Category Archives: American exceptionalism

Some Historical Context for Clinton’s Remarks on Exceptionalism

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J. William Fulbright

During the first half of 1966, rifts in the Democratic Party began to develop over American involvement in Vietnam. By then, about 250,000 US troops were engaged in operations against the Communists in Vietnam as a result of Congress having granted President Lyndon Johnson a blank check in the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. In televised hearings, speeches on the Senate floor, and public addresses in early 1966, Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that if the war in Vietnam continued indefinitely without prospects for victory or negotiated peace, domestic divisions over the war would become dangerously pronounced. There was also grave risk of the war escalating into a general Asian war involving China.

On April 21, Fulbright spoke to the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies on “The Arrogance of Power.” In this speech, he insisted that dissent against the government’s policies during the course of a war was not unpatriotic, but one of the purest expressions of patriotism. “To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment,” he said. “Criticism . . . is more than a right—it is an act of patriotism—a higher form of patriotism, I believe than the familiar rituals of national adulation.” Ultimately, Fulbright’s argument was moderate. Rather than advocating for a withdrawal from Vietnam, he underscored the necessity for serious reflection in the application of military power. That reflection must take place in government according to the pattern laid down in the Constitution—in the give and take of advice and consent which was supposed to occur between the legislative and executive branches of the government. Fulbright noted that as a first rate power, the United States is continually tempted to “confuse” its power “with virtue.” Furthermore, it is “particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God’s favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations . . . to remake them in its own shining image.”

Less than a month later, Johnson responded to Fulbright with a speech of his own—“The Obligation of Power.” He delivered this speech to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, shortly after the completion of Robertson Hall at Princeton University on May 11. Johnson spoke of how Americans did not exercise power in a spirit of arrogance, but of “agony.” “We have used our power not willingly and recklessly ever but always reluctantly and with restraint,” said the president. “The United States of America has never sought to crush the autonomy of her neighbors.” (A strange statement, considering the events of 1846-1848, for example. But I digress.)

Johnson went on to insist that America was not a servant of its power, but the master of it. He warned against withdrawal from Southeast Asia, implying that doing so would not only send the message that America could not be trusted, but also that darker forces would enter and fill the vacuum left behind. Johnson said, “a great power influences the world just as surely when it withdraws its strength as when it exercises its strength.” In the Vietnam War, America was engaged in defending transcendent values—the triumph of right over might, the defense of the weak, and the championing of the principle of self-determination. It might be tempting to cut and run, but Johnson’s advice to dissenters against his foreign policy was to face reality such as it was. “That is all we expect from those who are troubled even as we are by the obligations of power the United States did not seek but from which the United States cannot escape,” Johnson said.

Both Fulbright and Johnson were calling on American exceptionalism, even though their appeals represented two distinct articulations of the idea. Fulbright said that “America is worthy of criticism,” and that its strength lay in diversity of cultures, nationalities, and points of view that were united “in an open, receptive, generous, and creative society.” Ultimately for Fulbright, it was precisely because of America’s greatness that the nation would be able to overcome the destructive allure of power.

In contrast, Johnson articulated a rigorously interventionist form of exceptionalism. He believed America was indispensable to freedom and justice in the world. “What nation has announced such limited objectives or such willingness to remove its military presence once those objectives are achieved? What nation has spent the lives of its sons and vast sums of its fortune to provide the people of a small thriving country the chance to elect the course that we might not ourselves choose?” Johnson asked.

Johnson’ brand of exceptionalism imagined a consistent (even inherent) judicious and humble exercise of power. Johnson’s America was innocent of the transgressions of empires past—even though it only takes a cursory look at American history to witness the emptiness of such a conception. Fulbright’s exceptionalism is celebratory of American ideals, but realistic enough to recognize that America is flawed, and vulnerable to great error. Fulbright identified one of the brilliant characteristics of American republicanism is the division of power in the national government, in order to check the willfulness of any one person or group of people in power. The Congress is to be a check on the President  because it is human nature to become enamored with power for power’s sake while cloaking irresponsible uses of power in the rhetoric of innocence, good intentions, and patriotism.

I was reminded of this feud between Fulbright and Johnson after reading the transcript of Hillary Clinton’s remarks on August 31 before the national convention of the American Legion. Her statements on American exceptionalism were surprising to many. Most of us are used to Republicans giving harangues on exceptionalism. But here we had the Democratic presidential nominee criticizing her Republican opponent for not believing in American exceptionalism! I’m looking around now to see if any pigs have taken flight. Haven’t seen any yet, but Election Day is still many weeks away.

Clinton (I am not on a first-name basis with the lady, so I’ll confine myself to the more formal use of her last name here) claimed that her belief in American exceptionalism was her “one core belief that has guided and inspired [her] every step of the way” in her political career. Her exceptionalism is based on American ideals, determination, and grit. Diversity is central to her articulation of exceptionalism too, but Fulbright’s emphasis on unity arising from diversity is conspicuously absent from Clinton’s version. She noted what a blessing it is to be an American, and correctly observed that the reason so many people around the world clamor to get here is because they also recognize what a blessing being an American is. But the flip side of this blessed state is the responsibility that attends it.

This is where Clinton’s exceptionalism is so much like Johnson’s as he articulated it at Princeton in May 1966. She called America “the indispensable nation” with a “unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress.” Similar to Johnson, Clinton maintained, “our power comes with a responsibility to lead humbly, thoughtfully, and with a fierce commitment to our values.” And what if America were to withdraw its hand? Clinton said, “when America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum” that other nations—whose motives are presumably not as righteous as America’s—will inevitably fill.

Clinton’s exceptionalism, at least as she articulated it to the American Legion the other day, is Johnsonian. There is little moral reflection in her understanding of the proper uses of American power aside from flowery rhetoric about peace and progress. Ironically, she seems to have scant appreciation for the limits of American power despite her many experiences with those limits since her political career began in the United States Senate in 2001. Furthermore, her brand of exceptionalism is defined by American innocence, just as Johnson’s was. This is perhaps the strangest part, because when she first began talking about exceptionalism, she cast it in terms set forth by Lincoln, Reagan, and Robert Kennedy. Reagan did see America as an innocent nation, but by no means did Lincoln or Kennedy. Clinton’s calling on these figures was great for the emotional appeal, but for historical, philosophical, and civil religious reasons, their articulations of exceptionalism do not belong in the same category.

