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In The Beginning... The Story of America [Ep. 1]

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 22, 2023 3:00 am

In The Beginning... The Story of America [Ep. 1]

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 22, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, this is part one of our brand new series, "The Story of America," with Bill McClay, author of the fantastic book "Land of Hope". Learn about how America could have turned out very differently had it not been for a few angry Catholics, a storm, and a very strong queen.

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Controlled substances like Adderall are not available through the Hers platform. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. Up next, the first episode of our series about us. That is the story of America. Here to tell it is Hillsdale College professor Bill McClay, author of the fantastic book, Land of Hope.

Take it away, Bill. In the beginning, America was an idea even before it was actually a place. This idea that the West was a special direction, a place toward which adventurous souls were drawn. It was the idea of the West as a land of plenty, a place of wonder, a place of renewal.

This goes back to the Greeks. The West had this sort of magical appeal even before we knew what was there. And America, in a sense, comes into being with that legend, that story. So we have to begin with that idea that overrides and undergirds a lot of the merely material explanations for what America is. It's a land of hope from the very beginning.

It's a land of hope. I think a great place to begin thinking about early American history is with a quotation that I love, and that is from the architectural historian and critic Lewis Mumford. He said, the settlement of America had its origins in the unsettlement of Europe.

So to start with, we ought to know what was being unsettled. I think you go back to a time when there was kings crowned by clergymen, the Middle Ages, the High Middle Ages, the era of the great cathedrals and of this great unity. All of that started to come down bit by bit due to a number of forces, the rising influence of nationalism, of national identity, of commerce, the culture of cities built up around the emerging commerce and ecclesiastical conflicts. Of course, the big one, we all know, begins 1517 in Germany with Martin Luther. You know, a lot of people want to typecast Luther as a revolutionary. Is this mad guy bent on splitting the Catholic Church?

Absolutely not. He did not want that. He didn't envision that. He thought that his 95 theses, which were his criticisms, that very far-reaching criticisms of the Church were necessary for the Church's purification. You can be critical of the Church in a way that bespeaks love, a concern for the holiest of all institutions that's lost its way. And that was the kind of passion, sacred rage that Luther had. He was immediately exercised about the sale of indulgences, which are more complicated than people realize, but it has to do with lessening the time in purgatory.

It seemed very crass to Martin Luther. This campaign, which was really geared towards the construction of St. Peter's, of the great, great basilica in Rome, that's what this particular sale of indulgences was about. And it played into something else, a point of vulnerability with the Church, and that was its immense wealth. Most people were poor. People were peasants who either had no land or had very little land, lived on a subsistence level, and did not go down well that the Church should flaunt its immense wealth in a way that seemed in contradiction to the teachings of the man from whose influence the Church was developed and whom members of the Church worshipped as God. That contradiction is something else that's going to lead to the un-settlement of Europe. But some of the theological points that he got to were much, much too threatening to the institutional structure of the Church.

One of them is the central one. How are we found not guilty? Are you saved or are you condemned? And that's the doctrine of justification by faith. By faith alone, Christ alone, and not by deeds, not by works, not by manifestations of your righteousness and your actions. It seemed to Luther that there was no way that, given our many misdeeds, our propensity for misdeeds, that we're just always messing up, always, no matter how hard we try. And even when we think we've made it, then we're messing up by having spiritual pride. So there's just no way of winning in the arena of works.

Now, if you start thinking more, what does that mean? That doesn't sound so radical. Well, what's the place of priests? What's the place of the sacraments? What's the place of all the, put it this way, the employees of the Church?

Are their jobs going down the tubes? Is the status of the Church going to be the same if we're justified not by anything a priest does for us, but by our immediate relationship with God through Christ? That's what's radical. More radical, probably, than Luther really realized when he started down that road. In retrospect, you kind of wonder, how could he not have thought this was going to cause a big ruckus? But he was an interesting guy. I think he was propelled, you know, when he was being tried. At one point, he is said to have said, Here I stand.

I can do no other. That's what I mean by him being propelled. If you go back, you see a lot of the most admirable things are being done by people who are propelled by their faith, and the foundations of America wouldn't be the same without it. And you've been listening to Hillsdale College professor Bill Maclay, his book, By It There's a Children's Version 2, superb. The beginning of America was an idea before it was a place, a place of plenty, of wonder, of renewal.

The settling of America was born out of the Unsettlement of Europe, two central points that animate the framing of this new nation. When we come back, more of Bill Maclay here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country, and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture, and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

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Controlled substances like Adderall are not available through the hers platform. And we return to Our American Stories and the first episode of our series, The Story of America, with Hillsdale College professor Bill Maclay, author of the fantastic book, Land of Hope. When we left off, Bill was telling us about a movement led by the likes of Martin Luther and even folks like John Calvin, the Reformation, and how it led to the unsettlement of continental Europe. But things in England went a little differently.

Let's return to the story. The Reformation in England was very different from what happened on the continent. England always was a little different.

And the difference in England made all the difference. In this case, the difference was that the king of England, Henry VIII, you know, the guy with all the wives, actually carried out the Reformation for the opposite reasons. He was very, very devout. The pope called him defender of the faith.

