God's New Israel

God's New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    God's New Israel
    Book Description:

    The belief that America has been providentially chosen for aspecial destiny has deep roots in the country's past. As both astimulus of creative American energy and a source of Americanself-righteousness, this notion has long served as a motivatingnational mythology.

    God's New Israelis a collection of thirty-one readings that trace the theme of American destiny under God through major developments in U.S. history. First published in 1971 and now thoroughly updated to reflect contemporary events, it features the words of such prominent and diverse Americans as Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Jefferson, Brigham Young, Chief Seattle, Abraham Lincoln, Frances Willard, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Ralph Reed, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Neither a history of American religious denominations nor a history of American theology, this book is instead an illuminating look at how religion has helped shape Americans' understanding of themselves as a people.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1644-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the Revised and Updated Edition
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Conrad Cherry
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The belief that America has been providentially chosen for a special destiny has deep roots in the American past, and it is a belief that still finds expression in our so-called “secular age.” It has resided at the heart of the attempt by Americans to understand their nation’s responsibility at home and abroad. It is a conviction that has manifested itself most vividly in occasions of public worship when American citizens have met to share common religious sentiments. Below are descriptions of two such religious ceremonies. The first is set within the intimacy of a small rural community; the second...


    • [Part One Introduction]
      (pp. 25-29)

      The rudiments of the theme of American destiny under God emerged in the English colonization of the New World. The new nation that was to appear would inherit from the thirteen colonies an English language, legal system, and set of social customs, all appropriately adapted to the American environment. It would fall heir also to a religious view of history that had developed in the mother country. By the time they launched their colonial enterprises in the seventeenth century, the English had been taught from childhood that the course of human history is directed by God’s overruling providence and that...

    • Good Newes from Virginia
      (pp. 30-36)

      . . . let me turne your eyes, my brethren of England, to behold the waters ofVirginia: where you may behold a fit subject for the exercise of your Liberalitie, persons enough on whom you may cast away your Bread, and yet not without hope, after many daies to finde it. Yea, I will not feare to affirme unto you, that those men whom God hath made able any way to be helpefull to this Plantation, and made knowne unto them the necessities of our wants, are bound in conscience by vertue of this precept, to lay their helping...

    • A Modell of Christian Charity
      (pp. 37-41)

      God Almightie in his most holy and wise providence hath soe disposed of the Condicion of mankinde, as in all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjeccion.

      1. Reason:First, to hold conformity with the rest of his workes, being delighted to shewe forthe the glory of his wisdome in the variety and differance of the Creatures and the glory of his power, in ordering all these differences for the preservacion and good of the whole; and the glory of his greatnes that as it is the...

    • God’s Controversy with New England
      (pp. 42-53)
    • The Latter-Day Glory Is Probably to Begin in America
      (pp. 54-58)

      It is not unlikely that this work of God’s Spirit [i.e. the religious revival], so extraordinary and wonderful, is the dawning, or at least a prelude of that glorious work of God, so often foretold in scripture, which, in the progress and issue of it, shall renew the world of mankind. If we consider how long since the things foretold as what should precede this great event, have been accomplished; and how long this event has been expected by the church of God, and thought to be nigh by the most eminent men of God, in the church; and withal...


    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 61-66)

      Although the Great Awakening brought about a renewal of the idea that the New World was the Promised Land, the birth of the republic lent special credence to the idea. The birth pangs of the Revolutionary War both announced the coming of independence and awakened the colonists to a new errand into the wilderness. Victory was interpreted as both a hard-earned opportunity for American self-determination and a proof of God’s blessing on American tasks. The achievement of constitutional government was seen as the first step in a bold experiment that would assure basic human freedoms; it was also understood as...

    • The American States Acting Over the Part of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness and Thereby Impeding Their Entrance into Canaan’s Rest
      (pp. 67-81)

      The history of the children of Israel in Egypt, their sufferings and oppression under the tyrant Pharaoh, their remarkable deliverance by the hand of Moses out of that state of bondage and oppression, and their trials and murmurings in the wilderness, is well known by those who have been conversant with their bibles, and have attended to those important lessons contained in the five Books of Moses. But why God thus dealt with that people, perhaps has not been duly attended to by those that have made conscience of reading the sacred story. But the text tells us, that it...

