the kind of book that could build a movement. ”
—The Christian Century
“This book belongs in every library. Despite its severe verdicts, it is always civil in tone. In its clarity of literary style and sources, it seems unusually teachable for a course that offers perspectives on American history.”
“Hughes has provided us with a work that is intelligent, accurate, and most of all relevant to the place Americans find themselves today.”
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