Friday, March 6, 2015

Laura Miller: "The stubborn myth of the Christian country: Why the U.S. has always been 'one nation, under gods'"

The Salon writer reviews a new book. A taste:
As Peter Manseau, author of “One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History,” would have it, nothing has done more damage to the ideal of American religious pluralism than the “stubborn persistence of words spoken more than a century before the United States was a nation at all.” Those words are “a city upon a hill,” preached by the Puritan John Winthrop to his fellow colonists as they prepared to leave their ship at Massachusetts Bay in 1630. Most strenuously invoked by Ronald Reagan, the city on the hill, according to Manseau, has for the past 50 years “dominated presidential rhetoric about the nation’s self-understanding, causing an image borrowed from the Gospels to become a tenet of faith in America’s civil religion.”


Tom Van Dyke said...

Whos is Laura Miller?

The evidence presented for the “One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History" thesis:

--Thomas Jefferson's deism
--Islam among some slaves, of which no trace remains
--some Jewish merchants
--Ralph Waldo Emerson's aunt introduced him to Hinduism in 1822
--Joseph Smith invents mormonism
--Roger Williams founds dinky Rhode Island
--heretic Anne Hutchinson expelled by Puritans, goes off on her own and is murdered by native Americans

[And, as a matter of fact, all except Jefferson believed in the monotheistic Abrahamic God.]

jimmiraybob said...

”--Islam among some slaves, of which no trace remains”

Well, maybe a trace. The following is from an article by Peter Manseau(1) at the Dallas Morning News(2):

The best known Muslim to pass through the port at New Orleans was Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim ibn Sori(3), a prince in his homeland whose plight drew wide attention. As one newspaper account noted, he had read the Bible and admired its precepts, but added, “His principal objections are that Christians do not follow them.”

Among the enslaved Muslims in North Carolina was a religious teacher named Omar ibn Said. Recaptured in 1810 after running away from a cruel master he called a kafir (an infidel), he became known for inscribing the walls of his jail cell with Arabic script. He wrote an account of his life in 1831, describing how in freedom he had loved to read the Quran, but in slavery his owners had converted him to Christianity.

The story of Islam in early America is not merely one of isolated individuals. An estimated 20 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslims, and many sought to re-create the communities they had known. In Georgia, which has joined more than a dozen states in the political theater of debating a restriction on judges’ consulting Shariah, Muslims on a secluded plantation are known to have lived under the guidance of a religious leader who wrote a manuscript on Islamic law so that traditional knowledge might survive.

A clue to what happened to these forgotten American Muslims can be found in the words of a missionary traveling through the South to preach the Gospel on slave plantations. Many “Mohammedan Africans,” he noted, had found ways to “accommodate” Islam to the new beliefs imposed upon them. “God, say they, is Allah, and Jesus Christ is Mohammed. The religion is the same, but different countries have different names.”

1) Peter Manseau is author of “One Nation Under Gods: A New American History,” @


3) “Abdu-l-Rahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori (a.k.a. Abdul-Rahman) was a prince from West Africa who was made a slave in the United States. After spending 40 years in slavery, he was freed in 1828 by order of President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay after the Sultan of Morocco requested his release. He was captured near the Futa Djallon.” From:

Tom Van Dyke said...

A clue to what happened to these forgotten American Muslims

Forgotten, then. Ibid.