    • The United States Elevated to Glory and Honour
      (pp. 82-92)

      Taught by the omniscient Deity, Moses foresaw and predicted the capital events relative to Israel, through the successive changes of depression and glory, until their final elevation to the first dignity and eminence among the empires of the world. These events have been so ordered as to become a display of retribution and sovereignty; for while the good and evil, hitherto felt by this people, have been dispensed in the way of exact sovereignty, with a “not for your sakes, do I this, saith the Lord, be it known unto you—but for mine holy name’s sake.”

      However it may...

    • The Republic of the Israelites an Example to the American States
      (pp. 93-105)

      Here Moses recommends to Israel the strict observance of all the laws which he had delivered to them by God’s command, relating both to their civil polity and religion, as the sure way to raise their reputation high among all nations as a wise and understanding people; because no other nation was blessed with such excellent national law, or the advantage of applying to the oracle of the living God, and praying to him in all difficulties with assurance that all their requests would be answered.

      As to every thing excellent in their constitution of government, excerpt what was peculiar...

    • First Inaugural Address
      (pp. 106-110)

      Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas...


    • [Part Three Introduction]
      (pp. 113-121)

      In the nineteenth century the American understanding of destiny under God was decisively shaped by westward expansion. In the preceding century a number of writers and speakers had claimed that the new nation was the rightful heir to North America and had rhapsodized the challenges of the continent’s western reaches. Yet extension west did not begin in earnest until Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803. That acquisition doubled the territory of the nation, secured navigation of the Mississippi, and invited exploration of the Far West. Other large strides in expansion were taken during the administration of...

    • A Plea for the West
      (pp. 122-130)

      Ever since the era of modern missions, sceptical men have ridiculed the efforts of the church to evangelize the world, and predicted their failure. “What,” they say, “do these Jews build,—if a fox do but go up upon the wall, it will fall. The world can never be converted to Christianity by the power of man.” And full well do we know it, and most deeply do we feel it, and in all our supplications for aid, most emphatically do we confess our utter impotency; and could no power but the power of man be enlisted, it would be...

    • Discourses
      (pp. 131-134)

      The Land of Zion—This is the land of Zion. West of us is a body of water that we call the Pacific, and to the east there is another large body of water which we call the Atlantic, and to the north is where they have tried to discover a northwest passage; these waters surround the land of Zion. 4:301.

      And what is Zion? In one sense Zion is the pure in heart. But is there a land that ever will be called Zion? Yes, brethren. What land is it? It is the land that the Lord gave to...

    • Oration
      (pp. 135-136)

      Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The White Chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. That is kind of him for we know he has little need of our...

    • Passage to India
      (pp. 137-145)
    • The Star of Empire
      (pp. 146-160)

      “Westward the Star of Empire takes its Way.” Not the star of kingly power, for kingdoms are everywhere dissolving in the increasing rights of men; not the star of autocratic oppression, for civilization is brightening and the liberties of the people are broadening under every flag. But the star of empire, as Washington used the word, when he called this Republic an “empire”; as Jefferson understood it, when he declared our form of government ideal for extending “our empire”; as Marshall understood it, when he closed a noble period of an immortal constitutional opinion by naming the domain of the...


    • [Part Four Introduction]
      (pp. 163-168)

      The mortar shell that burst over Fort Sumter in the early morning of April 12, 1861, signaled Confederate batteries ringing Charleston Harbor to open fire on Federal forces occupying the stronghold. That explosion announced the beginning of the bloody Civil War that would claim, through wounds and disease, the lives of 600,000 Americans. It also heralded the onset of history’s direst threat to an undivided American destiny. To be sure, the nation was badly divided long before the act of secession and the ensuing war. Antipathy between an industrial North and an agricultural South, abetted by abolitionist and proslavery literature...

    • The Battle Set in Array
      (pp. 169-183)

      Moses was raised up to be the emancipator of three millions of people. At the age of forty, having, through a singular providence, been reared in the midst of luxury, in the proudest, most intelligent, and most civilized court on the globe, with a heart uncorrupt, with a genuine love of his own race and people, he began to act as their emancipator. He boldly slew one of their oppressors. And, seeing dissension among his brethren, he sought to bring them to peace. He was rejected, reproved, and reproached; and finding himself discovered, he fled, and, for the sake of...

    • National Responsibility before God
      (pp. 184-200)

      This day is one of surpassing solemnity. In the gravest period of our history, amidst the perils which attend the dismemberment of a great nation and the reconstruction of a new government, we are confronted with another more instant and appalling. Our late Confederates, denying us the right of self-government, have appealed to the sword and threaten to extinguish this right in our blood. Eleven tribes sought to go forth in peace from the house of political bondage: but the heart of our modern Pharaoh is hardened, that he will not let Israel go. In their distress, with the untried...

