Review of Testing the National Covenant: Fears & Appetites in American Politics, by William F. May.
American theologian and ethicist William F. May authors a new discourse on a covenantal understanding of the U.S. Constitution. Interpreting the American political landscape through the lens of dualism, the author examines foreign policies, free market ideologies, and American domestic policies. His observations lead him to posit that one has two alternatives to interpret the founding of this immigrant-based country on which to base future policies: a contractual or a covenantal perspective. The contractual perspective emphasizes choice in creating unity as a project or business transaction and seeks less government. In contrast, the covenantal perspective is relational and holds both the reality and the project at hand in a duality to create unity as reflected in the Constitution’s “We the people” declaration. Tracing a covenant’s biblical origins, May characterizes government covenantally as a gift arising from a promise, an agreement, from its own being as a community. May prefers the covenantal perspective as more adept functionally and more aligned with original intentions for containing runaway fears or appetites in society. Based on this covenantal interpretation, he offers an exposition of the constitution, its strengths and flaws, concluding with a series of thoughts for strengthening the national covenant for domestic tranquility and common defense, general welfare, education, nature, healthcare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, family, and immigration. While May’s writing reflects clear biases and assumptions that will appeal more to progressive audiences, his use of resources and insights to support his argument reflect his depth of education and experience.
Pearson, Andrew L. Review of Testing the National Covenant: Fears & Appetites in American Politics, by William F. May. Religious Studies Review 39 (June 2013): 124-125.