Michael Medved Part I: Divine Providence and the American Miracle

Author and radio talk show host Michael Medved joined Glenn on radio Tuesday for a fascinating look at the role divine providence has played in the history of America. It's the subject of his latest book, The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic, available in bookstores everywhere.

"We live in a time where we keep having this argument whether we're a Christian nation or not. People are trying to denigrate the role of God in America. And here you are, writing The American Miracle, which is phenomenal and great proof of God's existence and his critical role in bringing about America," Glenn said.

Medved agreed that believing in divine providence has united great leaders across every partisan divide and America's entire history.

"As you very well know, people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were religiously unconventional. They weren't orthodox Christians. But they believed very firmly, as it says in the Declaration, and as you, Glenn, emphasized time and again, a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Even these people, some of whom didn't go to church, understood that there was a design in American history. It didn't just result from a series of random occurrences, from a pattern of happy accidents," Medved said.

In The American Miracle, Medved makes the case that even a pattern of happy accidents is still a pattern --- and gives evidence of design.

"A lot of people would say, Sure, well, that design was from these very smart Founders. The problem for that argument is that the Founders themselves insisted that they weren't the designers. They were the instruments of the designer," Medved said.

The American Miracle recounts how at moments of crisis, when the odds against success seemed overwhelming and disaster looked imminent, fate intervened to provide deliverance and success. Historians may categorize these incidents as happy accidents, but the most notable leaders of the past four hundred years have identified this good fortune as something else entirely --- a reflection of God's divine providence.

Listen to Part I of this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:

GLENN: Michael Medved joins us now. Hello, Michael, how are you?

MICHAEL: I'm very well indeed, Glenn. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you.

GLENN: Thank you very much. Happy Hanukkah.

Let me ask you, Michael, before we get into the book, a couple of questions.

You are a Yale-trained attorney. And then you went from there to being a very good and credible movie reviewer. And then you went to talk radio. I can't make your career work. How have you done this?

I mean, you -- how did that happen?

MICHAEL: I'm not sure I made it work either. But --

GLENN: Yes, you have.

MICHAEL: Basically, I -- first of all, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an attorney. I went to law school once upon a time.

GLENN: Okay.

MICHAEL: And it is true. I will plead guilty. I went to law school together with Bill and Hillary Clinton. And you can ask me later whether they inhaled.

GLENN: Right. I think I know the answer.

MICHAEL: I think you probably do too, Glenn.

GLENN: Yeah.

MICHAEL: But the truth of the matter is, I've always been consumingly interested in history and politics, since my dad who was the son of immigrants under miraculous circumstances that allowed them to come to America.

We grew up in Philadelphia. And my dad used to take me around to historical sights. Independence Hall. Valley Forge.

And even though my dad was not at that stage in his life, until later in life when he moved to Israel, at that stage of his life, my dad was not a deeply religious guy, but he understood that God had a role in this miracle known as America. And I majored in American history at Yale. It's what I studied. What I always cared about. And then I started writing about it.

And then because of some of the books that I had written were about movies. I sort of drifted into commenting about movies, during the time I was writing about history. So -- and all of it, as you know, comes together in talk radio.

GLENN: Yeah.

MICHAEL: Because we have this great gift, from God, I believe of being able to talk about whatever is on our heart or in our mind.

GLENN: Yeah.

Michael, you are an Orthodox Jew. And a lover of America and American history.

We live in a time where we keep having this argument whether we're a Christian nation or not. People trying to denigrate the role of God in -- in America. And here you are, writing the American miracle, which is phenomenal and -- and a great proof of God's existence and his critical role in being -- in bringing about America.

MICHAEL: Well, that's exactly right.

And it is the one thing that has been able to unite great leaders across every partisan divide. Across our entire history.

I mean, it's true. As you very well know that people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were religiously unconventional. They weren't orthodox Christians. But they believed very firmly, as it says in the Declaration, and as you, Glenn, emphasized time and again, a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Even these people some of whom didn't go to church, understood that there was a design in American history. It didn't just result from a series of random occurrences, from a pattern of happy accidents.

