So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State

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9780151011858: So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle Over Church and State

Today’s dispute over the line between church and state (or the lack thereof) is neither the first nor the fiercest in our history. In a powerful retelling of the birth of the American body politic, religious historian Forrest Church describes our first great culture war—a tumultuous yet nearly forgotten conflict that raged from George Washington’s presidency to James Monroe’s. On one side of the battle, the proponents of order—Federalists, Congregationalists, New Englanders—believed that the only legitimate ruler of men is God. On the other side, the defenders of liberty—republicans, Baptists, Virginians—cheered the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and believed that only the separation of church and state would preserve man’s freedom. Would we be a nation under God, or with liberty for all?

In this vigorous history, Forrest Church offers a new vision of our earliest presidents’ beliefs, reshaping assumptions about the debates that still reverberate across our land.

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From the Back Cover:

THE SURPRISING HISTORY OF AMERICA S FIRST BATTLE OF RELIGIOUS POLITICS

Current disputes over the line between church and state are neither the first nor the fiercest in our history. In a revelatory look at our nation s birth, Forrest Church re-creates our first great culture war a tumultuous, nearly forgotten conflict over the most divisive issue in the nation s early presidential elections: religion. Shaping our modern sense of church-state separation, the battle raged from George Washington s presidency to James Monroe s. Would we be a nation under God, or with liberty for all?

"An illuminating study of the great tangle of our time. If we look back to our early years, we may well find a way forward."--Jon Meacham, author of Franklin and Winston

"So Help Me God magnificently combines a comprehensive knowledge of the history of the American presidency, a sophisticated appreciation for the intricacies of American politics, and a surpassing understanding of the role of religion in American life...."--Senator Gary Hart, author of James Monroe

"A riveting history of that most dangerous American intersection . A remarkable and resonant volume." -- Stacy Schiff, author of A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

FORREST CHURCH served thirty years as minister of All Souls Church in Manhattan and is now its Minister of Public Theology. He earned his doctorate in church history at Harvard and has written or edited twenty-two books, including The Separation of Church and State. He lives in New York.

Praise for So Help Me God

"In this beautifully crafted and timely work, the aptly named Church... makes clear that the tangled historic links between religion and politics were built into American history from the start and are unlikely to be dissolved. This is an important work that delights and informs."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Well researched and written, this lively book will appeal to students of American religious history."--Library Journal
"[A] fascinating and subtle study.... [A]n important, nuanced book, likely to overshadow titles like David Holmes's The Faiths of the Founding Fathers."--Kirkus Reviews
"[Church] provides a wide-angled view of the whole history of the early republic... [So Help Me God is] both solid and scintillating."--Edwin S. Gaustad, author of Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson and Faith of the Fathers

"How fortunate we are to have Forrest Church tell the story of our nation's historical encounters with God and culture, for there are very few who can tell this tale as well as he. With a keen historian's eye for detail and also an informed theologian's perceptions, Church serves as a skillful guide through this fascinating wilderness of ideas." -- Peter J. Gomes, author of The Good Book
"From the beginning of the American Republic, church and state have coexisted in uneasy equipoise. Forrest Church has given us an engaging account of the role our first presidents played in the contest between authority and liberty, fraught with the ambiguity with which we still debate these matters today." -- Timothy George, senior editor, Christianity Today

"

About the Author:

FORREST CHURCH is currently serving his thirtieth year as minister of All Souls Church in Manhattan. He earned his doctorate in church history at Harvard and has written or edited twenty-two books, including The Separation of Church and State. He lives in New York.

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