This 3-volume series was undertaken out of a concern that America is trying to make critical decisions at home and abroad — without the perspective (and thus the wisdom) needed to make the right decisions (rather than a series of wrong decisions).
This 3-volume historical narrative is thus all about social dynamics, about the good, bad and the ugly of going at the challenges facing the American community today — challenges that have an amazing similarity to the ones that the nation has faced in the past.
America needs to learn the lessons of such time-tested experience — and bring that wisdom into play in dealing with the here and the now.
Today's America is faced with the challenges of:
China, in its push to become the sole superpower of the 21st century — anticipating that America, which is losing serious moral power that always underlies national strength, will soon join the ranks with Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Russia as former superpowers;
the desire of the Middle East not only to eliminate the last of the West’s Christian/Secular influence on its Islamic culture, but to impose that Islamic culture on the West instead;
the spread of nuclear arms to a point where any idiot dictator could wreak such devastation on the world that civilization itself would collapse;
and finally at home, a national debt that (as such indebtedness always has done in history) will bring America to bankruptcy at some point if its expansion is not stopped. It is already well beyond the ability of Americans – not to mention future Americans – to pay it off, Alexander Hamilton style;
but also the serious lack of moral leadership that pulls communities together, rather than spins them apart into constantly warring factions — similar to developments leading step by step to the gruesome American Civil War of 1861-1865 (and Lincoln's tough decision to bring this festering matter finally to resolution – as violent as the solution would be – so that the precious American Union might after all be saved).
Perspective, perspective, perspective! This 3-volume political-moral "narrative" about America and its triumphs and tragedies as it moved forward in history is all about bringing to the American reader a much-needed historical perspective — a perspective derived from the narrative's focus on three key areas of social dynamics:
1. The worldview or religion that underlies all community understanding of social truth — that is, the community’s understanding of what its goals should be and how it can achieve them. Christianity used to supply that understanding. But of late the Washington super-state has been doing everything possible to replace Christianity with its more “progressive” religion of Secular Humanism — not the first time this has been attempted in America, however.
America’s own history makes very, very clear which of those two options has worked wonders for America — and which one has been ruinous … and the reasons why that is so.
2. The leadership that is needed to give the people visible characterization of those community goals and ways of achieving those goals. Leadership makes these matters very clear, so that the people can get themselves aligned with society's particular needs and its actions to answer those needs. In short, leadership is absolutely necessary if a community is to be able to cooperate effectively – even just remain intact as a community. Otherwise it will easily get lost in a state of self-destructive confusion. But leadership can be quite bad, as well as quite good. History makes that very clear.
And history also makes quite clear the basic rules as to what leads a community to excellent leadership – and what to avoid so as not to bring bad leadership to power.
3. Which brings us to the third focus: power ... the power that society itself needs to take on successfully the social challenges both at home and abroad. Power is made up of many things. When we hear the word “power” we immediately tend to think in terms of guns, tanks, planes, ships — and the size of a society’s military force. True enough. And we also tend to recognize the key component of a society’s industrial strength (China certainly does) — or at least we used to. But ultimately the measure of a society’s strength is found in the willingness of its people to take on sacrificial service to that community — as America has been called on to do so from time to time.
Tragically Johnson in the mid-1960s tried to engage the nation in a power struggle in Vietnam, at the same time trying not to disturb the American people emotionally in his Vietnam program (although he did call on them to offer up hundreds of thousands of their sons to undertake his program in that country). He made it his war, not their war. This turned out to be disastrous. Likewise he wanted to completely revise the dismal racial relations in America, but unlike the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, failed to get everyone (including the Blacks themselves) on board as to the methods by which he proposed to do this. In the end, the project blew up in his face as cities burned and the White and Black races simply blamed each other for the horrible social-moral breakdown. Thus the wrong kind of power (autocratic rather than popular) was put in place with Kennedy's assassination (and Johnson's subsequent election in 1964) — with fairly predictable results. Of course mobilizing social power in the right way is not easy — especially when the technique is not even understood. Again — a lack of social perspective can be ruinous.
Thus perspective, perspective, perspective. And this 3-volume series, written from a combination of a Christian worldview and Realpolitik instincts (a tough political Realism), is designed to help put that perspective back in place among an American people who have been hypnotized into believing that “whatever” is enough of a social-moral code for them to be following. China and the Muslims love that!
This volume begins with the period in the early 1600s when two very different English societies were first established in the New World, one in Virginia and one in New England. The Virginia society simply re-created the rigidly class-based feudal society of the times — which eventually embraced the full use of slavery to support Virginia's basic economy. The New England society, however, was a most unusual democracy of social equals, covenanted to live and work closely together under God’s — not man’s — supreme rule.
