Understanding America

The Patriot's Handbook: A Citizenship Primer for a New Generation of AmericansThe Patriot’s Handbook: A Citizenship Primer for a New Generation of Americans by George Grant

It’s hard to be excessively great or terrible when compiling essays on American history. Primary source essays and speeches are useful for many purposes, research being just one. But they can go further than that. If compiled properly, primary sources can paint a picture of history. There are many books that appear as a grab-bag of essays and speeches with no apparent rhyme or reason.

This book, edited by George Grant, is no such grab-bag. It combines poems, essays, speeches, and quotes from Americans throughout our history. (more…)

Politics as Usual

The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the CountryThe Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country by Laton McCartney

This book is rare in that it is non-fiction history that reads better than many novels. It is a factual retelling of the Teapot Dome Scandal which took place during the 1920’s under the Warren Harding Administration. The author, Laton McCartney, is a gifted writer. He made the characters come to life in a way many authors can’t. The story epitomizes the human condition. Murder, bribery, graft, adultery, and courtroom drama make just some of the details of the book. Not that I approve of those things or enjoy reading about them, but I like history that doesn’t gloss over some sins and ignores others.

I will grant that the author is very liberal and I suspect he might have an icon of Franklin Roosevelt somewhere but that doesn’t take away from his abilities. It just means I doubt his talents would be used to write about the Obama, Johnson, or Roosevelt administrations.

I picked up a few lessons from this book.

1.) Politics is no worse now than it was before; it just receives more political coverage now than before.

2.) Total depravity isn’t going anywhere. Men with power sin in big ways, men with little power sin in smaller (that is to say, less expensive) ways.

3.) Giving the national government power over something doesn’t mean it will be better taken care of. It does mean that there will be more opportunities to abuse that power.

All in all, I would recommend this book to fans of history as well as to those who enjoy intrigue of all shapes and sizes. It’s worth your time.

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Covenant theology and politics: a match made in heaven

Politics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant TheologyPolitics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant Theology by Glenn A. Moots

I really enjoyed this book. It explained many things that had heretofore been missing in my understanding of American history. The author brings a vast amount of research into the story.

In the beginning, he explains the meaning of political theology. This is contrasted with other methods of understanding politics. Then he explains the meaning of covenant theology (and does a pretty good job for a non-theologian) as well as the Protestant Reformers who contributed to it, primarily John Calvin and Henry Bullinger. The meat of the book is his description of how this theology was applied to English politics during the English Civil War and later American politics in colonial times. He concludes with a discussion of modern covenant theology as well as how we can apply this version of political theology in modern times.

It is not as large as you might think for a book that gives so much information. But this is not what you might call casual summer reading. The prose is easy but new ideas and end-notes come by the bucket on some pages. Nevertheless for those who want to know about how covenant theology in particular shaped our country, this is the book for you.

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