So far, I’ve left Trump out of this analysis. Part of this is because Trump has distanced himself from the term “American exceptionalism” as Clinton rightly noted. But he still deserves mention. After all, his campaign slogan (in case you didn’t know) is “Make America Great Again.” Trump’s exceptionalism seems to be birthed out of a desire to recover a golden age long gone. This feature of exceptionalism is also prominent historically, along with innocence and responsibility.

All this goes to show at least one important truth that I have spent a great deal of energy trying to argue over the years: American exceptionalism is a complex and ambiguous concept. When the term is used in political discourse, it seems that everyone assumes that we are all talking about the same thing. And over the years, I have seen a lot of ink expended on the thesis that American exceptionalism is irrelevant, nobody takes it seriously anymore, and that millennials in particular see it as a dead issue.

But American exceptionalism is clearly not dead. Historically, it has taken various forms. Moreover, whatever form it has taken in whatever historical context, exceptionalism has always been multi-faceted. And when exceptionalism is called forth in today’s political discourse, its meaning depends on both the person using the term as well as its contextualization.

For example, many have accused President Obama of being ambivalent about exceptionalism. Such people usually refer to comments he made early in his presidency about Americans, Brits, and Greeks all believing in their exceptionalism. But those people have either misunderstood him, not listened to him, or are mischaracterizing him for political purposes. Obama has referenced exceptionalism quite frequently during his presidency. One of the most notable references was in his speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march in March 2015. In the context of Bloody Sunday, he said, “What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?” Self examination is central thread in Obama’s exceptionalism, but he is hardly the first American to recognize its importance. The American tradition of patriotic self examination goes back to the Puritans of the 17th century.

Obama certainly has embraced American exceptionalism during his presidency. It just isn’t Lyndon Johnson’s brand (or Clinton’s, at least as she articulated it in front of the American Legion). But it is consistent with an open, inclusive, idealistic exceptionalism espoused by Abraham Lincoln, who was perhaps the first American president to put  patriotism on a higher moral plane than a narrowly defined, temporal set of national interests.

American exceptionalism is not one “thing.” But it isn’t in the eye of the beholder either. Its parameters are definable, despite its complexity as a historical and contemporary national identity paradigm. While it has not always been called “exceptionalism,” the idea is alive and well. Always has been. Probably always will be.

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Chapel Hill Bound for First @AAIHS Meeting

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W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells, Courtesy of AAIHS

I am really looking forward to attending the first conference of the African American Intellectual History Society later this week at UNC-Chapel Hill. The university is my wife’s alma mater, so it will be fun to relive some old memories there. Looking forward also to harassing some old friends over in Wake Forest at Southeastern Seminary. And I’m excited to stop in and check in with my mother and father-in-law to make sure they’re behaving.

But I am truly honored to be a member of this society and also to have the opportunity to present a paper on a panel on W. E. B. Du Bois and American history alongside three good friends with sharp minds. Phillip Luke Sinitiere, author of Salvation with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity (NYU Press, 2015) and Edward Carson, co author of Historical Thinking Skills: A Workbook for European History (Norton, 2016) are two of my co-panelists. My third co-panelist is a former student of mine, Vondre Cash, who graduated from Southwestern’s Darrington extension in 2015. While he remains incarcerated at Darrington, he is recording his presentation and I will play it for our audience when his turn comes up to present. I am really excited for him, as he joins the scholarly conversation on Du Bois. Sinitiere’s paper is entitled “Environmental Intellectual: W. E. B. Du Bois and Nature”; Carson’s is “W.E.B. Du Bois’s Editorial Influence on Negro Migration and the Western Color Line;”and Cash’s paper is entitled “Unresolved Problem of the 20th Century: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Continuing Struggle for the Social Regeneration of African Americans.”

My paper is entitled “What, Then, Is The American? Crèvecoeur and Du Bois on American Identity.” I am contrasting two views on American identity, arguing that Crèvecoeur’s view was defined by broad opportunities for material advancement (the American dream), while Du Bois’s view was informed by a generously spiritual notion of human personhood.

See information about the conference and download the conference program here. If you are in the area, please join us.

Marco Rubio, “The Most Boring Man in America,” and America’s Great Commission

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John Foster Dulles (1888-1959) served Dwight D. Eisenhower as Secretary of State from 1953 until his death from cancer in 1959. When he died in May of that year, he was one of the most respected men in the world. Many Americans–including President Eisenhower himself–believed they had lost their best hope at winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Dulles’ New York Times obituary from May 25, 1959 had this to say:

But when Mr. Dulles had to withdraw from the international scene one word was heard over and over among the diplomats of Europe and Asia: “Indispensable.”

When President Eisenhower announced Mr. Dulles’ resignation he had tears in his eyes. The moment was so moving that no one could bring himself to ask a question. With mixed pity and consternation some remembered a remark attributed to the President several years ago:

“If anything happened to Foster, where could I find a man able to replace him?”

Still, during his long career of public service, Dulles did not make an admirer out of everyone he met. William Inboden, in his book Religion and American Foreign Policy, 1945-1960: The Soul of Containment, wrote that Winston Churchill described him as a “dour Puritan, a great white bespectacled face with a smudge of a mouth.” He was also popularly known during the 1950s as “the most boring man in America.”

And yet this was a man who sincerely believed that America possessed a God-given responsibility to defeat Soviet Communism and spread American style democracy everywhere in the world. Dulles’ deeply held conviction on America’s “Great Commission” helped inform US foreign policy until the end of the Cold War.

I wrote an op-ed for History News Network which appeared last evening discussing Dulles’ conviction–and his legacy, especially as seen in the candidacy of GOP hopeful Marco Rubio.

Here is a portion–

Dulles gave a speech entitled “The Power of Moral Forces” in 1953 in which he said “[our forebears] created here a society of material, intellectual, and spiritual richness the like of which the world had never known.” In contrast, the Soviets were atheistic, ontologically materialistic, and thus, “as a result the Soviet institutions treat human beings as primarily important from the standpoint of how much they can be made to produce for the glorification of the state.” Ultimately, the difference between the United States and the Soviet Union was the difference between a religious people committed to neighbor-love and an atheistic statist system in which people were compelled to obey through the constant threat of force.

Still, because America was founded on the basis of an active, rather than a passive, religious faith, its ultimate victory over godless Communism was assured. For Dulles, America’s spiritual heritage was three-fold. In a 1947 speech entitled “Our Spiritual Heritage,” Dulles said that first, Americans’ experiment in freedom was carried out by a religious people; second, Americans historically believed that “there are eternal principles of truth and righteousness which are reflected in a moral law.” Third—and most importantly—Americans’ religious faith was fueled by a transcendent obligation to serve others. Furthermore, this commitment to look beyond themselves and to the freedom of everyone in the world was essential to the survival of the American republic. Dulles said: “our society would quickly succumb if we renounced a sense of mission in the world.”

How do we see the continuation of Dulles’s legacy in contemporary times? Certainly we can see it in manifold ways, but let us consider that legacy through the lens of the presidential candidacy of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio has made American exceptionalism the centerpiece of his personal narrative, and by extension, his entire campaign.

Read the entire piece here. And read a more extensive historical and theological analysis of Dulles and America’s “Great Commission” in American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion: Reassessing the History of an Idea.

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Two American Exceptionalisms in Sam Haselby’s Origins of American Religious Nationalism

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Just finished reading Sam Haselby’s excellent book, The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (Oxford, 2015). I am writing a review of the work for Fides et Historia, but I thought I would write a few things about it here on the blog as I collect my thoughts for the review.

The book’s thesis is two-fold: first, westward expansion from 1783 through 1830 answered the question about what American nationality would mean. Second, American nationality was decided largely as a result of a conflict between frontier revivalism of the early Second Awakening and the missionary movement of Northeastern Protestant elites. In sum, frontier revivalism won out over Yankee reformed Protestantism. The presidency of Andrew Jackson, with his attack on Bank of the United States and his policy of Indian removal, demonstrated that American identity would be expansionist and nationalist. The immediate beneficiaries of this new concept of American nationality were the Southern planters, who were able to export slavery and a plantation society into the territories of the Old Southwest and subsequently become the wealthiest ruling class in the world.

While there are many interesting parts of the book, one of the most arresting points comes toward the conclusion. Haselby places Andrew Jackson’s Second Annual Message to Congress (December 6, 1830) in contrast with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863). While Lincoln sought to bring the Declaration of Independence to its logical conclusion by recognizing human dignity in “all men,” he cast the Civil War and emancipation as “the transformative events of nineteenth century American history,” in Haselby’s words. But Jackson’s 1830 address to Congress, which in part explained the rationale for the explusion of Native Americans from locales ranging from the southern Appalachians to Louisiana was, according to Haselby “the first explicitly racist statement on the political community from a sitting US president, and it was also the first time a US president turned to a theological justification for an imperial act.”

In answering his Northern critics who “often wept over the fate of the aborigines of this country,” Jackson claimed that “no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself” for Native Americans. (Seriously?) Benefits to the Native Americans included separation from the white settlers, freedom from the power of the states from which they were leaving, and furthermore, they could “pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions.” Perhaps they would even “cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.” Nevertheless, the Native Americans should be grateful for their removal, Jackson said. “Rightly considered, the policy of the General Government toward the red man is not only liberal, but generous. . . . To save him . . . from utter annihilation, the General Government kindly offers him a new home, and proposes to pay the whole expense of his removal and settlement.”

As Haselby pointed out, Jackson’s policy was exclusionary, while Lincoln’s vision was one of inclusion. Jackson’s policy of removal was the perpetration of a great theft, but Lincoln’s purpose was to seek, as Haselby described, “the righting of a wrong.”

Both Jackson and Lincoln represent two distinct forms of American identity. One is a closed form, and the other is open. One is imperialistic, the other exemplaristic. One is self serving, the other is self examining. One lays hold of “Christianity” for justification, while the other looks to political and ethical ideals on which the country was founded: equality of the human condition, individual freedom, and democratic republicanism.

Americans have always seen themselves as the exception to the rule in human history. Alexis de Tocqueville looked to the unique geographical, political, religious, and social circumstances of America’s founding and early career and said “the position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional.” Both Jackson and Lincoln saw America in exceptional terms. But Jackson’s and Lincoln’s brands of exceptionalism were polar opposites in that one was closed, the other open.

We see these two articulations of exceptionalism throughout America’s career as an independent nation. Closed exceptionalism always hijacks Christian theological themes, whereas open exceptionalism is a political/social construct devoid of appeals to theology. In this way, open exceptionalism establishes a helpful starting point for patriotism and civic engagement that is not idolatrous, nor does it depend on twisting Christianity into an American form.

Haselby’s work presents a detailed and well-argued history of where religious nationalism—closed exceptionalism—comes from in the early republic. And once religious nationalism was ensconced in the American mind, it took on a life of its own. We continue to live with its legacy in our own day.

The Complexity of American Exceptionalism

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On September 25, columnist David Brooks penned a piece explaining the meaning of American exceptionalism—and how some of the idea’s staunchest defenders are managing to betray it altogether.

First, what is American exceptionalism? James W. Ceaser, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, divides the concept into a distinction between America as “different” and “special.” Ceaser’s distinction can be summarized in a statement George H. W. Bush made in his 1988 GOP nomination acceptance speech. Bush was making a dig at his Democratic opponent, then-Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts when he said, “He sees America as another pleasant country on the UN roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe. I see America as the leader—a unique nation with a special role in the world.”

Ronald Reagan, the oft-referenced patron saint of today’s GOP, saw America this way. He was fond of adapting Lincoln’s 1862 description of America, calling it “the last best hope of mankind.” He also used a version of John Winthrop’s descriptor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, saying that America was “a shining city on a hill.” American exceptionalism is a potent patriotic concept and both Republicans and Democrats have been consistently employing it, especially since 9/11.

