American Revivalism: To Build a Shining City on a Hill

The gulf between the religious ideals of US conservatives and those of the European Enlightenment is as wide as the Atlantic. Tim Stanley looks at the origins and the enduring legacy of the American revivalist tradition.

One of the paradoxes of politics in the US is the simultaneous invocation of liberty and godliness by the religious right. Christian conservatives, such as Sarah Palin, claim to oppose big government; they want to tear up the welfare state and cut taxes. Yet they also want to ban gay marriage, outlaw abortion and display the text of the Ten Commandments outside law courts. In an age when many people associate liberty with pluralism, the religious right’s claim to speak for the ‘American value’ of freedom seems dubious.

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