American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred

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9780195300185: American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred
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The United States has never had an officially established national church. Since the time of the first British colonists, it has instead developed a strong civil religion that melds God and nation. In a deft exploration of American civil religious symbols-from the Liberty Bell to the Vietnam Memorial, from Mount Rushmore to Disney World-Peter Gardella explains how the places, objects, and words that Americans hold sacred came into being and how Americans' feelings about them have changed over time. In addition to examining revered historical sites and structures, he analyzes such sacred texts as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Kennedy Inaugural, and the speeches of Martin Luther King, and shows how five patriotic songs-"The Star-Spangled Banner," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "America the Beautiful," "God Bless America," and "This Land Is Your Land"-have been elevated into hymns.
Arguing that certain values-personal freedom, political democracy, world peace, and cultural tolerance-have held American civil religion together, Gardella chronicles the numerous forms those values have taken, from Jamestown and Plymouth to the September 11, 2001 Memorial in New York.

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About the Author:


Peter Gardella is Professor of World Religions at Manhattanville College. His previous books are Innocent Ecstasy, on sex and religion in America; Domestic Religion, on American attitudes toward everyday life; and American Angels: Useful Spirits in the Material World. He is now working on The World's Religions in New York City: A History and Guide and on Birds in the World's Religions (with Laurence Krute).

Review:


"Deeply significant...a book such as Gardella's can do much to help orient Americans to their stated commitments to equality, peace, and cultural tolerance. Thus, Gardella's American Civil Religion promises to make a unique and valuable contribution to Americans' understanding of themselves and commitment to greater faithfulness to their most cherished ideals."--S-USIH


"Gardella has a gift for linking many of the civil icons with structural counterparts in religion." --Anglican Theological Review


"Each chapter provides illuminating discussions of history and current status as well as Gardella's interpretation of the symbolism/sacred meaning of each topic...Recommended."--CHOICE


"In this engaging work, Peter Gardella revives the concept of civil religion and gives it new life through a detailed tour of its specifics. Drawing on a variety of materials-documents, music, monuments, places, symbols-he takes materials with which we are all familiar and puts them in a theoretical context that is at once sophisticated and accessible." --Peter W. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and American Studies (Emeritus), Miami University


"Since Robert Bellah's essay on American civil religion, there has been a great deal of discussion about American civil religion, its symbols, and beliefs. Peter Gardella adds much to the discussion."--Boheme


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