How about that? But Henry had a problem. He wanted to have a male heir.

He was very concerned about that. His first wife, and just saying first wife gives away the tail, was unable to produce such a son for him. But he went to the pope. He knew that divorce was out of the question.

But you could get a marriage annulled. That was open. That was a possibility.

It was open. The pope said no. For complicated reasons, Henry's first wife was a relative. Henry reacted with fury and dissolved the bond linking the Church of England to the one holy catholic church. He made the Church of England a separate entity, a national church, over which he was supreme. That's how the Church of England came about. It was a strictly political thing.

God having a sense of humor, he never got that. He got a male heir, but he didn't grow to adulthood. But for the most part, the Church of England was exactly like the catholic church. Henry didn't want to change any of that. He wasn't a reformer. But there were those who had been caught up in some of the vermin on the continent who said, hey, this hasn't gone far enough. The Anglo Catholics, Puritans, and later on evangelicals who thought about it the other way. In the end, just to zoom ahead a little bit, in the end, the American religious settlements that would occur in New England would be Puritans that sought a new Zion, a new world to really rebuild the church and become an example to the world of what a pure church looks like and worships like and acts like. That's why we have to go through this whole discussion of the Reformation.

Yes, the Reformation is important, but filtered through this particular English conflict over the status of Catholicism within Protestantism. It's all very complicated. Like most things, you have to tell a story to get at what the truth is. Now, I've been talking as if it's a foregone conclusion that the new world is going to be settled by English Puritans. That isn't how it happened. And it could have turned out very differently, very easily. We look back at the past. It's so easy to just project what we know is going to happen on the actors of the time.

They don't know. We have to grant to people the veil of ignorance that we all dwell behind when we look ahead to the future. So the Spanish were there first. You remember Columbus in 1492 sailed the ocean blue? He was the leading edge of the Spanish colonial enterprises that was already going full blast by the time Martin Luther appears in Europe.

Well ahead. The Spanish were top dog in the 16th century, the 1500s. They were the top dog in the world.

They had the best empire, the most powerful empire, the greatest navy, the armed forces, wealth, you name it. They came to the new world for two reasons. One was material, and material in a very specific way. They were interested in precious metals, gold and silver.

The idea was that the wealth of a country was measured by the amount of precious metals it had in its treasury. So as a result, you tried to get them when you could. That wasn't the only motive. They were also motivated by religion. They were strongly motivated by choice evangelism.

Spreading the church, because Spain is solidly Roman Catholic, and zealously so. They did run their colonies with a very heavy hand with respect to making sure that everything that was produced was for the sake of the mother country. It was an extractive approach to colonization.

They were about extracting. They didn't bring families, didn't make settlements. And the way that they treated the native populations, their use of slaves, of enslaved people, is not a very happy part of the Spanish record.

It's brutal, it's inhumane, it's astonishing that kind of brutality can coexist in the minds of people with spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. But somehow they put it together. So the Spanish were dominant. If you parachuted in in the 16th century, you'd say, oh, this is going to be Spanish.

They've got it. So how did this change? Things came to a head between the Spanish and the English. Philip II, the leader of Spain, believed he could crush Elizabeth I, a mere woman, and bring back the Catholic faith as the official state religion. So he mounted an invasion force, including the famous Spanish Armada. 130 ships, which even today sounds like a lot, and then it was the largest fleet that had ever been assembled. And he brought together an army of about 55,000 men to invade England.

This is a big, big deal, big move, big, bold move. It seemed very plausible that they could prevail, but they didn't. The English fleet prevailed. They were nimble like fighter planes. And there was luck, providence, if you like.

There were storms. The English called them the Protestant wind that blew the Spanish fleet out to sea. And the invasion never happened.

It never occurred. The Spanish Armada was defeated. And the English also had Queen Elizabeth, an inspirational leader. And there's a great story of her wearing armor, ceremonial armor. She's not a particularly large woman, but she rode a horse out to the troops that were assembled to fight off the invading Spanish army.

And she says this. That tyrant's fear. I have always so behaved myself that under God I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and goodwill of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you as you see at this time, not for my recreation and this sport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of battle to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God and for my kingdom and for my people, my honor and my blood even in the dust.

Wow. No, this means that the Spanish influence disappears. We wouldn't have places like Los Angeles. But the important thing here is that the defeat of the Spanish did change what America would be, ensuring that it was going to be more English than anything else. It was from the English that we got our fundamental institutions. And a terrific job on the editing, production, storytelling and sound design by our own Monty Montgomery himself, a Hillsdale College graduate. And what storytelling by Hillsdale College professor Bill Maclay on the origins of this country.

The story of America, episode one, here on Our American Stories. Week after week, Xfinity Flex unlocks access to premium networks and apps so you can try fresh entertainment for free each and every week. Catch the season premiere of Outlander from Starz. Journey through the sounds of Black Music Month with pics from Lifetime Movie Club and Revolt.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-22 04:12:30 / 2023-06-22 04:20:51 / 8

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