Pivotal moments in U.S. history are indelibly marked by the
sermons of the nation's greatest orators. America's Puritan founder
John Winthrop preached about "a city upon a hill," a phrase echoed
more than three centuries later by President Ronald Reagan in his
farewell address to the nation; Abraham Lincoln's two greatest
speeches have been called "sermons on the mount"; and Martin Luther
King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" oration influenced a generation and
changed history. From colonial times to the present, the sermon has
motivated Americans to fight wars as well as fight for peace.
Mighty speeches have called for the abolition of slavery and for
the prohibition of alcohol. They have stirred conscientious
objectors and demonstrators for the rights of the unborn. Sermons
have provoked the mob mentality of witch hunts and blacklists, but
they have also stirred activists in the women's and civil rights
movements. The sermon has defined America at every step of its
history, inspiring great acts of courage and comforting us in times
of terror. "A City Upon a Hill" tells the story of these powerful
words and how they shaped the destiny of a nation.
"A City Upon a Hill" includes the story of Robert Hunt, the
first preacher to brave the dangerous sea voyage to Jamestown;
Jonathan Mayhew's "most seditious sermon ever delivered," which
incited Boston's Stamp Act riots in 1765; early calls for abolition
and "Captain-Preacher Nat" Turner's bloody slave revolt of 1831;
Henry Ward Beecher's sermon at Fort Sumter on the day of Lincoln's
assassination; tent revivalist/prohibitionist Billy Sunday's "booze
sermon"; the challenging words of Martin Luther King Jr., which
inspired the civil rights movement; Billy Graham's moving speeches
as "America's pastor" and spiritual advisor to multiple U.S.
presidents; and Jerry Falwell's legacy of changing the way America
"A City Upon a Hill" provides a history of the United States as
seen through the lens of the preached words--Protestant, Catholic,
and Jewish--that inspired independence, constitutional amendments,
and mili-tary victories, and also stirred our worst prejudices,
selfish materialism, and stubborn divisiveness--all in the name of
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