Reviews of *AEaCR*


“John Wilsey takes the concept of American exceptionalism―a cultural lightning rod if ever there was one―and helps us to think deeply about it. Both historian and theologian, Wilsey’s larger goal is to help American Christians think historically and Christianly about our national identity. Rather than pushing us either to embrace or reject the view of America as exceptional, he argues persuasively that there are expressions of exceptionalism that the Christian can affirm, as well as aspects that the faithful believer must renounce. His book helps us to discern between the two. Any thinking Christian who aspires to patriotism without idolatry would benefit from reading this fine work.” (Robert Tracy McKenzie, professor and chair, department of history, Wheaton College)

“Distinguished by rich historical details and astute theoretical insights, John Wilsey liberates academic discussions of American exceptionalism and civil religion from their ivory-tower confines and presents them anew to a broad audience. Positioning himself as both an unapologetic American citizen and Christian, Wilsey skillfully describes, defines and critiques these interlocking categories. This book will be of great interest not only to scholars, but also to all people of good will who cherish American diversity alongside the worthy pursuit of establishing a broad and inclusive consensus.” (Arthur Remillard, associate professor of religious studies, St. Francis University, author of Southern Civil Religions)

“This unsparing recitation of manifest destiny, Indian removal, slavery, Cold War dualism and pervasive jingoism should give all American Christians pause. John Wilsey, in offering an alternative model for Christian engagement with the state, moves the conversation toward a higher ideal of global and kingdom citizenship.” (David Swartz, assistant professor of history, Asbury Theological Seminary, author of Moral Minority)

“In an age that appears as confused as ever about the connections between the kingdom of Christ and American identity, American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion is vital reading. John Wilsey has charted the complex course of a historical idea, American exceptionalism, in a way that is fair and nuanced, yet honest and timely. Combining far-reaching interaction with the most current scholarship and careful theological reflection, Wilsey tells this story in a way that will be accessible to a broad audience. I am delighted to recommend it widely and enthusiastically!” (Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic services, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

“Nations are what we make them. Inherently, they are neither godly, nor wicked. Most are both. John D. Wilsey demonstrates this and much more. Deeply thought and engagingly written, this book delves into religious claims about American exceptionalism with passion and compassion. Through the twists and turns, Wilsey offers entirely new ways to be faithfully Christian while participating in the life of the nation.” (Edward J. Blum, professor of history, San Diego State University)

“Wilsey provides the most up-to-date history of the concept of American exceptionalism available and shows an astute understanding of its relationship to civil religion. He argues for the adaptation of a pluralistic exceptionalism based on the nation’s continuing struggle for and commitment to equality, freedom and justice, rejecting the frequently invoked model that frames America as an innocent nation chosen and commissioned by God.” (Anne M. Blankenship, assistant professor, department of history, philosophy and religious studies, North Dakota State University)

“John Wilsey has delivered a provocative and much-needed account of the promise and perils of American exceptionalism. Few other writers possess the combination of historical and theological insight required to produce a book of this kind.” (Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history, Baylor University, author of George Whitefield)

“This is a must-read if you are a Christian who is trying to make sense of the relationship between your faith and American identity. But Wilsey’s book will also be useful for anyone―Christian or not―who is interested in the history of the idea of American exceptionalism.” (John Fea, The Way of Improvement Leads Home, January 12, 2016)

From Mark Edwards, Journal of Church and State

From Jonathan Ebel, Reading Religion

From Jake Raabe, Baptist Standard

From Douglas E. Baker, Claremont Institute

From Douglas E. Baker, The Federalist

From Harold K. Bush, Christianity Today

From Richard Gamble, The American Conservative

From Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition

From Nathan A. Finn, The Gospel Coalition

From Mark Edwards, Religion in American History

From Library Journal

From John W. Hawthorne

From Chad Hall, Transformed blog, Western Seminary

From J. W. Wartick

From Nathaniel Claiborne