But like Israel of old, New England underwent a serious loss of that spirit within a few generations after the founding Puritan families had passed from the scene. Towards the end of the 1600s, New England's spiritual interests seemed to head off in opposite directions as it left the Puritan's vibrant Christian faith behind: either a religious-like belief in Human Reason (it was after all, the "Age of the Enlightenment" in Europe) or in deep fear of the powers of an evil spiritual realm (including the world of witches). Neither of these served the American covenant very well, and by the early 1700s churches were emptying out.
But the narrative then moves on to look as the way that God intervened at that point (mid-1700s) ... to bring on a "Great Awakening," one which restored American spirits — and keen sense of Divine empowerment. This was a Godly intervention vitally needed in the face of the mounting challenge to America's independence posed by a new English king, George III, determined to break that independent spirit — and force these American colonials under his direct rule, just like his subject people back in England itself. Most Americans would have none of this ... and rose up in rebellion against their king — a very dangerous enterprise to undertake. Should they have failed in this endeavor (as nearly all such rebellions seemed fated to do) they would have all been executed ... and least the leaders of the rebellion. But with Washington's incredibly strong moral-spiritual leadership, the America spirit did not falter in this very bloody contest with Britain.
Then with an American success in this revolt against royal tyranny, a new American Republic needed to be put in place to protect that independence. Thankfully, Americans were rather well-experienced at state-building — with God's assistance, however ... just as Franklin reminded his fellow Framers when their legal reasoning was merely going in circles during the early part of their gathering in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft just such a Republican constitution.
But here too, within a couple of generations after this huge struggle, the human instinct to want to bring life under human control through "scientific reason" overcame the American spirit once again. But no amount of "reason" seemed able to close the widening gap between the American North and American South over the increasingly agonizing matter of slavery. Instead the exercise of "reason" merely deepened the sense of each side's own justification for its particular stand on the issue.
Then once again, God honored the old American covenant — by coming to America's help with yet another Great Awakening, one which ran pretty much through the first half of the 1800s. Americans would need tough faith, not clever reasoning, to tackle the social-political challenge that was growing rapidly over this issue.
At the same time it would need that same energy to take on other challenges as the country found itself growing rapidly — pushing ever West against Indian and Mexican efforts to block that expansion. Local battles with the Indians and then finally full war with the Mexicans resulted ... to the great benefit of the Americans.
Then with Lincoln's well understood resolve to finally bring the matter to a close — by force if need be — civil war finally broke out as Lincoln entered the White House in 1861. But Lincoln's incredible spiritual strength was able to keep the Union effort focused — find the right military leadership who understood the strategy of war in the same way Lincoln did ... and finally break the rebellion in 1865, keep the Union intact (ultimately by force) — and end slavery in America forever. And in Lincoln, like Washington, American had been blessed to have had a mighty "man of God" in command of the process. And as both Washington and Lincoln themselves explained, God himself was clearly the empowering agent in all this dynamic.
This volume concludes with the story of how America then moved on to new challenges in the years following the war — principally dealing with a defeated South — and "the Indian problem," arising from Anglo-America's final push westward across the continent.
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Volume 2 continues the American narrative, first focusing on the dramatic rise of American industrial-financial capacity during the last quarter of the 19th century, led by such individuals as Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Morgan. It then describes the efforts of such Progressivists as Addams, Bryan, Roosevelt (Teddy), and Taft to address the social damages caused by this rapid change in America's economic or material foundations.
It then takes a close look at the rise (since the early 1600s) of post-Christian social philosophy across the Atlantic in Europe, including details of the thinking of such European philosophers as Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, LaPlace, Goethe, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, Lenin and many other Europeans who contributed to the growing Secularization of Western culture ... something that would also come to impact America greatly in the course of the 20th century (and still even today). That section includes also an examination of the American response to this rising Secular spirit, for example in the form of Dewey's Liberalism ... but also in the form of the different ways Christianity found itself answering the same challenge.
The narrative then moves to the matter of the West's imperialistic spread to the rest of the world ... as the fires of "nationalism" began to burn deeply in the hearts of both Europeans and Americans. It then analyzes the tragedy of the "Great War" (World War One, 1914-1918), when those burning hearts ran out of playing fields abroad and thus most foolishly turned their energies on each other at home in Europe. It also narrates Wilson's unbounded (and also very foolish) Idealism which needlessly drew America into this same tragedy.
The narrative then moves to the "Roaring Twenties" ... which tried to put a happy face on a very heart-broke — even deeply cynical — America, a society that seemed to be able find joy mostly in the massive acquiring of life's new materialistic offerings (radios, cars, washing machines, etc. — and illegal booze!).
Then the narrative describes how that joy came crashing down (the Great Depression) when everyone had all these toys — and thus the industrial impetus slowed up (a "saturation" of the market in consumer goods now that most everyone had these goodies) ... and then American industry simply ground to a halt.
