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    Quotables: The Roots of American Order

    March 1, 2012 by Brandy Vencel
    The Roots of American Order
    by Russell Kirk

    [T]here exist two distinct forms of history: sacred history, and secular history. Sacred history consists of an account of mankind’s experience with God; secular history consists of an account of mankind’s experience in mundane affairs. The first form of history often can be expressed only through imagery–through parables, allegories, and the “high dream” of poetry. {p. 38}

    Although a good deal of secular history is intermingled with the sacred history of the Bible, the Old Testament’s purpose is not to present a chronicle of political and military events, but rather to describe in a variety of ways, and by various hands, how the Hebrews were made aware of the existence of Jehovah, and of Jehovah’s laws, and of the Covenant that joins God and man. To criticize the Old Testament as if it were an attempt at chronological recording in the modern sense is to mistake its whole character. {p. 40-41}

    [T]o survive physically as an individual is not the aim of existence. The Hebrew’s “time” is not merely the days and nights of individual life, but rather the existence of a people under God.


    That being so, Hebrew thinkers are not much concerned with the question of personal immortality. The survival of the Hebrew people, chosen by God, is the burning concern of the prophets…The order of the people, under the Covenant with God, transcends the momentary desires of any individual. If men are to be saved, they will be saved as persons among the people of God, not as isolated individuals. {p. 42}

    The fundamental reason for obedience is this: God has willed such an order, and that order is for man’s great benefit. If a man defies that order, he becomes something less than human: he separates himself from the God who brought him into existence, and who offers him eternity. {p. 44}

    [T]he order of Sinai still gives vitality to America. {p. 45}

    In colonial America, everyone with the rudiments of schooling knew one book thoroughly: the Bible. {p. 45}

    [T]he Old Testament helped to make social realists of the early Americans. {p. 47}

    Faith and hope may endure when earthly cities are reduced to rubble: that, indeed, is a principle lesson from the experience of Israel under God. {p. 49}

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