In the book, I make the case that a pattern of happy accidents is still a pattern. And it gives evidence of design.

A lot of people would say, "Sure, well, that design was from these very smart Founders." The problem for that argument is that the Founders themselves insisted that they weren't the designers. They were the instruments of the designer.

GLENN: Right. How much of that, Michael -- this is the case that would be made, is that they were just using the language of the time. That that's the way people spoke. Even you just said, you know, Thomas Jefferson wasn't conventional. I believe he was. I mean, in his own writings, he talks about Jesus. And he is -- he's very Christian, if you looked at him as a man today. But very not Christian -- because I think he had a problem with the churches in some ways.

MICHAEL: Exactly right. Exactly right.

GLENN: The dogma was the problem.

MICHAEL: Right. The dogma and the organizations and the corruption of some of the organizations.

GLENN: Yes. Correct.

MICHAEL: But today, all of these people would be viewed as Christian fanatics.

GLENN: Yes.

MICHAEL: Because they had -- including, by the way, Franklin Roosevelt, for goodness' sake.

GLENN: Yes.

MICHAEL: Including Theodore Roosevelt, certainly. I mean, the people that -- that were way over on the left.

If you listen to Roosevelt's D-Day's prayer, Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, he says that America is fighting for Christianity. Right?

Can you imagine if someone said that today?

I mean, the -- the ACLU would be calling for impeachment.

GLENN: So, Michael, so go back to my question. In doing your research for this book, The American Miracle, tell me how you separate and convince people today that are being taught that this is all nonsense, that they weren't just using the language of the day, that they actually believed these things.

PAT: It's very simple. They stake their lives on it. They stake their lives on the belief.

And the truth of the matter is -- and this is the core argument of the book. And it's become the core argument of my life. You have to do something to explain the extraordinary nature of the emergence of the United States. No one who was alive in the year 1600 would ever have predicted that the dominant civilization in the world would emerge in North America. But it did. Against all odds.

And okay. You can say it emerged because America was this brutal, horrible, exploitative, rapacious place. The problem is other powers, Spain, Portugal, France, were more brutal. If brutality and exploitation and slavery and genocide against the natives -- if that was the secret of America's strength, then there are these other powers that would have been much stronger because they were much more cruel. So that's out.

Then you come to this question about a pattern of happy accidents. But a pattern of happy accidents, still a pattern. And then the question is, "What does that pattern mean?" And the founders were smart people. And they all believed that it meant not special privileges for this country, but special responsibilities.

GLENN: Uh-huh.

MICHAEL: And that's precisely why people on the left and people in the secular side are very reluctant to endorse the idea of providential protection.

GLENN: Well, isn't it -- I mean, this is -- I think, Michael, that we -- the Founders, if they would have lived to 1850, I don't think they would have recognized us really as America, for this one reason: By 1830, we changed Divine Providence to man if he is destiny. And there is a huge difference.

And I really believe that the -- the problem is, there are a lot of people on the religious right that don't know the difference between the two, and that's what is scaring people on the left. This idea that once I get power, I'm on a mission from God, and I'll tell you exactly what to do. That's not who our Founders were.

MICHAEL: No. Not at all. Because one of the stories that I tell in the book has to do with believing that God is entangled with your affairs, doesn't mean that you can do anything you want. It means that you have a special obligation to try to discern the divine will.

I actually quote the German chancellor, who created modern Germany, Otto von Bismarck, two amazing quotes that you will love, Glenn.

He says that on the one hand that it is the job of the statesman to simply try to hear God's footsteps in history and then grab hold of his coattails and follow.

And then on another occasion, Bismarck said that the God Almighty has special protection for imbeciles, drunkards, lost dogs, and the United States of America.

(chuckling)

GLENN: Back with Michael Medved here in just a second. The new book that he has just put out is The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic. This is one of those books that I think everyone -- everyone should have because there is a real problem in this country being taught that God had anything to do, especially with the founding of our nation. And I believe God is not a watchmaker. He does live. And he was instrumental in our founding.