The narrative then looks at Franklin Roosevelt's efforts in the 1930s in copying the apparent success of European state-run socialism (especially the Nazi German and Soviet Russian varieties) in countering the fallen god, free-market "capitalism" (foolishly blamed or the Depression itself). Masses of industrial infrastructure projects were put in place under the Washington government's direction ... until here too, Roosevelt's programs had produced all the social goodies it was able to offer the nation (national parks, highways, dams, municipal building projects, etc.) and thus Roosevelt's "New Deal" too slowed up and ground to a halt. The narrative also looks at how Secular Humanism at the same time offered itself to America as a religious alternative — but a "scientific" rather than "superstitious" religious alternative (the Humanist Manifesto of 1933) ... and how Christianity itself struggled with the question as to its proper place in those very dark times. God seemed distant during those dark days ... and to many, human reason seemed therefore the best hope to come out of this crisis. But ultimately that too took the country nowhere.
Then the narrative explores in detail not only the course of the second round in the world of national war (World War Two, 1939-1945) but how deeply sacrificial involvement by a Depression-toughened generation in that war pulled America out of the industrial Depression (there would be no "market saturation" for war goods — because the war itself was an unlimited consumer for those goods!). It also restored national pride, and even put capitalism, God, and popular democracy back front and center in America's sense of purpose — and its sense of what it had to offer the world by way of key social values. Indeed, those values would prove to be extremely critical at a time when America was the only power still standing in the West able to hold off an expansive post-war Communist Russia — when finally Germany and Japan were defeated. America's allies in the West were too exhausted to be of much help in fending off Stalin's huge ambitions. Indeed, America needed to come to their aid instead (the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, NATO).
This volume closes with a look at the seeming success of Christian-Democratic-Capitalist or "Middle-Class" America of the 1950s — and the generation of war veterans (the "Vets") which formed the foundations of this post-war (but ultimately Cold War) national character. But it also explores the issues lying barely below the surface (Blacks, intellectuals and Boomer offspring) that were waiting for the opportunity to challenge all this "success" of Middle-Class America.
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This volume looks at how, as America entered the 1960s, its achievement of superpower status invited both deep “Progressive” political changes at home (Johnson’s Great Society) and aggressive “Democratic” involvement abroad (Vietnam) — in both instances resulting in social catastrophe.
It narrates the battle to hold in place America’s traditional Christian political-moral foundations—based on the American family and local community ... against the urge of Congressional Progressivists, an increasingly Liberal media, young and idealistic academics, a Boomer generation just arriving at adulthood, and all-powerful "progressive" federal judges, all anxious to rewrite those same political-moral standards along more Secular (atheistic) lines.
It covers Nixon's huge diplomatic successes abroad (improved relations with the Chinese and Soviet Russians and the withdrawal of ground troops from the Vietnam disaster), yet his grand humiliation at home with the Watergate crisis; the tragic collapse of all social order in Indochina with the retreat of America from the region; Carter's discovery that diplomatic “niceness” is not a good substitute for real power; the collapse of American national morale as the 1970s turned into the 1980s; the restoration of American national pride during the Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton years (thanks to strong but carefully measured responses to the various challenges facing the country); the disaster that hit America when Bush Jr, got distracted after 9/11 and decided to "democratize" Afghanistan and Iraq rather than just simply hunt down the 9/11 al-Qaeda criminals; the deep "Change" that Obama attempted to bring to a centuries-old traditional America, one that he seemingly did not much care for; and finally the arrival (despite Democratic Party all-out efforts to bring him down) of a frequently-vulgar Trump who seems dedicated to undoing Obama's changes at home — and getting America toughened up abroad.
As with all three volumes of this study, it includes an in-depth look at the moral-spiritual character (rather universally "Christian") of America's national leadership since 1960 (particularly America's presidents) — and the extent to which such moral-spiritual character had its own impact on the country, even during this distinctly “post-Christian” period.
The narrative concludes with a review of the various political-moral lessons we should draw from America’s own national narrative — particularly the necessity of getting back into an all-important Covenant relationship with God.
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Miles Huntley Hodges is a combination Georgetown “political realist” (M.A., Ph.D.) and a Princeton Seminary Evangelical (M.Div.) long-interested in America’s role in the world, once serving as a secular professor of international studies (while also a corporate political risk consultant and risk analysis teacher) ... and then by the grace of God a born-again Presbyterian pastor, an individual involved heavily in street and prison ministry as well as several typical congregational ministries. He "retired" into teaching American and international high school students the subject of social dynamics (the rise and fall of societies) using American and other cultures' histories as a "laboratory"—to bring the broad focus of God and society to the understanding of young minds.