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January 15, 2005

Gelernter on Americanism

My first-ever post at this blog was called Jew in America. I started my post by discussing what it was that made this country the most hospitable for the Jews in the entire 2000-year history of the Jewish Diaspora.

David Gelernter goes way farther with a fascinating article in the January 2005 Commentary magazine entitled "Americanism -- and its Enemies." I met Gelernter many years ago when we were both undergraduates, although I'm absolutely sure he would not remember having met me. Anyway, his article makes the case that "Americanism" (the beliefs that constitute America's essence and make Americans certain that their nation is morally superior to others and closer to God) is the "end-stage" of political Puritanism. And political Puritanism was based on the idea that Puritans were God's new chosen people who lived in God's new promised land. In other words, they were heavily influenced by the Hebrew Bible.

He writes:

I believe that Puritanism did not drop out of history. It transformed itself into Americanism. This new religion was the end-stage of Puritanism: Puritanism realized among God’s self-proclaimed "new" chosen people—or, in Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable phrase, God’s "almost chosen people."
Please read the whole thing.

And here's a tantalizing part of it, which he mentions in passing in a footnote:
One day, it seems to me, there will be a Thanksgiving Haggadah for Americans to recite at the national holiday Lincoln proclaimed. I have in mind an actual document telling the story of Puritan sufferings in England; of America’s birth; of the bloody Civil War struggle to realize the creed’s promises; of repeated re-enactments of the Exodus that make up America’s history—interspersed with passages from the English Bible. This is a project I’m at work on myself.
Who else would be as well equipped to undertake that project?