Which is why Brooks is confounded by the fact that GOP figures like Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and Ben Carson seem to be betraying exceptionalism with their recent exclusionary statements aimed at immigrants and Muslims.

For Brooks, the spirit of exceptionalism is oriented to the future, not the past. But as Brooks explains, “The GOP is longing to return to the past and is fearful of the future.” He laments that exceptionalism, that is, “this hopeful nationalism is being supplanted in the GOP by an anguished cry for a receding America.”

But while there is much to commend about Brooks’ piece, he is right about exceptionalism—and his critique of those who would undermine its meaning—only from a certain point of view.

Brooks considers exceptionalism through a set of specific contextual lenses, namely immigration and religious pluralism. Understood in these contexts, Brooks is undoubtedly right. The GOP figures he critiques are, without doubt, exclusivist in their pining for a bleached and Protestant American past.

But the problem is that exceptionalism is a painfully ambiguous term, and cannot be defined with certainty in a narrow context. If we think historically about exceptionalism—that is, how it has been articulated since the colonial period—we find that the concept is much more complex.

Brooks rightly notes that many in the GOP are exclusionary and oriented to the past. He is also quite correct that exceptionalism should be understood as inclusive and future-oriented. But this represents only one form of exceptionalism, and it is not the one to which Americans historically default. Inclusive exceptionalism is the ideal, and if Americans have ever secured this form of exceptionalism, they have had to fight hard for it.

Consider Abraham Lincoln as an example of inclusive exceptionalism. Throughout his public career, he knew that emancipation of the slaves was consistent with the Declaration of Independence, the document he thought was foundational to the American idea. He had little patience with those, like his 1858 opponent in the US Senate race Stephen A. Douglas, who thought that the phrase “all men are created equal” only meant white men. Speaking to Douglas’ position in the fifth debate in Galesburg, Illinois, Lincoln said, “I believe the entire records of the world, from the date of the Declaration of Independence up to within three years ago, may be searched in vain for one single affirmation, from one single man, that the negro was not included in the Declaration of Independence.”

But it took a great civil war, three amendments to the Constitution, and another hundred years thereafter for white Americans to legally acknowledge the equal humanity of African Americans. And in practice, many white Americans still aren’t there.

The point is that exclusivist American exceptionalism has historically been the normal patriotic understanding since colonial times. Inclusive exceptionalism is the form truest to the American canonical documents, like the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. But inclusive exceptionalism requires struggle. It does not come naturally.

During the nineteenth century, the term commonly in use to describe American patriotism was “manifest destiny.” The idea was that God had destined America to overspread the North American continent, extending the rule of the United States south into Mexico and north into Canada. By the end of the century, and into World War I, manifest destiny had a global reach. Speaking in 1920 on what he saw as America’s God given responsibility to bring Christian civilization to the world, Woodrow Wilson said, “This is the time of all others when Democracy should prove its purity and its spiritual power to prevail. It is surely the manifest destiny of the United States to lead in the attempt to make this spirit prevail.”

But manifest destiny was a concept that was based on exclusivism. Slavery, nativism, Jim Crow, the extermination of Native Americans, and colonialism were all logically necessary to manifest destiny, an exclusivist brand of American exceptionalism.

Furthermore, exclusive exceptionalism posits an America that can do no wrong. Ronald Reagan gives us the best recent example of “innocent America” rhetoric. In his 1984 presidential nomination speech at the RNC in Dallas, Reagan said, “America is the most peaceful, least warlike nation in modern history. We are not the cause of all the ills in the world. We’re a patient and generous people.”

Unfortunately, Brooks—probably without realizing or intending it—also falls into the trap of innocent America in his recent article. His sunny picture of the exceptionalism that he criticizes the GOP for undermining is consistent with the uncritical articulation that Reagan presented to the world throughout his public career. But innocent America is also exclusivist, because in this America, there is no racism, no poverty, no oppression—only equal opportunity and justice for all.

In contrast, President Obama may present the best contemporary example of inclusive exceptionalism. He uses the term “exceptionalism” all the time in his speeches, and clearly believes it. But he has no struggles in accepting moral ambiguities in the American character. In a speech he gave at the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma earlier this year, the president said, “each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals.”

Here, Obama situates himself squarely within the inclusive exceptionalist tradition. He articulated the idea that America’s real strength is moral, spiritual, and philosophical. And by making that statement in Selma, Alabama, we are reminded that true patriotism—the expansive, generous, and optimistic vision expressed in the greatest American documents—must be championed through sacrifices.

Exclusive articulations of exceptionalism are nothing new, and they are not limited to the GOP. When making reference to exceptionalism, it’s necessary to understand the power of context in locating its meaning.

An American Exceptionalism Bibliography

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Below is a list of selected sources on American exceptionalism that I have found useful over the past several months. The topic is quite broad—my book is a treatment of exceptionalism in terms of historical theology, intellectual history, and American religious history. But exceptionalism can also be studied as political theory, sociology, economics, and even geography. So this bibliography is nowhere near exhaustive.

Still, I found each of these books helpful as I considered American exceptionalism. If you are interested in the topic, I hope you may find this bibliography useful. I’ve divided up the books by the following categories:

1. General Titles
2. Political Theory
3. Nationalism/American Nationalism
4. Puritans
5. Colonial Period
6. Revolutionary War
7. Early Republic/Antebellum America
8. Mexican American War
9. Territorial Expansion
10. Manifest Destiny
11. Slavery
12. Civil War
13. Abraham Lincoln
14. Theodore Roosevelt
15. Woodrow Wilson/World War I
16. World War II
17. Cold War
18. Ronald Reagan
19. War on Terror
20. American Exceptionalism/Civil Religion
21. Historical Thinking
22. Christian America
23. American Religion
24. Millennialism
25. Chosenness
26. Land
27. Civic Engagement
28. Church and State
29. Race

This bibliography is a work in progress, so if you see something I’ve missed, please do not hesitate to let me know!

General Titles

Adams, James Truslow. The Epic of America. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1932.

