The American Creed A Biography of the Declaration of Independence

Forrest Church

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

180 Pages



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Whatever makes us all Americans—whatever our differences—is adherence to a creed based upon cornerstone truths the founders believed "self-evident." From the earliest days, the survival of the new republic hinged not merely upon the expression of these grand principles of liberty and equality but upon their spiritual underpinnings. Freedom and faith were intertwined. America, as a foreign observer once put it, is a nation with the soul of a church.

In this biography of the Declaration of Independence, Forrest Church charts the progress of this creed from America's beginnings to the present day by evoking those whose words have expressed its letter and captured its spirit. What emerges is our shared destiny. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that this country might someday "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed" echoes Thomas Jefferson's belief that "equal and exact justice to all" is the "creed of our political faith." Our connection with the past represents our commitment to the future and vice versa.

A "spiritual and patriotic primer," The American Creed distills the essence of American history. Church lets the story of the Declaration of Independence unfold before our eyes, giving us both the big picture and the details that place it into focus.


Praise for The American Creed

"Forrest Church has given us a great gift—a way to understand the meaning of America in spiritual terms that require us to acknowledge the Founders' wisdom in permitting us the freedom to worship, or not, according to the dictates of our own conscience. This book shows us why so many Americans for over two centuries have kept their faith in our fundamental principles, in our continuing mission to form a more perfect union; and, in richly diverse ways, in a Divine Creator."—President William J. Clinton

"At a time when many Americans are searching for a spiritual meaning in our national life, Forrest Church points to the co-inherence of faith and freedom in this vivid retelling of 'the lively experiment' that is America. Written with passion and insight, this book stirs us to think and moves us to be grateful."—Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School and editor of Christianity Today

"The American Creed is a thoughtful and appealing interpretation of the ideals that hold us together as Americans. This is patriotism of the highest quality."—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

"I wish that every American would read and ponder this important book. Forrest Church has become our preeminent preacher of faith and freedom."—George McGovern

"A senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, Church has authored or edited some 20 books. Here he looks at the union of freedom and faith in America, which resulted in the concepts of inalienable rights and everyone's being created equal. America has not always lived up to the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence, but self-criticism, he argues, should not become self-hatred. 'To live up to the promise of our creed, we must rekindle aspiration for its attainment,' says Church. With this in mind, he traces the history of the country from the Pilgrims to 9/11, examining the creeds that have guided its development. Church believes that the union of freedom and faith is what informs the American soul, and the combination of American optimism and faith is what generates real hope for the future. He makes a convincing argument that our concepts of equality and inalienable rights come out of a faith in a higher being."—C. Robert Nixon, Library Journal

"This marvelous primer accessibly and fairly explores the intersection of freedom and faith in American life."—Publishers Weekly

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The American Creed
1"A CITY ON A HILL""In the beginning all the world was America."--John Locke, Second Treatise on Government, 49, 1 
IN THE BEGINNING, WHEN GOD CREATED HEAVEN AND EARTH, ALL the world was a wilderness. This wilderness was populated first by ferns and then by animals. Hundreds of millions of years later, as a home to aboriginal peoples scattered in pockets around the globe, the world was a forbidding garden. Slowly, this garden was cultivated. With cultivation came civilization; city-states became nations; nations, empires. Where
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  • Forrest Church

  • Forrest Church is senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City. He has written or edited twenty books, including The Jefferson Bible, Restoring Faith: America's Religious Leaders Answer Terror with Hope, and, most recently, Bringing God Home: A Traveler's Guide.