Please excuse me for making this explanation of the series' philosophy a personal testimony. But as the reader will soon discover, everything I write about (even history) is very, very personal to me! In fact, this is a key theme that runs through all three volumes: that "Truth" is always a matter of personal perspective, well-constructed for each and every one of us by the way our hearts and minds react to the world around us ... and come to make sense of the whole thing — a phenomenon termed by the world as "religion," or what I more readily term "worldview."
Religion and worldview are the same thing. And they are the key to any understanding we have of life. Religions or worldviews are very precious perspectives we bring to life — supposedly protected in America by the Constitution so that some public authority (such as a handful of Supreme Court justices) does not dictate to us what those worldviews must be and where (and where not) we are allowed not only to be guided by them, but also to be allowed to pass them on to a beloved rising generation. Unfortunately, we have not been protecting that al-important freedom very well from those in authority who want to "change" or "progress" our traditional American worldview to a more "scientific" one (meaning, their own particular worldview): Secular-Humanism.
"Truth" found through simply engaging directly life itself. In any case, I have come to learn that whether religions — such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Daoism or more recently, Secular-Humanism, or any such worldview — are found to be actually true or not is never a matter of "objective" insight. No such objectivity actually exists in the real world (ask Einstein, Planck, Schrödinger, Bohr and the boys who well-appreciated the Truth in life as being perceived "relationally," summed up in Einstein's Theory of Relativity (Relativitätstheorie) — or better termed in English, "Theory of Relativeness."
People who claim to be purely objective or "scientific" in their approach to life are confusing even themselves — even dangerously so — in their religious belief that life is totally mechanical in operation and thus controllable simply through the use of logical or mechanical principles discovered simply by intellectuals working from behind a desk using human reason or logic to come up with life's truths.
In fact life does not — and never has nor ever will — work that way. It is unpredictable and often very messy. But it does teach us as we go as to how better respond to life's constant challenges. This is how we gain true wisdom. Truth is ultimately found not in fancy ideas or beautiful theories dreamed up by social idealists but in discovering it in the actual experience of living out life itself.
Christian Truth. Certainly wisdom does inform us as to basic ideas and principles we should consider carefully as we go at life. A great society collects that wisdom, found through its own experience. I call that the "social narrative." The ancient Jews carefully collected such a narrative — hopefully to give broad guidance to that society in the face of its many challenges (such as being a people held captive in Babylon.) But besides the narrative, another source was regularly consulted (first through the prophets then through their rabbis or teachers) who looked directly to God to give them counsel in a particular situation. Thus the ancient narrative (Christianity's Old Testament) and ongoing direct divine counsel (such as that sought by Christians through prayer) have proven themselves over and over again to work.
To make this point absolutely clear, God sent his son Jesus among us to show us through Jesus's own direct involvement in the world around him how to go about life. He did not go at life the way the Pharisees did, keeping themselves "pure" by standing off from the messiness of their world (but judging it critically at the same time with their rigid principles of right and wrong). Jesus simply headed directly into that messy world, helping people to find the power that had been lost in the face of their society's legalistic judgements — the power to live a life of glory in company with their Father in heaven.
That was what the Puritans came to America to demonstrate to the world: how well that such a Christian life could and should work for all humanity — not just anciently but also in the present. And that's what we need to be doing today, especially for America's younger generations who have become lost in a world of "whateverness." They need to find the path (as America's Founders did) to actual wisdom.
And that's what this three-volume series on the American "experience" is all about: Truth or Reality as it has actually been lived out ... not as it simply has been cultivated and packaged at the desk of some kind of great theorizing mind who believes that he has discovered the Truth of life — now found in some kind of a perfect intellectual plan he has conceived for the world.
... compared to other truth-claims. I have studied closely such "social scientists" as the French philosophes (political philosophers) of the Girondin and Jacobin parties, who designed a perfect "Revolution" for France at the end of the 1700s; or Marx, Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot, who conceived for mankind beautifully-designed versions of "Communism"; but also the 20th century American Presidents Wilson, Johnson, Carter (briefly), Bush, Jr., and Obama — with their beautifully-designed versions of "Democracy," which they attempted to implement either at home or abroad (or both) through great moral crusades. I have even had the opportunity to be involved in some of these dynamics myself personally (though certainly not as one of the designers of these events!).
In any case, I know quite well why all such well-programmed efforts failed disastrously, with thousands — even millions — typically dying as a result of these "enlightened ones" trying to put their beautiful plans into action.
America — as a Light to the Nations. So yes, this is a study of American life based on what I have been able to observe about the way America has come through the past (and all of its challenges) to the present (and all of its challenges as well). But this study also has been put together by one who himself has encountered a number of dramatically different worldviews, experienced at various points in his life, in various parts of the world (each with their own approach to life).
In the end, however, I have come to appreciate most deeply the traditional American worldview (heavily Christian in character), one that promoted the birth and growth of a great nation that I am privileged to be a part of. And I dearly want that cultural-spiritual legacy not be squandered by a rising generation that has no knowledge of — thus no social-cultural connection with — that great legacy. So ... I teach. So ... I write.
