In his fourth chapter, Gelernter addresses the rise and development of the American religion in the course of our war for independence.
“The American Creed [liberty, equality, democracy] combined with American Zionism [residue of postmillennialism] yielded a full-blown American belief system. These beliefs would be refined further; they would eventually supersede Puritanism and become the American religion” (p. 75).
And again, I do not take issue with Gelernter’s observation of this deterioration, but rather with his celebration of it. He offers many great insights about what actually happened during the course of the war, but then perversely rejoices at the results when the victorious Americans began to neglect all the most profound warnings that faithful preachers had set before them. As the famous Puritan Cotton Mather had put it a century before, “Faithfulness begat prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother.” Or, as it was put more pithily in the Old Testament, Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked.
One of Gelernter’s accurate observations was second part of this one. “In any case, to associate Judeo-Christian faith with theocracy neglects the Bible’s central role in the founder’s view of democracy. Their model of democratic rule was neither Athens nor republican Rome; it was the sacred commonwealth of the ancient Hebrews” (p. 95). The second half of this observation is dead on, but this means we need to quarrel with his terminology a bit. The ancient Hebrew commonwealth was a republic, not a democracy. And further, there is a crucial difference between the two, a distinction which the founders understood, and which we do not. Just as postmillennialism gone to seed gets us a busy-pants foreign policy, in a similar way a democracy is what we got when we neglected our republic.
And we neglected the republic by forgetting the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who in the power of His Holy Spirit, gave that republic to us in the first place. “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Dt. 32:15). Vague and generic references to God, and hand-waving tributes to heritage of Judeo-Christianity are nothing more than props for a very conceited empire.