Stark, Rodney. America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton, 2012.

Peterson, Houston, ed. A Treasury of the World’s Great Speeches. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954.

Augustine. Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans. Translated by Henry Bettenson. New York: Penguin, 2003.

Mead, Walter Russell. God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. New York: Knopf, 2007.

Kazin, Michael. American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Bancroft, George. History of the United States, From the Discovery of the American Continent. 8 volumes. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1860.

Durant, Will and Ariel. The Story of Civilization. Vol. 7, The Age of Reason Begins: A History of European Civilization in the Period of Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, Rembrandt, Galileo, and Descartes: 1558–1648. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.

________. The Story of Civilization. Vol. 6, The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300–1564. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.

Beard, Charles. The Rise of American Civilization. New York: Macmillan, 1930.

Commager, Henry Steele. The Empire of Reason: How Europe Imagined and America Realized the Enlightenment. New York: Anchor, 1978.

Political Theory

Hacker, Louis and Helene S. Zahler, eds. The Shaping of the American Tradition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1947.

Locke, John. Second Treatise on Civil Government. Edited by Peter Laslett. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, edited by Raymond Geuss and Quentin Skinner. 1960. Reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Hartz, Louis. The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought Since the Revolution. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1955.

Sandoz, Ellis. A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion, and the American Founding. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. The Social Contract. The Great Books of the Western World, edited by Robert Maynard Hutchins, no. 38. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952.

Lerner, Max. America as a Civilization: Life and Thought in the United States Today. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957.

De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. With an introduction by Alan Ryan. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Nationalism/American Nationalism

Kedourie, Elie. Nationalism. 4th exp. ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1993.

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Americans: The National Experience. With a foreword by Sean Wilentz. Francis Parkman Prize edition. New York: History Book Club, 2002.

Swomley, John M. American Empire: The Political Ethics of Twentieth-Century Conquest. London: Macmillan, 1961.

Baldwin, Leland D. The American Quest for the City of God. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1981.

Fousek, John. To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War. Chapel Hill, N.C., 2000.

McKnight, Scot and Joseph B. Modica, eds. Jesus Is Lord; Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies. With a foreword by Andy Crouch. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013.

Nichols, Christopher McKnight. Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age. 2011; repr, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Ninkovich, Frank. Global Dawn: The Cultural Foundation of American Internationalism, 1865-1890. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.

________. The Global Republic: America’s Inadvertent Rise to World Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

________. The United States and Imperialism. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001.

Kohn, Hans. American Nationalism: An Interpretive Essay. New York: Macmillan, 1957.

Baritz, Loren. City on a Hill: A History of Ideas and Myths in America. New York: Wiley and Sons, 1964.

De Riencourt, Amaury. The American Empire. New York: Dell, 1968.

Ferguson, Niall. Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Hart, Justin. Empire of Ideas: The Origins of Public Diplomacy and the Transformation of US Foreign Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Hartman, Andrew. A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Puritans

Bercovitch, Sacvan The Puritan Origins of the American Self. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975.

________., ed. The American Puritan Imagination: Essays in Revaluation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.

________. The American Jeremiad. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

Bremer, Francis J and Lynn A. Botelho, eds. The World of John Winthrop: Essays on England and New England, 1588-1649. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2005.

McKenna, George. The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Miller, Perry and Thomas H. Johnson, eds. The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings. Vol. 1. 1963. Reprint, Mineola, NY: Dover, 2001.

Miller, Perry, ed. The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956.

________. The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956.

________.. Errand Into The Wilderness. Cambridge: Belknap, 1956.

________.. The New England Mind: From Colony to Province. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954.

________.. The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954.

Perry, Ralph Barton. Puritanism and Democracy. New York: Vanguard, 1944.

Colonial Period

Phillips, Kevin. The Cousin’s Wars: Religion, Politics, and the Triumph of Anglo-America. New York: Basic, 1999.

Revolutionary War

Wood, Gordon .The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Albanese, Catherine L. Sons of the Fathers: The Civil Religion of the American Revolution. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976.

Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Enlarged edition. Cambridge: Belknap, 1992.

Bonomi, Patricia U. “Religious Dissent and the Case for American Exceptionalism.” In Religion in a Revolutionary Age, Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994.

Byrd, James P. Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Colbourn, Trevor. The Lamp of Experienced: Whig History and the Intellectual Origins of the American Revolution. 2nd edition. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998.

De Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth Century America. Edited with an introduction by Albert E. Stone. New York: Penguin, 1986.

Gaines, James R. For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions. New York: Norton, 2007.

Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Smith, Page, ed. Religious Origins of the American Revolution. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1976.

Early Republic/Antebellum America

Cheathem, Mark R. Andrew Jackson: Southerner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013.

Ellis, Joseph J. American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. Oxford History of the United States, edited by David M. Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Beeman, Richard. Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution. New York: Random House, 2009.

Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Meacham, Jon. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. New York: Random House, 2006.

Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848–1861. Completed and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher. 1976. Reprint, New York: Harper Perennial, 2011.

Reynolds, David S. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Shalev, Eran. American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Wood, Gordon S. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different. New York: Penguin, 2006.

________. The Creation of the American Republic: 1776 –1787. 2d ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

________. The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Wilentz, Sean. The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. New York: Norton, 2005.

Mexican American War

Clary, David A. Eagles and Empire: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle for a Continent. New York: Bantam, 2009.

Pinheiro, John C. Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican-American War. New York: Oxford, 2014.

Territorial Expansion

Billington, Ray Allen. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. 2nd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1960.

Drinnon, Richard. Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building. 1980. Reprint, Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.

Etulan, Richard W., ed. Does the Frontier Experience Make America Exceptional? Historians at Work, edited by Edward Countryman. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999.

Goetzmann, William H. Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West. Francis Parkman Prize edition. New York: History Book Club, 2006.

Kluger, Richard. Seizing Destiny: How America Grew from Sea to Shining Sea. New York: Knopf, 2007.

Kukla, Jon. A Wilderness so Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America. New York: Knopf, 2003.

Morgan, Ted. A Shovel of Stars: The Making of the American West—1800 to the Present. New York: Touchstone, 1995.

