An in-depth study of the influence of the Bible on the values underpinning American government.
Kamrath makes an impressive debut with a work that blends Judeo-Christian theology, political science and colonial American history. The majority of early American settlers were religious dissidents who established colonies, in part, to have the freedom to worship as they chose. At the same time they made their fateful migrations, the Protestant Reformation was shaking up the foundations of the established church. This ideologically fertile time serves as Kamrath’s starting point for an intriguing portrait of an often overlooked feature of early American history. She aims to illustrate how Biblical teachings influenced the social structures of the early colonies and ultimately informed the Founding Fathers and their philosophy of governance. She particularly describes how core American principles, such as freedom of conscience and restricted government, have a powerful Biblical foundation. Skeptical readers may suspect that the author is arguing for a more theocratic society or to make a case for America as a nation chosen by God, but she goes to careful lengths to avoid such polemics. In the process, she makes a powerful case that the Bible mandates rather than restricts the pluralist society in American politics. Kamrath collects a prodigious number of Biblical references, historical quotations and scholarly reflections to illustrate the depth of religion’s influence on American ideology, but she’s also careful to acknowledge the work of such influential Enlightenment philosophers as John Locke. In its quest to be comprehensive, the book sometimes sacrifices readability, but this is essentially an academic text which dives deep into complicated subjects. Rather than focusing on individual figures or convenient narratives, the author devotes her attention to the abstract ideas that ultimately coalesced into American democracy. Despite its narrow subject matter, however, the book nonetheless has contemporary relevance, and any reader interested in the link between overlapping moral philosophies may find Kamrath’s arguments enriching.
An often intriguing book on religion and American politics, regardless of one’s ideological bent.