A Political History
Denis Lacorne identifies two competing narratives defining the American identity. The first narrative, derived from the philosophy of the Enlightenment, is essentially secular. Associated with the Founding Fathers and reflected in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers, this line of reasoning is predicated on separating religion from politics to preserve political freedom from an overpowering church. Prominent thinkers such as Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and Jean-Nicolas Démeunier, who viewed the American project as a radical attempt to create a new regime free from religion and the weight of ancient history, embraced this American effort to establish a genuine "wall of separation" between church and state.
The second narrative is based on the premise that religion is a fundamental part of the American identity and emphasizes the importance of the original settlement of America by New England Puritans. This alternative vision was elaborated by Whig politicians and Romantic historians in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is still shared by modern political scientists such as Samuel Huntington. These thinkers insist America possesses a core, stable "Creed" mixing Protestant and republican values. Lacorne outlines the role of religion in the making of these narratives and examines, against this backdrop, how key historians, philosophers, novelists, and intellectuals situate religion in American politics.
Lacorne is an acute yet friendly observer of US politics and culture. The parts of the book that form a straightforward essay on religion in America are wise, sympathetic, and vividly written. But his weaving of this account into the story of France's long obsession with America is fascinating in its own right, and casts light on the larger theme. Sorting through the insights and misconceptions of his predecessors is unexpectedly revealing: quite often funny, too.
Anyone interested in religion and politics in the U.S. stands to be deeply informed by Lacorne's lucid, intelligent book.
Forceful and intelligent.
it surveys its subject with grace and insight, as well as a lot of information.
It's an edifying read for someone seeking grounding in the subject as well as a user-friendly course adoption.
This book provides a much welcomed viewpoint from outside our ongoing religious squabbles in American politics. Lacorne admirably avoids oversimplification while remaining eminently readable.
A fascinating and noteworthy study of American religion.
Eldon J. Eisenach
On a shelf groaning with books on politics and religion, Denis Lacorne's study will stand out for its distinct perspective and erudition.
Thomas E. Buckley
The book is quite thorough, considering the substantial historical period being covered. Examples--from legal cases to travel narratives, public school curricula changes to political pulpits--are expertly chosen, and the resulting exploration is as concerned with the specifics of the topics as it is a general commentary on broad overarching concepts.
Foreword, by Tony JudtIntroduction1. America, the Land of Religious Utopias2. The Rehabilitation of the Puritans3. Evangelical Awakenings4. The Bible Wars5. Religion6. A Godless America7. The Rise of the Religious Right8. The Wall of Separation Between Church and StateEpilogue: Obama's Faith-Friendly SecularismPostscriptAppendix: The Religious Composition of the United StatesNotesBibliography