This book is a collection of five lectures or essays on the partnership of Christianity and democratic forces in the American republic. The first, "Christianity and Democracy in America," by Hugh Heclo is by far the most important and longest (144 pages.) Mary Bane contributed 23 pages on "Democracy and Catholic Christianity in America" in the weakest of the essays. That is followed by Michael Kazin, "Pluralism is Hard Work -- and the Work is Never Done" (18 pages), Alan Wolfe, "Whose Christianity? Whose Democracy?" (14 pages), and finally Heclo again with "Reconsidering Christianity and American Democracy" (34 pages.) Simply put, the first essay would be enough by itself to rate five stars.
Heclo initially dwells on De Tocqueville's seminal observations on the American citizenry and their republic, but his view is limited by his Deist background and the fact that he was, well, French. The United States did not have an official state religion as in all European countries (France was Roman Catholic), and Christianity, that is, Protestant Christianity, in America was highly supportive of democratic institutions even when those institutions did not support Christianity. Latitudinarianism was the norm, and even Roman Catholics in America before the coming of the Catholic Irish in the 1840s freely espoused latitudinarianism and their own independence from Rome.
Democracy was workable in the U.S. because of its "moral calculus": that is republican government requires virtuous citizens to be effective, virtue requires morality, and morality required religion and a responsibility to a high power than oneself. If anyone wants to look at the current U.S. political situation under attack by Progressives, there is the answer why Progressivism does not and will not work.
As defined in the U.S., freedom was not the absence of controls, but rather self-control from a combination of individual sovereignty and moral responsibility. On that basis, democracy was not workable in Europe with its legal system based not in the people, but being ordained by a King, Emperor or supreme religious authority and imposed on their subjects. The U.S. functioned under Common Law (some say Natural Law), direct from God to the people who then elect representatives to administer their law, while Europe functioned under Civil Law from God to King and imposed on the subjects.
Further, in the U.S., a shared religion or theology was not required -- only a shared morality. That was something new in history and has not proven to be exportable to other cultures. Almost unique in the annals of history, the U.S. has experienced no religious wars. The U.S.'s historical outlook is strange (& maybe incomprehensible) to foreigners because the establishment of the U.S. republic was seen by its citizens as beginning the "New Age" prophesized in the Bible. The U.S. was therefore an exceptional nation divinely inspired to bring democracy and freedom to the entire world.
Belief in the "Common Man" (and Common Law) made the American Protestant an autonomous individual with his liberty ensured by his own conscience. That contrasted sharply with the European idea, still prevalent today, of the individual adhering to precepts and orders passed down from some supreme authority, and even his religious beliefs being determined by dogma emanating from Church authorities. This problem is addressed weakly in the second essay, namely can a Roman Catholic be a full functioning member in a republic which relies on individual morality and responsibility? The experiment in the U.S. with Roman Catholicism has been mixed, with Catholics forming authoritarian political machines in large cities (Nancy Pelosi's family controlled one of these), and replacing individual self-control with control by Church doctrine.
The stress on individual morality and self-control is loosened as an individual drifts from Protestant Christianity into other religions or atheism. The citizen then becomes more easily self-centered, and subject to no judgments by himself or others. In our current time the idea of being non-judgmental has gained popularity, with the resulting loss of morality, virtue, and activity as a useful citizen. The increase of secularization, especially in American schools, has brought about a steep decline in citizenship as a result of its de-emphasizing religion and its moral and charitable structures.
I could go on and on with the various points and issues raised be these provocative and informative essays, but the reader gets the idea, I'm sure. Christianity needs to make no apology for its involvement in American democracy, and indeed, our representative republic couldn't have been formed or lived so long without it. What the future will bring under the stunning force of secular Progressivism, only the future can tell.
This work is highly recommended, especially to those Christians under attack today for "clinging to their God, their guns, etc." Personal self-control and responsibility is not yet completely dead, nor does anyone have to apologize for it.