Letters and Politics

KPFA Fund Drive – The Political Marriage of Capitalism and Christianity

With Kevin M. Kruse, professor of History at Princeton University in New Jersey. He is the author or co-editor of several books, his latest is One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.

About the book:

one-nation-under-godOne Nation Under God tells the story of how in the middle of the 20th century, corporate titans and evangelical activists created the pervasive myth that America was, is, and always will be a fundamentally Christian nation.

As Kruse argues, the belief that America is fundamentally and formally a Christian nation originated from corporate opposition to FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. Corporations from General Motors to Hilton Hotels bankrolled conservative clergymen, encouraging them to attack the New Deal as a program of “pagan statism” that perverted the central principle of Christianity: the sanctity and salvation of the individual. Their campaign for “freedom under God” culminated in the election of their close ally Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

In Eisenhower’s hands, a religious movement born in opposition to the government was transformed into one that fused faith and the federal government as never before. During the 1950s, Eisenhower revolutionized the role of religion in American political culture, inventing new traditions from inaugural prayers to the National Prayer Breakfast. Meanwhile, Congress added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and made “In God We Trust” the country’s first official motto. With private groups joining in, church membership soared to an all-time high of 69%. During this moment, Americans began to think of their country as an officially Christian nation.

But as Americans moved from broad generalities to the details of issues such as school prayer, cracks began to appear. Religious leaders began to reject this “lowest common denomination” public religion, leaving conservative political activists to champion it alone. In Richard Nixon’s hands, a politics that conflated piety and patriotism became sole property of the right.

Provocative and authoritative, One Nation Under God reveals how the unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin story that continues to define and divide American politics to this day.

*Get this interview and many others on the history of religion and politics as a part of our KPFA Fund drive Religion Pack, when you donate now. Other interviews included in the pack:

Karen Amstrong A History of Religious and Violence

Reza Aslan – Jesus and the Roman Occupation of Palestine

David Kertzer – The Pope and Mussolini

Gerald Russell – History of Religion

Edmund GharibThe History of the Ancient sites destroyed by ISIS

Jonhaton LyonsScientific Advancements of the Islamic Caliphates

Hatem Bazian and Iman Muhammad AliShia Sunni Divide

Denise SpellbergJefferson’s Quran

Blase Bonpane –  Liberation Theology

Sandra BlairThe History of the AME Church

Benjamin ZellerHeaven’s Gate

Bart EhrmanForgeries in the Bible

John Julius Norwich History of the Vatican

Mark EpsteinBuddhism

Reza ZarghameeAncient Persia

Peter StanfordJudas Iscariat

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