Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, August 10, 2018

HOPING FOR BETTER ANGELS—a book review [F, 8-10-18]

Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter: 

THE SOUL OF AMERICA: The Battle for Our Better Angels, Jon Meacham [Random House, 2018]

Meacham writes history like a novelist. Good, popular, readable history. His writing is simple and clear, but engaging. He knows how to tell a story.

His message in this book is simple: Donald Trump is a disaster, and his supporters may be an even bigger disaster, but America has survived disastrous presidents and frightened voters before.

America did not survive, though, by trusting that everything would turn out okay. We survived because enough people got concerned and involved and changed the president, and the culture.

He examines presidential leadership styles—Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, LBJ, et al--and demagoguery leadership styles—Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, et al.

Meacham is an historian and journalist by profession, but a theologian by instinct and interest. He understands original sin. He knows that there is no permanent progress toward victory by our better angels. It’s a new battle—actually the same old battle—in each new generation.

It’s a good and hopeful book. I recommend it. But it will do no good if I only appreciate the book and do nothing to follow up on its insights.


“I think disguise is the essence of evil… calling the evil good, believing the disguise—that’s when real trouble begins… there is surely no better disguise than the cloak of religious piety.” Wm. Sloane Coffin

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