An often intriguing book on religion and American politics, regardless of one’s ideological bent.

The Miracle of America


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.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1628711417

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Xulon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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