And so Michael is making this case. The American Miracle.

[break]

GLENN: We're back with Michael Medved. The American Miracle: The Divine Providence and the Rise of the Republic.

In this, you make the case, Michael, about the California gold -- I have never heard this tied to Divine Providence. Do you want to -- do you want to talk about that a bit?

MICHAEL: Sure. It's one of those things, if you simply look at a calendar, it sort of jumps out at you as it did to people at the time.

The -- the California gold rush began when gold was discovered at the end of January in 1848.

And originally it was kept a secret. Then it became known. And it produced a huge impact on the American economy because we all of a sudden had the leading gold reserves of any country in the world. Because they had discovered gold in the hills of California.

Here's what leaps out to you in the contract: The very moment that James Marshall, who was an itinerate carpenter from New Jersey all of a sudden notices these flecks in a millrace near Sacramento in the middle of nowhere, that same day, 1600 miles away, in Mexico City, a rebellious clerk defies the president of the United States and risks arrest to sign America onto a probably illegal paper that deeds California and this real estate with all the gold in it to the United States of America.

In other words, people at the time asked, "How is it that God hid the existence of this huge load of gold from all of humanity until that precise moment that America was having California handed directly to us?"

GLENN: Signed on the same day?

MICHAEL: It could be the same day. We don't know the exact day --

JEFFY: That's amazing.

MICHAEL: -- that gold was discovered. We know within a week. It was 100 percent the same week.

GLENN: That's unbelievable.

MICHAEL: It is. And people at the time said so. See, what's so amazing to me, Glenn, is that people living through this history said, "Wait a minute. This is not us. This is some bigger power."

George Washington, who you write about so beautifully, I mean, George Washington understood that he is one of 70 British officers at the Battle of Monongahela, in the French and Indian war.

Seventy British officers ride out into battle on horseback. Sixty-nine of the 70 are either wounded or killed. George Washington has the hat out shot out from over his head. He has two different mounts shot out from under him. He has bullet holes in his cloak. Nothing touches him.

It was so striking that he's a 23-year-old officer at the time in the British Army, in the actually Virginia Militia. And Samuel Davies, who later became president of Princeton University, delivers a sermon about this 23-year-old guy and says, "No doubt, God has raised up this magnificent youth to help to save and perform a signal purpose for his people."

GLENN: God still doing this with America, Michael?

MICHAEL: I hope so. I hope so. But this is another aspect to this, Glenn, is that American patriots have always feared that we were breaking the bargain.

And the bargain again is not that we have special privileges. It's that we have special burdens. That because all of our forefathers -- all of our ancestors and foremothers, to be politically correct, they all recognized that America was no accident. That was actually one of the titles I was playing with for this book: America's No Accident. It didn't just happen. It happened for a purpose. If we lose sight of that purpose, our leaders have always believed that we will -- we will lose the special protection.

GLENN: I believe that 100 percent. Have we lost that? And what evidence do you have that we haven't lost that?

MICHAEL: Well, I know that there are some people -- you and I share something else, which is great skepticism about the president-elect. But the fact that he is president-elect seems so unexpected --

GLENN: Unlikely.

MICHAEL: -- and so bizarre in so many ways --

GLENN: Yeah.

MICHAEL: And the appointment of this new Secretary of State candidate, all of it is so astonishing and unusual, that you have to think that there must be some message here, that there must be some challenge here. There must be. Or maybe some of our colleagues and friends are correct, that this is actually redemptive. It actually may be taking unusual instruments and using it for God's purpose.

I tell the story of Lincoln in that regard. And this is not -- let me make clear to compare Trump to Lincoln.

GLENN: Hang on. I want you to make this. I don't want you to be interrupted. So hang on just a second. And then I want to come back and talk to you about Sam Houston in your book. The American Miracle: The Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic by Michael Medved. Grab this book. It makes a great Christmas gift for somebody. Back with Michael Medved.

Featured Image: John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the US Capitol rotunda.

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