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The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation (Hardcover)
Since Thomas Jefferson first recorded those self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, America has been a nation that has unfolded as much on the page and the podium as on battlefields or in statehouses. Here Stephen Prothero reveals which texts continue to generate controversy and drive debate. He then puts these voices into conversation, tracing how prominent leaders and thinkers of one generation have commented upon the core texts of another, and invites readers to join in.
Few can question that the Constitution is part of our shared cultural lexicon, that the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision still impacts lives, or that "The Star-Spangled Banner" informs our national identity. But Prothero also considers lesser known texts that have sparked our war of words, including Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In The American Bible Christopher Hitchens weighs in on Huck Finn, and Sarah Palin on Martin Luther King Jr. From the speeches of Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan to the novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ayn Rand—Prothero takes the reader into the heart of America's culture wars. These "scriptures" provide the words that continue to unite, divide, and define Americans today.
“In these pages Stephen Prothero has brilliantly captured the American spirit-a spirit that has always seen us through hours of division and disagreement. With Prothero’s expert analysis, these texts should spark civil conversation, informed debate, and intelligent discussion.”
--Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion.
“There are certain speeches, songs, books, letters, laws, and axioms that Americans honor enough to argue about, says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. Like the Declaration of Independence, this almost consecrated canon inspires endless commentary about what it means to be American-and what ‘America’ means.”
-Religion News Service
“Required for putting in one place so many historic pieces that are more opined over than actually read. Awesome scholarship to an admirable purpose.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The American Bible is a provocative, brilliantly realized illumination of American values by means of excerpted historical documents.”
-Colloquy, Harvard University
“In The American Bible, Prothero has turned his considerable talents to assembling a version of the American canon. The author’s prose is, as usual, spritely, informed and incisive.”