Now, if America’s history students could explore motivational
religious themes like Moses’ leadership and the Exodus, they might discover more personally the situational gravity, and vision, of William Bradford, George Washington, Harriett Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Cecil B. DeMille, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and so many more.
Christian conservatives can find a recapitulation of beliefs in Jewish author Bruce Feiler’s 2009 book, “America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story.”
Feiler visits popular museums and interviews prominent historians. He probes obscure corners and inspects hoarded troves of historic objects. He analyzes common threads and concludes that Judeo-Christian principles are the bedrock of American society.
Recognizing the Bible’s influence -- from the Pilgrims’ crash-landing on Clark’s Island in 1620, to the clashes in our homes and communities today -- is essential, Feiler establishes, to understanding American history and preserving the American dream.
“Discovering how much the biblical narrative of the Israelites colored the vision and informed the values of twenty generations of Americans and their leaders,” Feiler writes, “was like discovering a new front door to a house I’d lived in all my life.
“You can’t understand American history…without understanding Moses. He is a looking glass into our (collective American) soul.”
Now, if America’s history students could explore motivational religious themes like Moses’ leadership and the Exodus, they might discover more personally the situational gravity, and vision, of William Bradford, George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Cecil B. DeMille, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and so many more.
The Founding Fathers (and our most revered leaders) were Christians (or God-fearers) who knew their Hebrew Bible (Genesis through Deuteronomy); and Moses, the reluctant-yet-headstrong redeemer in Exodus, motivated them to rise up and defeat the world’s (and society’s) most daunting or oppressive powers.
Throughout the American timeline, Feiler illustrates, the Exodus storyline repeats: 1) Righteous rebellion, 2) hard-won liberty, 3) just law, grounded in Hebraic principles – and all along the way, supplication and gratefulness to God for his intervention and generosity.
While Jesus is a personal savior to Christians, Feiler acknowledges, Moses is America’s prime founding father. Moses is the one to whom those we call founders turned, for inspiration and leadership -- from renouncing allegiance to the king, to establishing three chambers of government; from declaring the rights to choose life and liberty and to pursue happiness, to ensuring that those rights be protected by law.
Having signed the Mayflower Compact Nov. 11, but still seeking a suitable harbor, the Pilgrims organized an exploration party of 17 who set out Monday, Dec. 6 to explore Cape Cod Bay. As night fell on Friday, in a blustery storm, the pilot guided their battered shallop to rest on a tiny island inside Plymouth Harbor.
The next day, Saturday, the men needed to rest and repair their boat; and as William Bradford writes in his journal, “this being the last day of the week, they prepared there to keep the Sabbath.”
Their fellow Pilgrims -- on the ship, anchored 20 miles away -- likely knew not if they survived. Yet these devout Christians, finally finding suitable shelter after three months at sea, primarily honored God, praised him for his providence, thanked him for his “manifold deliverances,” and sought his blessings upon their pursuits in this New Promised Land.
From their humble act sprang Thanksgiving, what Feiler calls, “the symbol of American blessing, the one holiday that (marks) the union of God, the people, and the land.” He relates it to Passover, the Jews’ seminal commemoration of deliverance.
“I hadn’t known that Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams proposed Moses for America’s seal,” Feiler ponders at the conclusion of his history-detective tome. “The United States at its founding was essentially one hundred percent Christian.”
Well, Christians share the faith of Abraham and his descendants; and the Judeo-Christian tradition is the sublime combination of liberty and law that makes America exceptional.