Tag Archives: American

Making an Idol of American Exceptionalism

Nathan Finn summaries his Facebook friends’ political banter like this: “America is a Christian nation, we have lost our spiritual moorings, and political liberals are mostly to blame—but if we elect the right politically conservative (or perhaps libertarian) candidate, he or she (probably the former) will restore America’s greatness and perhaps usher in another Great Awakening.”

This, he says, is a false gospel. Believers are not called to make America great, but to expand the kingdom of Christ. We aren’t called to political action so much as we’re called to evangelicalism.

Finn writes to review what looks like a great book from John Wilsey,  American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea. If we take the idea of American Exceptionalism to the extend described above, we have politicized the gospel, rendering to Caesar what should be rendered to God alone.

This is the idea I was getting at back when I asked this question, “How would your perspective change if you became convinced the United States was not founded as a Christian nation?

Memoirs Are the New Fairy Tale

“Here we take fairy tales, magic tales, and wonder tales so seriously. This is the land of magic. I think it’s because overall American culture is still able to dream about a better future, to dream that something better is going to come. It’s part of the American DNA.”

Armando Maggi, professor of Italian literature and a scholar of Renaissance culture, says the American memoir is the new fairy tale.

The Most Evangelical Founding Father

Thomas Kidd, who has written on Patrick Henry and George Whitefield and is writing on Benjamin Franklin, offers this glimpse into the life of one of the lesser known founders of America.

Perhaps the most evangelical of all the Founding Fathers, however, is one whom few Americans recall today: Elias Boudinot. Baptized as an infant in Philadelphia by the great evangelist George Whitefield, Boudinot embraced and defended evangelical principles throughout his prominent career as a Patriot in New Jersey and U.S. government official.

Distinguishing Between Real and Fancied Injury

In Anthony Daniels’ review of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, he says:

Baldwin writes, with commendable honesty:

In a society that is entirely hostile, and, by its nature, seems determined to cut you down . . . it begins to be almost impossible to distinguish real from fancied injury. One can very quickly cease to attempt this distinction, and, what is worse, one usually ceases to attempt it without realizing that one has done so.

The distinction between real and fancied injury is a crucial one, of course, for fighting chimeras is not merely a waste of time and effort but positively destructive of all that is valuable in life. Just as paranoia eliminates that important distinction, so the incentives to emotional entrepreneurialism blur the distinction between real and simulated emotion, and veil the distinction from the phoney himself. Anger is not its own justification—there is no Cartesian syllogism in moral philosophy, “I’m angry, therefore I’m right”—and any honest person will admit that there is a seductive pleasure in anger. I have mistrusted my own rage ever since, as a student of physiology, I saw a cat stimulated to insensate rage by the discharge of electrodes in its amygdala.

Clever Guys Getting Paid Now

Ted Kluck offers us a picture of today’s American self-loathing.

What’s disconcerting is that the youngish, dirtbag American male no longer has an obvious “look” inasmuch as he no longer has tattoos or long hair or some obvious “tell” – the likes of which your mother used to tell you to avoid. The new self-loathing American male probably went to college and has a decent job. What’s interesting is that they obviously and intentionally didn’t use attractive or charismatic people in these ads, rather, they cast the guy next door (subtext: your next door neighbor is just picking his players and getting paid immediately, so why aren’t you?).

This is the picture of who we are when we follow our heart without reflection, without a challenge from someone who has tasted real life. (via Barnabas Piper)

Glorious, American Food

Jerry Weinberger writes about American food culture in City Journal, saying:

But Julia taught us how to master French cooking, not American. American food had to be invented before it could be mastered. And the inventor was another Great Woman, this one on the opposite coast. In 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. This was the great transformative event in American culinary history. Chez Panisse grew out of Waters’s experience not with the butter and fat of Parisian haute cuisine, but with the foods of Mediterranean Provence (based on olive oil, the fresh fruits of the earth and sea, and the general habit of going to the market with a string bag every day). The principle of Chez Panisse was that food—both animal and vegetable—should be absolutely fresh, and that meant absolutely local. So it’s not quite right to say that Waters had to invent American food; what she did was rediscover and then elaborate on pre-canned, pre-supermarket, pre-tomatoes-all-year-round regional American food.

There’s a good bit in this article showing the need for gospel in our country, from a lack of respect at dinner parties to the layered problems evident in Weinberger’s comments on obesity. Feel free to comment here on anything you read there.

River Rising by Athol Dickson

I put River Rising in my Amazon cart while buying some other books—homeschool material I think—saying to myself I should buy a good book like this one, fun to spend money on myself, buy something good to read as though I didn’t have other good books on the shelf to read—books I bought for friends or family and never wrapped up or all those Graham Greene books I bought for $0.99 each and failed to read the rest of that summer as I had planned. So I bought River Rising, and when it came, I put it neatly on the shelf. It’s wonderful to have a new potential read smiling down on me from a line of other potential reads.

I tell myself I should read more and blog less. I say it with a weak voice from behind my gullet, which regularly questions my motives and actions. When I read, it asks if I shouldn’t be writing; when I write, it asks if I shouldn’t be reading or gardening or cleaning, parenting, diapering, fixing, or working on something more profitable than writing what-is-it-again. Moments of clarity or passion prevail at times, of course, or you wouldn’t know me in these words.

I didn’t have a newborn at the time I bought the book. She’s four months old, and the book was acquired a several months ago. I didn’t have her then, so I didn’t have to hold her gassy tummy and wiggly arms. She’s such a precious thing, spit-up and all, and there’s a patch of spit-up cheese on the carpet there, sweet wife, if you would grab a towel while you’re up. I didn’t have the princess tiny when I bought River Rising, so I didn’t have that delay on reading it. Continue reading River Rising by Athol Dickson