________. Wilderness at Dawn: The Settling of the North American Continent. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Manifest Destiny

Gomez, Adam. “Deus Vult!: John L. O’Sullivan, Manifest Destiny, and American Democratic Messianism.” American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture 1.2 (Fall 2012): 236–262.

Hawk, L. Daniel. Joshua in 3-D: A Commentary on Biblical Conquest and Manifest Destiny. Eugene: Cascade, 2010.

Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Manifest Destiny. Greenwood Guides to Historic Events, 1500-1900, Linda S. Frey and Marsha L. Frey, eds. London: Greenwood, 2003.

Hietala, Thomas R. Manifest Design: American Exceptionalism and Empire. Revised edition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Hofstadter, Richard “Manifest Destiny and the Philippines.” In Daniel Aaron, ed. America in Crisis: Fourteen Crucial Episodes in American History. New York, 1952.

Merk, Frederick. Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History. With a foreword by John Mack Faragher. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Stephanson, Anders. Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.

Slavery

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic, 2014.

Blassingame, John W.. The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South. 1972. Reprint, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Horton, James Oliver and Lois E. Horton. Slavery and the Making of America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave. 1853.

Civil War

McPherson, James. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Moorhead, James H. American Apocalypse: Yankee Protestants and the Civil War, 1860-1869. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.

Noll, Mark. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Abraham Lincoln

Diggins, John Patrick. On Hallowed Ground: Abraham Lincoln and the Foundations of American History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Wolf, William J. The Almost Chosen People: A Study of the Religion of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Doubleday, 1959.

Guelzo, Allen C. Abraham Lincoln, Redeemer President. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.

Lincoln, Abraham. Selected Speeches and Writings. With an introduction by Gore Vidal. New York: Library of America Paperback Classics, 2009.

McPherson, James M., ed. “We Cannot Escape History”: Lincoln and the Last Best Hope of Earth. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Mead, Sidney E. “Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Last, Best Hope of Earth’: The American Dream of Destiny and Democracy,” Church History 23:1 (March 1954): 3–16.

White, Ronald C. The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words. New York: Random House, 2005.

Theodore Roosevelt

Beale, Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. The Albert Shaw Lectures on Diplomatic History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1956.

Burton, David H. Theodore Roosevelt: Confident Imperialist. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968.

Dalton, Kathleen. Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life. New York: Knopf, 2002.

DiNunzio, Mario, ed. Theodore Roosevelt: An American Mind, Selected Writings. New York: Penguin, 1994.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Winning of the West. 4 volumes. Introduction by John Milton Cooper, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

________. Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography. 1913. Reprint, New York: Da Capo, 1985.

Woodrow Wilson/World War I

Babik, Milan. Statecraft and Salvation: Wilsonian Liberal Internationalism as Secularized Eschatology. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2013.

Gamble, Richard. The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation. Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2003.

MacMillan, Margaret. Paris, 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. With a foreword by Richard Holbrooke. New York: Random House, 2001.

Ninkovich, Frank. The Wilsonian Century: U. S. Foreign Policy Since 1900. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Wilson, Woodrow. A History of the American People. Five Volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1908.

World War II

Borgwardt, Elizabeth. A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Kaye, Harvey. The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014.

Cold War

Inboden, William. Religion and American Foreign Policy, 1945–1960. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Kinzer, Stephen. The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War. New York: Henry Holt, 2013.

Niebuhr, Richard. The Irony of American History. New York: Scribner’s 1952.

Offner, Arnold A. Another Such Victory: President Truman and the Cold War, 1945–1953. Stanford Nuclear Age Series. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002).

Preston, Andrew. Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith. New York: Anchor, 2012.

Van Dusen, Henry P., ed. The Spiritual Legacy of John Foster Dulles: Selections from His Articles and Addresses. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960.

Freeman, Joshua B. American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home, 1945–2000. The Penguin History of the United States. New York: Viking, 2012.

Ronald Reagan

Harrison, Maureen and Steve Gilbert, eds. The Speeches of Ronald Reagan. 2004. Reprint, Excellent Books, 2014.

Reagan, Ronald. Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeches. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

________. The Reagan Diaries. Edited by Douglas Brinkley. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007.

Skinner, Kiron K., Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson, eds. Reagan, In His Own Hand. New York: Touchstone, 2001.

War on Terror

Bacevich, Andrew J. The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. New York: Metropolitan, 2008.

Woodward, Bob. Bush At War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

American Exceptionalism/Civil Religion

Ceasar, James W. “The Origins and Character of American Exceptionalism.” American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture 1.1 (Spring 2012): 3-28.

Cherry, Conrad, ed.. God’s New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny. Revised Edition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Bellah, Robert N. and Phillip E. Hammond. Varieties of Civil Religion. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980.

________. Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

________. The Broken Covenant: American Civil Religion in Time of Trial. New York: Seabury, 1975.

Cobbs Hoffman, Elizabeth. American Umpire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Chesterton, G. K. What I Saw in America. Civium Press, 2012.

Deneen, Patrick J. “Cities of Man on a Hill.” American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture 1.1 (Spring 2012): 29-52.

Dunn, Charles, ed. American Exceptionalism: The Origins, History, and Future of Our Nation’s Greatest Strength. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.

Edwards, Jason A. and David Weiss. The Rhetoric of American Exceptionalism: Critical Essays. London: McFarland, 2011.

Fischer, Claude S. Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Gamble, Richard M. In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth. New York: Continuum, 2012.

Gardella, Peter. American Civil Religion: What Americans Hold Sacred. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Gelernter, David. Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

Gingrich, Newt and Vince Haley. A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. Washington: Regnery, 2011.

Glaser, Elizabeth and Hermann Wellenreuther, eds. Bridging the Atlantic: The Question of American Exceptionalism in Perspective. Publications of the German Historical Institute. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Greene, Jack P. The Intellectual Construction of America: Exceptionalism and Identity from 1492 to 1800. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

Guètin, Nicole. Religious Ideology in American Politics: A History. London: McFarland, 2009.