    • Second Inaugural Address
      (pp. 201-202)

      At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well...

    • Our Obligations to the Dead
      (pp. 203-214)

      To pay fit honors to our dead is one of the fraternal and customary offices of these anniversaries; never so nearly an office of high public duty as now, when we find the roll of our membership starred with so many names made sacred by the giving up of life for the Republic. We knew them here in terms of cherished intimacy; some of them so lately that we scarcely seem to have been parted from them; others of them we have met here many times, returning to renew, with us, their tender and pleasant recollections of the past; but...


    • [Part Five Introduction]
      (pp. 217-223)

      During the last three decades of the nineteenth century American life passed through some transformations that substantially affected perspectives on the national destiny. The composition of the population was radically changed by millions of European immigrants settling in the United States. By 1900 approximately one-third of the population was either foreign born or the children of foreign-born parents. Of no less consequence were the alterations brought to American life by the twin phenomena of industrial expansion and the growth of cities. By 1860 the amount of capital invested in industry, railroads, commerce, and urban property had already outstripped the total...

    • Our Country’s Place in History
      (pp. 224-234)

      The Committee of the Theological and Religious Library Association of our city having bestowed the privilege upon me to open a course of lectures, in which so many excellent and distinguished gentlemen participate, I must in the first place express my thanks to the Committee; and in the second place, make the humble confession, that looking upon the galaxy of orators to come after me (in time, of course,), and the intelligent audience before me, I do not consider myself equal to the task so kindly conferred upon me.

      Weak men, in battle, seek shelter behind strong fortifications. I have...

    • The Tendencies of American Progress
      (pp. 235-248)

      It is well for us to pause, in our career, to consider whither our national life is tending. For we are too apt to become so engrossed in our private affairs as to have but a dim and feeble sense of our relations to the life of the whole community. Or, if we cast a glance upon the tendencies of our times, it is apt to be superficial—a judgment which follows rather our disposition than our reason. To the hopeful, things are always bright; and they are always dark to the cautious. Prosperous men think the country is doing...

    • The Relation of Wealth to Morals
      (pp. 249-259)

      There is a certain distrust on the part of our people as to the effect of material prosperity on their morality. We shrink with some foreboding at the great increase of riches, and question whether in the long run material prosperity does not tend toward the disintegration of character.

      History seems to support us in our distrust. Visions arise of their fall from splendor of Tyre and Sidon, Babylon, Rome, and Venice, and of great nations too. The question is started whether England is not today, in the pride of her wealth and power, sowing the wind from which in...

    • A White Life for Two
      (pp. 260-264)

      I dare affirm that the reciprocal attraction of two natures, out of a thousand million, for each other, is the strongest though one of the most unnoted proofs of a beneficent Creator. It is the fairest, sweetest rose of time, whose petals and whose perfume expand so far that we are all inclosed and sheltered in their tenderness and beauty. For, folded in its heart, we find the germ of every home; of those beatitudes, fatherhood and motherhood; the brotherly and sisterly affection, the passion of the patriot, the calm and steadfast love of the philanthropist. For the faithfulness of...


    • [Part Six Introduction]
      (pp. 267-272)

      The United States hesitated before entering the two world wars. Each time most U.S. citizens initially preferred that their nation hold itself aloof from what they took to be strictly European conflicts. But after U.S. entrance, American defenders of the Allied cause often envisioned war as an instrument for the achievement of a higher destiny.

      Long before this country committed its men and arms to the First World War, a number of Americans were agitating for military preparedness and direct support of the Allied forces. Most wanted to avoid involvement in the struggle, however, and chose to believe that their...

    • Patriotism
      (pp. 273-278)
      C. F. THOMAS

      I am glad to welcome you here on this occasion and to aid in your celebration of this memorial day. I applaud your sentiments of love and devotion which prompt you to come. Your presence at this solemn Mass renews your consecration to the highest duties of religion and patriotism.

      This day is sacred to the memory of Washington, who still remains first in the hearts of his countrymen for his successful work and heroic sacrifices in winning liberty and freedom for this favored land of ours. The day is honored, and through its memories we are kept in mind...

    • Presenting the Treaty for Ratification
      (pp. 279-288)

      The treaty of peace with Germany was signed at Versailles on the twenty–eighth of June. I avail myself of the earliest opportunity to lay the treaty before you for ratification and to inform you with regard to the work of the Conference by which that treaty was formulated.

