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The Blessing of God?

Carol Swain, Political Science and Law Professor at Vanberbilt University has written an alarming and insightful book on the state of America today. Her audience is mostly conservative America (including evangelicals) while trying to allow other groups to look at her finding through her research.




Positives about the book:

Swain is careful not to get into the rhetoric of America being built specifically as a Christian nation. She has done her research by stating, "However, liberal and conservatives are often reluctant to admit that the historical record provides support for both perspectives" (22). This reference is to those who want to say the Constitution and its founders specifically aimed for building a Christian nation in their documents and writings and those who want to say a secular state was the goal of the founders. Too many times we get into a dichotomy between the two sides when there is partial truth on both sides. Swain goes on in the chapter to bring out the idea that covenant making was an integral part of understanding the early Pilgrims. In going into detail about how the early Pilgrims made compacts and covenants, Swain is deliberate about their insistent upon one God providing both blessings and curses for their partaking in the covenant stipulations or failing to do so. Swain is right to comment that the Declaration of Independence is full of the framers religious views, carefully commenting from Marsden that both Deists and Christians could adopt the language of the document (28-29).



In her section on immigration, Swain has felt the personal pull of being both encouraged by a student from Sierra Leone to further her education and praying with immigrants seeking green cards (138-139). At one point in her discussion I think she brings home a serious consideration for all citizens of the states by saying, "The overwhelming majority of the illegal aliens compete in the same job sectors as low-skilled Americans; the low pay they earn means that more families would qualify for governmental assistance, increasing costs for all taxpayers" (143). The notion that people coming into our country to work low wage jobs and cost more taxers for the everyday joe is a slam to ones face. Swain does her research regarding the U.S.'s policies regarding immigration in the past and comes up with some possible alternatives (on p.151 she offers a solution to the children of illegal aliens living in the U.S. 10 years or more).



In her last chapter, Swain makes the argument that Americans step it up in regards to knowing their history, applying biblical principles to today's culture. These steps are good indications of a return to an understanding of where America has come from and how we can deal appropriately with the issues of today.

Negatives:

Although Swain is careful to see America as being founded by principles that both Christians and Deists could recognize, she tilts in a different direction at times in her book. In the last chapter, she states that "With a concerted effort and a plan of action, we can help restore America to its former glory" (224). Not only being unbiblical, this statement speaks of historical pride (the founding era of our country was the pinnacle of freedom and goal of all history today). Secondly, I often wonder if Swain truly thinks that America and the nation of Israel are two sides of the same coin. I get the sense as reading the book that Swain is pronouncing a conservative rant on America that is at times close to the loud, boisterous shouting of Rev. Jeremiah Wright in Chicago. God is going to get America by his wrath if they don't change their ways and get back to their Christian founding principles. I think that this thinking is harmful to the witness of many Christians who try to deal everyday with sin and their neighbors sin without building bridges of hate between one another.



Although agreeing with many of the assertions of Dr. Swain throughout the book, I think her inflammatory tone could be tempered by a different approach. I do think this book is full of good research and her opponents would do well to counter their opinions with taking a look at what she has said in context. This book is a bulwark of support for those who are politically Conservative, and for those in the left this book is a both of matter of looking at the research and seeing how things are different.



Thanks to Thomas Nelson and the book sneeze program for the review copy of this book.

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