Toby Mac |
& Michael Tait,
(Bethany House, 2004)
The first thing that strikes the reader about Under God is how honest it is about the history of the United States. History books written by the politically liberal, non-religious set speak often about the sins of America such as slavery and the decimation of the Native Americans. They often ignore or distort the contribution religious people made to the nation. Generally, if religious people are mentioned, they are vilified.
Conversely, books by conservative Christian publishers often err on the other side. Christian historians have often idolized American history and glossed over the sins of the nation's fathers and Christian heroes.
But Under God is about reconciliation. And reconciliation begins with truth. Taking as their model the story of David in particular and the stories of the Bible in general, the creators of this book use a warts-and-all approach to American history. Under God is also unique among Christian history books in that it shows the history of the United States -- from the beginning -- is rooted in the multicultural. The laws, ideals, etc., of the U.S. were not created only by Europeans but by Native American and African cultures as well. In addition, people who are only given a sidebar in regular conservative or liberal history books -- people such as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks -- are given chapters equal in size to their more well-known and historically appreciated white/male counterparts.
Under God uses all the historian's tools and all of the incidents, documents and events are well-documented and have a historic trail. This is interesting because some of the historical incidents of Under God seem so reminiscent of stories found in the Bible where the intervention of God into human events is clear to see. The story of Dwight Eisenhower's miraculous healing as a child or George Washington's miraculous escape are stories no modern college student would ever see. Some of these cases of divine protection and miraculous help were written in textbooks before 1934 but disappeared soon after. Indeed, many first-hand documents from the founders showed them to be religious men well acquainted with God, Christian ethics and morality and the power of prayer. But nowadays many college students do not know about these primary documents. And if they do know about them, they have read them through second-hand sources that have carefully deleted the miraculous or Christian aspects.
It tells hard history that shames the reader as well as unsentimental miracle stories. It is timely and connected to contemporary issues such as the issue of Supreme Court activism that many conservative Christians decry. It is a book about politics and as such it does have its agendas, which are many: the need to show that the U.S. is indeed a nation that God has blessed in spite of its sins and the desire for Americans, particularly many American Christians, to lose their racism. The reader of this book -- whether Christian or not, whether conservative or not -- is therefore asked to be open-minded on two levels: faith and race.
The way the book is organized puzzled me somewhat -- chapters follow each other in neither a chronological nor an alphabetical sequence. But this is a small quibble. Christian musicians Toby Mac (www.tobymac.com) and Michael Tait (www.taitband.com) have come up with an information-filled book that is conversational and academic -- and definitely faith-building. Many young college students will identify with the authors and Christian students will have a handy tool with which to challenge mocking professors who don't know the spiritual facts of American history. This book is highly recommended.