What Is America?

I just finished reading 'What is America?' by Ronald Wright. I would highly recommend it. Some of the historical information I had heard before, through shows such as 500 Nations. It's a good read for those wanting to understand the American psyche.
I had not realized just how much of the Pre Columbian east coast was farm land. My understanding of the original Americans was a more 'Last of the Mohicans' style, but that was something that the victors wanted people to think. That they had taken land that was not being used, that the 'noble savages' had no need for it. An example of this being a lie is The Cherokee nation. In the early 19th century it had it's own constitution, and a higher literacy rate than the U.S.
It was interesting to me that Bush was not even close to being an anomaly, but the first "Bush" was Andrew Jackson, and that he ignored the supreme court to expel the Cherokee. It was his inauguration that would be one of the first moments when you could point to the divide between the "enlightenment" America and the "Frontier" America. One embracing learning and the other embracing myth and superstition.
It was also fascinating to see how much the Puritans have affected how the 'Andrew Jackson Americans' view themselves and their relation to the world. I have joked about the puritan heritage, but it's a terrible and disgusting thing. I once admired their spirituality and literacy, but this book is just one in a long line that has dispelled that admiration. I am actually embarrassed that I thought that way. They are a classic example of how belief can be a poison, even long after you are gone. It got me thinking of what I was working out before, in a previous post, about belief not being important. What you believe can be irrelevant, emphasis on the can be, but how you believe is important. What Peter Rollins called heretical orthodoxy. To quote from the beginning of his book,
"Instead of following the Greek-influenced idea of orthodoxy as right belief...help(ing) us to rediscover the more Hebraic and mystical notion of the orthodox Christian as one who believes in the right way - that is, believing in a loving, sacrificial and Christlike manner. The reversal from 'right belief' to 'believing in the right way' is in no way a move to some binary opposite of the first (for the opposite of right belief is wrong belief); rather, it is a way transcending the binary altogether. Thus orthodoxy is no longer (mis)understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood as a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than a means of believing things about the world."
It's surprised me that the 'What is America' and the bit it talked about the Puritans would make me think of that quote. The Puritans and their cultural heirs, the modern fundamentalist, are continuing the focus on belief as the be all and end all of their lives, rather than believing in the right way. This is why you get a focus on issues rather than people. Portions of archaic holy text having to be literal would be an example of what you believe running amok. If your focus is instead of believing in the right way, I would hope that would lead to a more loving focus on right relationship with the people around you, and a flexibility in allowing for error in your belief system.
There are a lot of good quotes in 'What is America'. I could probably spend the next month with entries on it, but this is a small portion of where it got me thinking. I doubt that's where it will take yours, but read it, and let me know where it led you.

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