American Nations
Colin Woodard

I came across this book just as my adventure that is leading me to Phoenix was kicking off. I could tell something was changing in my life trajectory, but I had no idea what yet. At just that time, this book started showing up everywhere in my Facebook feed. I ignored it for a while, but I had the sense I should give it a read. Eventually I decided to buy it and I found it fascinating. It has helped me understand our nation and pastoral ministry far more than I could have guessed it would! It also wound up being one of the links in the chain that resulted in us choosing Phoenix for our next undertaking.

In this book, Woodard argues that the North American continent is made up of eleven "nations" (roughly uniform cultures). He traces the historical founding of each nation, its cultural distinctive, and its development over the last several hundred years. Along the way various historical events are explored (the civil war being one of the most prominent) and US politics is framed as the interactions of these cultures with each other as they each vie to create the country in their own image.

I found this book fascinating. There is a portion of it that has become part of my toolset in understanding people and why they value what they do. As I travel to various places and work with different groups of people it has provided a kind of cultural map that helps me understand where someone may be coming from and why. In places where these nations come together (as they did in Champaign-Urbana, as well as they do in Chicago), it has proven invaluable for knowing how to pastorally engage diverse value sets.

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