Guyatt, Nicholas. Providence and the Invention of the United States, 1607-1876. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Haberski, Raymond. God and War: American Civil Religion Since 1945. London: Rutgers University Press, 2012.

Hodgson, Godfrey. The Myth of American Exceptionalism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Hughes, Richard T. Myths America Lives By. With a foreword by Robert N. Bellah. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003.

Kagan, Robert. The World America Made. New York: Knopf, 2012.

Leithart, Peter J. Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective. Theopolitical Visions, Thomas Heilke, D. Stephen Long, and C. C. Pecknold, eds. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012.

Lieven, Anatol. America, Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Lipset, Seymour Martin. American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996.

________. The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comparative Perspective. London: Transaction, 2003.

Lockhard, Charles. The Roots of American Exceptionalism: Institutions, Culture, and Policies. New York: MacMillan, 2003.

Madsen, Deborah L. American Exceptionalism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

Mead, Sidney E. “Nation With the Soul of a Church,” Church History 36:3 (September 1967): 262–83.

Onuf, Peter S. “American Exceptionalism and National Identity.” American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture 1.1 (Spring 2012): 77-100.

Pease, Donald E. The New American Exceptionalism. Critical American Studies Series, George Lipsitz, ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Pierard, Richard V. and Robert D. Linder. Civil Religion and the Presidency. Grand Rapids: Academie, 1988.

Pullen, John J. Patriotism in America: A Study of Changing Devotions, 1770-1970. New York: American Heritage Press, 1971.

Remillard, Arthur. Southern Civil Religions: Imagining the Good Society in the Post-Reconstruction Era. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.

Restad, Hilde. American Exceptionalism: An Idea That Made a Nation and Remade the World. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Robbins, James S. Native Americans: Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the New American Identity. New York: Encounter, 2013.

Schuck, Peter H. and James Q. Wilson, eds. Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation. New York: PublicAffairs, 2008.

Shafer, Byron E., ed. Is America Different?: A New Look at American Exceptionalism. Oxford, 1991.

Strong, Josiah. Our Country. Jurgen Herbst, ed. Cambridge: Belknap, 1963.

Historical Thinking

Boyd, Jonathan. “This Holy Hieroglyph: Providence and Historical Consciousness in George Bancroft’s Historiography.” PhD diss., Johns Hopkins University, 2001.

Cheng, Eileen Ka-May. The Plain and Noble Garb of Truth: Nationalism and Impartiality in American Historical Writing, 1784-1860. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.

Clark, Gordon H. Historiography, Secular and Religious. 1971. Reprint Jefferson, MD: Trinity, 1994.

Fea, John, Jay Green, and Eric Miller, eds. Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010.

Fea, John. Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.

Keillor, Stephen J. God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith. With a foreword by Mark A. Noll. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2007.

Le Goff, Jacques. History and Memory. Translated by Steven Rendall and Elizabeth Claman. European Perspectives, Lawrence D. Kritzman and Richard Wolin, eds. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

McKenzie, Robert Tracy. The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013.

Molho, Anthony and Gordon S. Wood, eds. Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Momigliano, Arnaldo. The Classical Foundations of Modern Historiography. With a foreword by Riccardo di Donato. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Nash, Ronald H. The Meaning of History. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1998.

Noble, David W. Historians Against History: The Frontier Thesis and the National Covenant in American Historical Writing Since 1830. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1965.

Wood, Gordon. The Purpose of the Past: Reflections of the Uses of History. New York: Penguin, 2008.

Christian America

Fea, John. Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011.

Hughes, Richard T. Christian America and the Kingdom of God. With a foreword by Brian McLaren. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Kruse, Kevin. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. New York: Basic, 2015.

Noll, Mark A., Nathan O. Hatch, and George M. Marsden. The Search for Christian America. Colorado Springs: Helmers and Howard, 1989.

Throckmorton, Warren and Michael Coulter. Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Grove City: Salem Grove, 2012.

Wilsey, John D. One Nation Under God?: An Evangelical Critique of Christian America. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011.

American Religion

Gaustad, Edwin S. and Mark A. Noll, eds. A Documentary History of Religion in America Since 1877. Third ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

Gaustad, Edwin S. Faith of the Founders: Religion and the New Nation, 1776-1826. Second edition. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2004.

________.. A Religious History of America. Revised edition. New York: Harper San Francisco, 1990.

Heimert, Alan. Religion and the American Mind: From the Great Awakening to the Revolution. With a foreword by Andrew Delbanco. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1966.

Herberg, Will. Protestant-Catholic-Jew: An Essay in American Religious Sociology. New York: Doubleday, 1955.

Hoffer, Peter Charles, ed. The Marrow of American Divinity: Selected Articles on Colonial Religion. New York: Garland, 1988.

Hoffman, Ronald and Peter J. Albert, eds. Religion in a Revolutionary Age. Perspectives on the American Revolution, Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, eds. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994.

Holmes, David L. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Kidd, Thomas S. God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution. New York: Basic, 2010.

Lambert, Frank. The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture, 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

________. Religion and American Culture. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990.

Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.

________. America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

________. Christians in the American Revolution. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2003.

Humphrey, Edward Frank. Nationalism and Religion in America: 1774-1789. New York: Russell and Russell, 1965.

Sandoz, Ellis, ed. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1991.

Stout, Harry S. The New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture iln Colonial New England. 25th Anniversary ed. With a foreword by Mark A. Noll. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

West, John G., Jr. The Politics of Revelation and Reason: Religion and Civic Life in the New Nation. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

Witham, Larry. A City on a Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History. New York: HarperOne, 2007.

Millennialism

Bloch, Ruth Heidi. “Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in America Ideology, 1756-1800.” Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1980.

Tuveson, Ernest Lee. Millennium and Utopia: A Study in the Background of the Idea of Progress. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1949.

________. Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

National Election

Anderson, Braden P. Chosen Nation: Scripture, Theopolitics, and the Project of National Identity. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2012.

Smith, Anthony D. Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Land

Brinkley, Douglas. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. New York: Harper, 2009.

Burge, Gary M. Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to ‘Holy Land’ Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010.

