Randy Peterson has written an amazing story of the unlikely friendship between two men who loom large in history: Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield. The book is called The Printer And The Preacher: The Surprising Friendship That Invented America.
These men were arguably the first celebrities in the American colonies. They each achieved their level of fame in totally different professions, and yet their paths continue to cross time and time again, until a 30-year-long friendship ensued. Each of them was instrumental in sharpening the other in their craft, promoting their pursuits, and defending each other’s reputations. And perhaps most notably, together they became pivotal in the build-up to America’s independence both politically and religiously.
In concluding this very enjoyable book, Peterson writes—
“Like George [Whitefield], we are, as a nation, very religious. Like Ben [Franklin], we like to make up our own beliefs. About half of Americans call themselves evangelical, children of the Great Awakening. Many even use George’s favorite term: born again. But others do not share this faith. Many, like Ben, are scientific in their outlook. They take an ‘enlightened’ approach to life, focusing on the natural world, not the supernatural.
“We are George and Ben.
“Thanks to Ben and others, we have religious liberty carved into our Constitution. We have freedom to be religious or not to be. We can be Methodists, Calvinist, Catholic, deist, Pietist, or all of the above. No authority can coerce us to believe anything or force us to say we do. Spiritual life is a personal matter, a transaction between us and God. George and Ben both taught us this.
“We are still figuring out how religious freedom works. As a nation, we seem to vacillate between Ben and George, skeptic and zealot, the right to doubt and the right to believe. The question in our deeply divided country is how to preserve the freedom to live without a vibrant Christian faith as well as the freedom to choose something else. The relationship between these two forefathers points to an answer.”
This book will appeal to so many people: history buffs, pastors, scientists, leaders, politicos, and biography readers. I highly recommend it!
I am a Thomas Nelson reviewer.