      The treaty constitutes nothing less than a world settlement. It would not be possible for me either to summarize or to construe its manifold provisions in an address which must of necessity be something less than a treatise. My services and all the information I possess will be at your disposal...

    • Annual Message to Congress
      (pp. 289-295)

      In fulfilling my duty to report upon the state of the Union, I am proud to say to you that the spirit of the American people was never higher than it is today—the Union was never more closely knit together—this country was never more deeply determined to face the solemn tasks before it.

      The response of the American people has been instantaneous. It will be sustained until our security is assured.

      Exactly one year ago today I said to this Congress: “When the dictators are ready to make war upon us, they will not wait for an act...

    • Anglo–Saxon Destiny and Responsibility
      (pp. 296-300)

      It is becoming increasingly apparent that, whether any other conditions of a stable peace will be fulfilled or not, an Anglo-American alliance, which must be the cornerstone of any durable world order, is in the process of formation. Mr. Churchill’s unequivocal words at Harvard, Governor Dewey’s statement in favor of lasting co-operation with Britain, and the Republican postwar statement in which isolationism is renounced, all point to at least one step forward in our foreign policy.

      This partnership between the English-speaking peoples can of course become a new menace to international justice and peace if it stands alone. The world...


    • [Part Seven Introduction]
      (pp. 303-319)

      Since the middle of the twentieth century America has faced some critical challenges that have decisively shaped its sense of national destiny. Race problems at home have set Americans to pondering whether their nation can justly be termed a Promised Land of liberty, and if so in what sense. Events on the international scene have stirred disquieting questions about the limits of power in America’s mission of safeguarding “the rights of democratic freedom” around the globe. And issues regarding the moral condition of the nation have agitated Americans of different political and religious persuasions. The remaining readings in this book...

    • America’s World Role

      • Freedom’s New Task
        (pp. 320-327)

        As we meet here at Independence Square, our thoughts inevitably turn to the world scene where freedom is at stake. It is a moment of unusual significance. The Soviet rulers are reforming their lines. The Soviet 20th Congress, which adjourned last night, was busy revising the Soviet Communist creed. We cannot yet fully appraise what has happened. And, in any event, it takes time for doctrinal changes to get fully reflected in the mind and conduct of the party members.

        But two things at least we know. One is that there is already a notable shift in Soviet foreign policy....

      • The Arrogance of Power
        (pp. 328-342)

        America is the most fortunate of nations—fortunate in her rich territory, fortunate in having had a century of relative peace in which to develop that territory, fortunate in her diverse and talented population, fortunate in the institutions devised by the founding fathers and in the wisdom of those who have adapted those institutions to a changing world.

        For the most part America has made good use of her blessings, especially in her internal life but also in her foreign relations. Having done so much and succeeded so well, America is now at that historical point at which a great...

    • The Black American

      • Letter from Birmingham Jail
        (pp. 343-355)

        While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement...

      • The Ballot or the Bullet
        (pp. 356-371)
        MALCOLM X

        Moderator, Brother Lomax, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies: I just can’t believe everyone in here is a friend and I don’t want to leave anybody out. The question tonight, as I understand it, is “The Negro Revolt, and Where Do We Go From Here?” or “What Next?” In my little humble way of understanding it, it points toward either the ballot or the bullet. Before we try and explain what is meant by the ballot or the bullet, I would like to clarify something concerning myself. I’m still a Muslim, my religion is still Islam. That’s my personal belief....

    • National Morals

      • Separation of Church and State: “Christian Nation” and Other Heresies
        (pp. 372-379)
        RALPH REED

        In 1992 I traveled to Oregon to debate John Frohnmayer, the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, at a college symposium on the First Amendment. Our debate was spirited but cordial. He argued that any restrictions on the funding of the arts amounted to censorship. I argued that if taxpayers foot the bill, they should be free to set reasonable, common-sense guidelines to prevent the funding of obscenity or attacks on religion.

        During the question-and-answer period, one man stepped to the microphone. “If you are allowed to pass laws based on your religious beliefs, where do you...

      • Creating a Healed World: Spirituality and Politics
        (pp. 380-394)

        In . . . two traditions, covenantal and sacramental, we hear two voices of divinity from nature. One speaks from the mountaintops in the thunderous masculine tones of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” It is the voice of power and law, but speaking (at its most authentic) on behalf of the weak, as a mandate to protect the powerless and to restrain the power of the mighty. There is another voice, one that speaks from the intimate heart of matter. It has long been silenced by the masculine voice, but today is finding again her own voice. This is...

  12. Index
    (pp. 395-410)