The Biblical Spirit of the American Founding

In honor of the Fourth of July, Wilfred McClay reviews Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land, an anthology documenting how the language and spirit of the Hebrew Bible permeated the documents, orations, and essays that shaped American history:

As scholars have long understood, but many Americans have forgotten, Puritans identified themselves with ancient Israel. . . . Puritanism would have its day, but it had already begun to weaken by the end of the 17th century and had faded away considerably by the time of the American Revolution. But, amazingly, the Hebraic template upon which Puritanism rested became an enduring feature of American life. Indeed, the title that editors Stuart Halpern, Matthew Holbreich, Jonathan Silver, and Meir Soloveichik have chosen for their volume, Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land, is the phrase famously inscribed on the Liberty Bell, which invokes the biblical manumission of all slaves in the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:10).

Does this Hebraic element in the texture of American life continue even unto the present, seemingly secular day? That is hard to say. The anthology closes with the end of the American Civil War, and the editors hint in their postscript that one might have to look very hard to find the same pattern persisting through the 19th century and on into the 20th. They do, however, offer a postscript on the relationship of the Hebrew Bible to the post-World War II civil-rights movement, and particularly to the rhetoric of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s speeches were not only deeply imbued with the language of the biblical prophets; they were effective precisely because they spoke in the most ancient language of American moral legitimation.

Yet King lived in a time—and in a region, the American South—in which biblical knowledge was still strong. It is not so today, hence the great value of Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land. Will the moral sentiments and characteristic habits of the heart that have been sustained in America in the past continue to flourish without the biblical account of man to support and uphold them?

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American founding, American Religion, Hebrew Bible, Leviticus, Martin Luther King

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela