A City Upon A Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History by Larry WithamA City Upon A Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History by Larry Witham

A City Upon A Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American History

byLarry Witham

Paperback | July 1, 2008

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The Words That Stirred a Nation

From colonial times to the present, from Abraham Lincoln to Billy Graham, the sermon has been the dynamic medium through which America conducts its most important debates, motivating us to fight wars as well as fight for peace and ultimately defining the course of our history. A City Upon a Hill tells the American story through these powerful words, showing us at our best—and sometimes at our worst.

Larry Witham is the author ofThe Measure of God,Where Darwin Meets the Bible, andBy Design: Science and the Search for God. As a journalist, he has won the Religion Communicators Council's Wilbur Award three times and has received several prizes from the Religion Newswriters Association as well as a Templeton Foundation award for his a...
Title:A City Upon A Hill: How Sermons Changed the Course of American HistoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.84 inPublished:July 1, 2008Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0061338125

ISBN - 13:9780061338120

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Protestant Nation In this survey of religious oratory Larry Witham explores the social and cultural influences of famous sermons in American history. "City upon a Hill", that phrase now ubiquitous with American exceptionalism, initially phrased by Puritan preacher John Winthrop speaking through divine providence in the shared spiritual speculation of the New World. Resurrected 400 years later by Ronald Reagan in his 1976 bid for the GOP and who later evoked his famous "one nation under God" speech. Through "City Upon a Hill", we see that preachers and their sermons have consciously and sub-consciously reached deep into the social and moral fabric of American society. Witham's survey is complete, and comprehensive. Readers unfamiliar with colonial and antebellum period history will find the first two sections a little dense on names and events. But it is in fact the preachers and their sermons of the first and second great awakenings that form the bedrock of American Protestantism. Witham's characterizations of George Whitefield, Charles Grandison Finney, and Henry Ward Beecher, the three most influential preachers of their time are both accurate and complete. The last section is wholly dedicated to early 20th century fundamentalist movements, TV evangelicalism, and activist preaching including a whole chapter on Black Liberation Theology as preached by Martin Luther King Jr. In my opinion, Witham could have elaborated a bit more in the contemporary period as I suspect that is what most people who will buy this book will be looking for. Some of the more interesting but less obvious influences of Protestant oratory that Witham highlights in the book include: 1848, meeting between women at Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, New York that produced the Declaration of Sentiment, the first document for women's rights in America. 1864, Lincoln's Second Inaugural speech drew on Puritan oratory reaching deep into long-held American presumptions about the "nature of God" and "his providence". 1893, In the same year as the Columbia exposition in the "White City", Rauschenbusch's sermons galvanizing the Social Gospel movement against gilded age corruption and gross social inequalities. 1917, Billy Sunday, the bombastic evangelist famous for his "booze sermon" and "Get on the Water Wagon" which is now standard for going dry, helping pave the way for the 18th amendment to prohibit the sale and consumption of liquor. 1950's, Henry Luce incorporating preacher Reinhold Niebuhr's "Christian Realism" into his media declaration of the "American Century". Witham's book is important because it shows that religious thought is highly coupled with intellectualism in America. The two are inseparable in my opinion despite what the pundits and the so-called highbrow freethinkers claim. This is a very well-written, well-researched book that will undoubtedly change people's opinion of Protestantism in America. Witham is an excellent writer and his gift of prose is evident. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about religion in America.
Date published: 2008-08-28

Editorial Reviews

One of the “Top Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read”