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Education Reporter

Christianity: Lifeblood of America's Free Society (1620-1945), by John A. Howard, Summit Press, 2008, 136 pp., $12.95

World War II hero Dr. John Howard has served in the federal government, in higher education, and as senior fellow at the Howard Center on Family, Religion, and Society. A member of the Greatest Generation, Howard writes persuasively in this book about the high ideals of service, duty, and sacrifice that enabled Americans of the 1940s to pull together and defeat the Axis powers.

In contrast to Howard's childhood and the rest of America's history until quite recently, students today are "cheated by a society that has not provided them with an understanding and appreciation of human grandeur," writes Howard. These students "know next to nothing about the record of men and women whose labors and sacrifices have made us proud to belong to the human race. . . . In their schooling, in their homes, in their entertainment, the concept of ennobling obligation is as unfamiliar to them as Egyptian hieroglyphics." When young people never encounter any ideals worth attaining to, it is little wonder that so many are self-centered, shallow, and unwilling to work hard or serve others.

Christianity: Lifeblood of America's Free Society (1620-1945) tells the history of Christendom in America, and how Christian doctrine and ideals helped to create a cooperative and peaceable society. Beginning with the Pilgrims, Howard traces the religious life of America through the First Great Awakening, the founding of the nation, George Washington's leadership, 19th-century America, and up through the "'ought' culture" of duty that carried the United States to victory in World War II. Howard ends each chapter with a few pages of aptly chosen, fascinating, and often inspiring quotations.

Howard issues a rousing call for a return to the ideals, arising from a Christian worldview, that made America great. He points to the Templeton and Ingersoll Prizes as exemplary efforts to motivate and reward great art that invokes these high ideals. Howard cautions conservatives against losing hope. "It is commonly supposed that you cannot turn back the clock, that social change, like the genie that can't be stuffed back into the bottle, simply cannot be reversed. Like many other popular beliefs this one is not true," he writes. Howard's book lights the way forward with its portrayal of true greatness: humility, righteousness, useful work on behalf of others, and self-sacrifice for the greater good.

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