God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution
God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution
Thomas S. Kidd
Basic Books, 2010
304 pp., $26.95

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Matt Reynolds

Revolutionary Faith

A religious history of the American Revolution.

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Though he might have, Kidd declines to mention the vast financial overhaul enacted last year, purportedly to prevent just such greed and deception from again running rampant. America's founders knew well the fanatical libertarian impulse, but they were ill-acquainted with disciples of the modern technocratic temptation, fondly "dreaming," in T. S. Eliot's memorable words, "of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good."

Greed confounds a regulatory behemoth as surely as it exploits a regulatory vacuum. Whatever the vice, it will elude a thousand legislative snares and outwit a thousand bureaucratic busybodies. This is not to nitpick at Kidd's recession diagnosis, much less to countenance the overthrow of sensible laws and regulations, but to reinforce his powerful conclusion: Religion "retains unmatched power to motivate believers to do good." For Massachusetts militiamen, Wall Street investment bankers, and Americans of sundry talents and dispositions, nothing else will do the trick.

Matt Reynolds is an associate editor at Christianity Today magazine, where he presides over the Books section.

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