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Download Gods of War, Gods of Peace: How the Meeting of Native and Colonial Religions Shaped Early America epub

by Russell Bourne

Through dramatic comparisons of Native American and early colonial politics, history, and religion, historian Russell Bourne offers a complete and insightful look at how these two disparate groups influenced each other and how this interchange helped forge the basis for the culture we live in today. Despite living in a war-torn world, both sides made heroic efforts to reach out to each other. The religious and cultural concepts of the Native Americans helped to transform the colonists, turning many into pantheists, communal villagers, and woodland warriors. Similarly, many of the Native Americans became evangelical Christians, farmers, traders, and even commanders of nationalistic armies. Benjamin Franklin, marveling at the cooperation and mutual respect evident among the Six Nations of the Iroquois, suggested that colonial leaders should follow their lead. Yet, in the end, differences and treacheries drove the two peoples apart. Based on extensive historical research and consultation with numerous Native American and academic sources, Gods of War, Gods of Peace offers a revelatory new view of how Native American and colonial religions shaped America and its ideals.
Download Gods of War, Gods of Peace: How the Meeting of Native and Colonial Religions Shaped Early America epub
ISBN: 015100501X
ISBN13: 978-0151005017
Category: History
Subcategory: Americas
Author: Russell Bourne
Language: English
Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 4, 2002)
Pages: 448 pages
ePUB size: 1289 kb
FB2 size: 1978 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 217
Other Formats: mobi docx lit doc

There seem to be two uses of history: to reach a conclusion, or to support a conclusion. This book is clearly the latter. Even aside from a remarkably prejudiced presentation of the facts, though, this book is just a lousy read. It is written in a disjointed manner that makes no attempt at continuity or linearity. A theme is presented in each section, and disparate historical observations are simply thrown at it in support.

The previous reviewer was much more generous than I will be, but he did identify two important problems with this book. First, the book seems to be based on secondary, rather than primary source research. The author rarely delves into anything more than knowledge that something happened, rather than what led up to it, what motivated it, what was accomplished by it, and how it fits into its historical context. As previously mentioned, one egregious example is that English Christianity of the period is inconsiderately presented as a zealous monolith in pursuit of bloody conquest.

Secondly, the author is simply shoddy with facts. For example, early in the book the author repeatedly attempts to demonstrate the xenophobia of the early Puritans (all of one mind, of course) toward Native Americans (again, largely undifferentiated). The author cites Cotton Mather (born 1663) over and over again in support, simultaneously ridiculing the accuracy of Mather's writings (1698), and using them as historical evidence of events as early as the 1630s.

More generally, this book's general themes become predictable to the point of farce. English Christians are racist, bloodthirsty and greedy. Indians are admirably spiritual, well-meaning, and fatally naive about their white counterparts. Any English interaction with Indians is at best ignorant, and usually conniving. Indian interaction with the English is motivated by friendship or survival. Christians are hopelessly devoted to their suffocating faith, failing to properly understand the "virtues" of native religions. Indians are wonderfully faithful, though often foolishly willing to compromise their religions with Christianity.

This book lacks everything from decent scholarship to basic readability. I advise potential readers to pass on it.
Russell Bourne's book is an excellent read, and a fine introduction to the complex subject he addresses. I especially appreciate the new perspective it gave me on the New England I've lived in much of my life. Place names that have been merely interesting are now much more meaningful.
Bourne's notion - that the conflict between the European and Native peoples beginning in the 1600's is essentially a religious conflict of spiritual orientation - is an interesting perspective on very inteteresting times. It is a worthy discussion, indeed.
One thing I found somewhat disturbing was the superficial knowledge he displays with regard to the Puritans. It seemed to me that he might well have read a good deal about them but not read their works, or at least not read them in depth. His take on Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd in particular seemed pointedly dismissive, and that simply does not do them justice.
It would have been been well to illustrate more fully that European spirituality was not all of a kind and that Native spirituality (also not all of a kind) was often in tune with several streams of theology that made the trip across the Atlantic. He correctly points out that there were not mass conversions, one way or another, but it would have been great to illustrate how the evolution of streams of spirituality on each side influenced both cultures.
One other point that bothered me was how he tended to lump together things a little study would have shown do not belong together. Charles Finney cannot be considered in the same camp as the Puritans - Finney's theology was heretical on too many points - and the Mormon faith bears no resemblance to the Puritan orthodoxy of New England, nor, in fact, any flavor of Christian orthodoxy. Finney's theology represents a stream of thought that is distinctive for the centrality of subjective experience, and gave birth to a kind of revivalism that the Puritans would have found completely abhorrant. The Mormon faith elevates another book to the place of the Bible, and that would also have been abhorrant to the Puritans of an earlier generation. The point here is that Bourne tends to treat these streams of spirituality as equally "Christian" which they plainly cannot be. The fact that they are not actually STRENGTHENS Bourne's thesis, and I wish they had been treated with a little more depth.
Still, this is a very fine work. I found it thought provoking and educational. The section on Hiawatha was particularly enlightening. I actually went back and re-read that section a number of times to be sure I understood it. The book also spurred me to want to understand the origins of my own New England culture with some depth. I recommend the book highly.