Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Corey Robin

Subject Categories

Political Science

Abstract

This dissertation examines the ways Old Testament prophecy has influenced American political thought and rhetoric. Although political scientists have long recognized the impact of the Scriptures on the ways Americans express and think about themselves, they have misunderstood this important part of America's political tradition. I study political sermons by leading Protestant ministers in three historical eras, to demonstrate three claims. First, American prophecy is not a singular but a multiple tradition, consisting of three Old Testament rhetorics. Second, only one of these rhetorics encourages political action while the other two urge political quietism. Third, all three rhetorics thrived until the middle of the twentieth century, when they converged into one type, the activating kind known as the jeremiad. My study recasts our understanding of Biblical rhetoric in the United States, by demonstrating that, while it is often fiercely critical of the status quo, it has encouraged political quietism during significant periods of American history.

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