Burrow, John. A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances, and Inquiries from Herodotus to Thucydides to the Twentieth Century. New York: Knopf, 2008.

Fiege, Mark. The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012.

Glave, Dianne D. and Mark Stoll, eds. “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

Glave, Dianne D. Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 2010.

Hersey, Mark D. My Work is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.

Kennedy, Roger G. Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Muir, John. The Eight Wilderness Discovery Books. London: Diadem, 1992.

Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967.

Smith, Kimberly K. African American Environmental Thought: Foundations. American Political Thought, Wilson Carey McWilliams and Lance Banning, eds. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

McClay, Wilfred and Ted V. McAllister, eds. Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America. New York: New Atlantis, 2014.

Righter, Robert W. The Battle Over Hetch-Hetchy: America’s Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism. New York: Oxford, 2006.

Stoll, Mark. Inherit the Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism. New York: Oxford, 2015.

Civic Engagement

Forsythe, Clarke D. Politics for the Greatest Good: The Case for Prudence in the Public Square. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2009.

Guiness, Os. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2012.

Hauerwas, Stanley. After Christendom? How the Church is to Behave if Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation are Bad Ideas. Nashville: Abingdon, 1991.

Koyzis, David T. Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.

Lasch, Christopher. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.

Noll, Mark. One Nation Under God? Christian Faith and Political Action in America. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

Noll, Mark, ed. Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the 1980s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Noll, Mark A. and Luke E. Harlow, eds. Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present. 2nd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Schlossberg, Herbert. Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture. With a preface by Robert H. Bork and a foreword by Charles Colson. Wheaton: Crossway, 1990.

Church and State

Driesbach, Daniel L. and Mark David Hall, eds. The Sacred Rights of Conscience: Selected Readings on Religious Liberty and Church-State Relations in the American Founding. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009.

Kemeny, P. C., ed. Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007.

Wilson, John F. and Donald L. Drakeman, eds. Church and State in American History: The Burden of Religious Pluralism. Second ed. Boston: Beacon, 1987.

Race

Blum, Edward J. W. E. B. Du Bois: American Prophet. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

________. Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2005.

De Beaumont, Gustave. Marie or, Slavery in the United States. Translated by Barbara Chapman. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Du Bois, W. E. B. Writings. Edited by Nathan Huggins. New York: Library of America, 1986.

Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Marable, Manning and Garrett Felber. The Portable Malcolm X Reader. New York: Penguin, 2013.

Washington, James Melvin, ed. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: HarperOne, 1986.

Obama is Definitely an American Exceptionalist

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President Obama’s views on American exceptionalism are famously nuanced. In almost all of his statements on exceptionalism, he stresses America’s need for partnerships with other nations as well as America’s past failures to live up to its stated ideals. Nevertheless, Obama insists that he believes in American exceptionalism.

Since visiting Selma last March, many have commented on Obama’s articulation of exceptionalism. Articles have appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Hill, National Journal—and even one by an obscure writer over at Then and Nowanalyzing Obama’s unique strain of exceptionalism that is inclusive, impatient with hypocrisy, calls America back to its original vision, and animated by an objective articulation of justice.

Many on the right become frustrated with Obama’s views on exceptionalism because he does not leave room for American innocence—which I argue in my forthcoming book is a facet of an exclusionary and imperialistic brand of exceptionalism which hijacks Christian theological affirmations (closed exceptionalism), and has been articulated throughout American history. Perhaps one reason why Obama comes under such criticism from conservatives is because we became accustomed to Ronald Reagan’s version of exceptionalism. Reagan sincerely believed that America was morally regenerate. To point to one example among many, he said in his 1984 presidential nomination speech at the RNC in Dallas, “America is the most peaceful, least warlike nation in modern history. We are not the cause of all the ills in the world. We’re a patient and generous people.”

But Obama’s reflective version of American exceptionalism is not an innovation. The Puritans of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gave us a patriotic tradition of what George McKenna called “anxious introspection.” This anxious introspection appeared in their jeremiads, their particular genre of sermon that called their communities to repent from their sins and return to what they believed was their covenantal relationship to God. In his excellent book, The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism, McKenna argues that the Puritan tradition of anxious introspection has been handed down to every generation of Americans since the colonial period, and has been a distinguishable mark of American patriotism for centuries.

Today, Mr. Obama took to the podium to talk about the progress of the fight against ISIS. He made a salient statement in his remarks—“Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas and more attractive and more compelling vision.” Doubtless, many conservatives are sure to pounce on those words as being weak. But in making that statement, Obama again firmly situated himself in an American exceptionalist tradition. The idea that America’s real strength is moral, spiritual, and philosophical rather than military is one that was articulated by two luminaries of American exceptionalism: John Foster Dulles and Ronald Reagan.

Dulles served as President Eisenhower’s secretary of state from 1953 to his death in 1959. No one has more consistently and strenuously articulated an image of America’s divine commission in the world than Dulles. He cast America’s confrontation with Soviet Communism in the early Cold War in cosmic terms of an eternal battle between good and evil. But he was confident in America’s final victory over Communism, because America was on the side of right. Furthermore, America would finally prevail over the Soviets, not because of superior arms, but by using the weapons of ideas. He said in his 1952 speech titled “A Policy of Instant Retaliation,” “Non-material forces are more powerful than those that are merely material. . . . We should use ideas as weapons; and these ideas should conform us to moral principles.”

Reagan saw the Cold War in similar terms. In his famous speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in March 1983—the same speech in which he said that the Soviet Union was “the focus of evil in the modern world”—he stressed that the way to fight the ideology of Communism was with the ideology of freedom and democracy. He said, “While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I’ve always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might. The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.”

Obama’s insistence that he believes in American exceptionalism is undeniable. His brand of exceptionalism is more nuanced than Giuliani’s, and even Reagan’s, to be sure. But even when Obama is not making any overt references to exceptionalism in his rhetoric, he shows himself to be squarely within the historical tradition of open American exceptionalism. This open exceptionalism is a Lincolnian articulation that appeals to the “better angels of our nature” in order that we may more consistently uphold the vision of the Founders and renew our faith in the justice of that vision as we face any and every trial.