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The Gospel According to America

David Dark (Westminster John Knox Press: Mar. 1, 2005), 200 pages.

Readers of Dark’s book Everyday Apocalypse know that this high school English teacher is a passionate, articulate, absurdly well-read interpreter of popular culture. But even the forewarned may be astonished by this latest effort. Dark’s skill at probing the spiritual resonances of American culture — in forms high and low, from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville to Bob Dylan and David Lynch — is matched by his uncanny ability to select telling moments from America’s common story. Whether it’s Elvis taking a shotgun to his television sets, Dylan confessing a sense of common humanity with Lee Harvey Oswald or George Washington treating British prisoners of war with unprecedented civility, Dark excavates a series of witnesses who speak prophetically to what he sees as our media-saturated overconfidence in our own righteousness. Moreover, he offers a convincing and unsettling account of the gospel itself — the “Jewish Christian” story of forgiveness and human dignity that, Dark argues, has animated America’s ideals even as it has continually critiqued America’s practices. Dark’s Southern heritage is evident in his literary allusions (the subtitle echoes Flannery O’Connor) and in his affection for egalitarian conversation. Nearly every page has something to make readers pause, laugh, think or pray; perhaps most amazing is Dark’s skill at burying layers of meaning for the reader to discover. It’s hard to imagine a better tonic for our age than this unblinkingly honest exercise in faithful patriotism. ~ Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

    • Acknowledgments   vii
    • Instead of an Introduction: Remembrance Belongs to the People   ix
    • 1. The Angel in the Whirlwind: An Exercise in Patriotism   1
    • 2. Song of Ourselves: Narcissism and Its Discontents in a Bipolar Nation   27
    • 3. No Celestial Railroads: A Literature for Democracy   47
    • 4. Bloodier than Blood: Risking All on Resurrection   83
    • 5. The Signposts Up Ahead: Taking Our Own Temperature   107
    • 6. I’m Ready for My Close-Up: Fine-Tuned Realities   122
    • 7. The Long Loneliness: Experimenting with the Unexpected   135
    • 8. When the Man Comes Around: Living in Light of a Glorious Appearing    150
    • Notes   167