This is the American history of the 'city on a hill' metaphor from its Puritan beginnings to its role in Reagan's American civil religion and beyond. In Search of the City on a Hill challenges the widespread assumption that Americans have always used this potent metaphor to define their national identity. It demonstrates that America's 'redeemer myth' owes more to nineteenth- and twentieth-century reinventions of the Puritans than to the colonists' own conceptions of divine election. It reconstructs the complete story of 'the city on a hill' from its Puritan origins to the present day for the first time. From John Winthrop's 1630 'Model of Christian Charity' and the history books of the nineteenth century to the metaphor's sudden prominence in the 1960s and Reagan's skillful incorporation of it into his rhetoric in the 80s, 'the city on a hill' has had a complex history: this history reveals much about received tions of American exceptionalism, America's identity as a Christian nation, and the impact of America's civil religion. The conclusion considers the current status of 'the city on a hill' and summarizes what this story of national myth eclipsing biblical metaphor teaches us about the evolution of America's identity.
Richard M. Gamble holds the Anna Margaret Ross Alexander Chair in History and Political Science at Hillsdale College, Michigan, USA. He taught at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA from 1994 to 2006. His previous books include The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation and The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being. He also serves as a contributing editor for The American Conservative.