Thus I am inviting the reader, as I have also invited my students, parishioners, and just personal friends (of all national and cultural varieties) to join with me in exploring the dear world that our ancestors have shaped and that now we live in — for better or worse (very hopefully, for the "better"!)
The founding of the "Two Americas" (early 1600s). Four centuries ago two very different English colonies were laid out in the “new world” of America, one we know as Virginia and one as New England. They were quite different in social character.
Virginia developed along very traditional feudal lines—with a handful of aristocratic “first families” (owners of major plantations) lording it over a large group of servant-workers. This was the normal social structure found throughout “Christian Europe,” and at the time did not raise any particular questions about its structure and behavior.
New England, however, was dramatically different in conception and development. It was an amazing experiment in something we might call “Christian democracy,” in which all members of society were led to work together as social equals ... for that is how they saw themselves in God’s eyes: equals, with equal responsibilities for the life of the community, even if they personally took up quite different callings in society (farmers, tradesmen, teachers, sailors, pastors, etc.). Indeed, they had specifically covenanted with God to be for him a "City on a Hill" serving as a "Light to the Nations" — showing the people of the world how they too could live under God as equals, working together in a spirit of Christ-like charity, a social spirit that would not only bless the nations but also glorify the God who ultimately brought all things to success.
The on-going division. With such different social personalities, those two social types would confront each other over the next four centuries of American development, not just geographically (North versus South) but also class-wise across the country (self-developed upper-class Americans versus American commoners). Typically, these divisions would eventually grow quite adversarial under the tendency of people to find ways to bring "reason" to their particular self-serving social interests. Such social division could even become quite bitter — so bitter in fact that at one point (1861-1865) it led the country to a devastating civil war.
Unity through God's "Awakenings." But ultimately American unity would come upon the country through the need to put aside these self-serving rationalizations — and get back to the task of being the society that God himself had called America to be. Not infrequently, looming crises would be preceded by an amazing outbreak of Christian spirituality—identified as "Great Awakenings."
A pattern of development very similar to the one that ancient Israel went through (carefully described in the Jewish or Old Testament) would characterize America — in which, in the face of mounting social confusion and hardship, the people would finally remember the covenant that the nation had with God and would call upon him for his help ... and find miraculous deliverance!
The First Great Awakening (1730s-1750s) thus fortified America in anticipation of its call to fight heroically to maintain its independence from an English king determined to bring the American colonies under his direct rule as an enlightened despot.
The Second Great Awakening (early 1800s) strengthened America for the task of finally ridding itself of the disgrace of slavery — and also so as not to fall into the condition of being nothing more than a collection of small semi-independent states, easily victims of the imperialist instincts of the European superpowers of the mid-1800s.
Then there was also the Great Depression (1930s), requiring Americans to step back from the existential or Humanistic silliness cultivated during the Roaring Twenties — and get themselves toughened up spiritually so as to be able to take on two enemy superpowers, Japan and Germany (first half of the 1940s). And that same deep Christian spirit enabled Cold War America to take up the broader and more abstract responsibilities of being largely the sole superpower in a position to save Western or "Christian" civilization from the tyranny of authoritarian Communism (the second half of the 1940s and the entire 1950s).
The constant challenge of "Human Reason." But eventual success in the Cold War contest merely once again deadened America's Christian spirituality — leading the nation down the road of "post-Christian" Secularism (beginning in the early to mid 1960s). Such Secularism or Humanism once again (as in the Roaring Twenties) supposed that it had all the scientific answers to life, answers that had no further need to call on God, but instead required such "superstitious foolishness" to be eliminated from America’s public life. In short, once again the covenant with God was put aside in favor of the rule of "human reason."
Anyone who has studied history closely knows that this is the sure and certain formula for massive social disaster. And by the late 1960s, we began to see such disaster, both at home (assasinations and the burning of America's cities) and abroad (especially Vietnam where nearly all of America's diplomatic-military effort was focused).
Today's huge challenges. In short, this series on America – The Covenant Nation is intended to be something of a wake-up call to America, to pull itself out of its social silliness and get itself ready to face 1) a reviving militancy coming from the world of Islam and 2) the geopolitical and economic ambitions of China, a rising superpower with the clear intention of pushing America aside — as a rising China becomes the world’s supreme superpower. China fully expects America to follow the once-great powers of the "Christian West" into the same general insignificance that now afflicts Europe — because supposedly America has had its day as a great power and clearly (complements of the "progressive" political removal of the very strong moral disciplines that once made America great) is caught up a moral turmoil that typically leads to a society's political and economic decline as well.
The call to restore the Covenant with God. Thus it is time for America to get some perspective on what is going on in and around it, and get the nation back into a close working order with the God who rules the universe. America needs to return to the covenant that has served the nation so well since the early 1600s.
But to do that, Americans are going to have to know a thing or two about that covenant, and make the nation once again deeply aware of how that worked for America in the past. That’s the real "science" that America needs at this point. And that is why the writing of this three-volume series was undertaken.