The Myth of Christian America and the Victory of 50s Capitalists
Religion Dispatches has a great story right now on how Christianity got hitched to capitalism in the 1950s–yes, that’s right, the 1950s, not the 1750s or even 1850s, but 1950s–and not for the reasons you might expect. It had nothing to do with Communist Russia, and everything to do with social welfare New Dealism. Here’s a snippet of the interview with author Kevin Kruse talking about his new book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate American Invented Christian America.
“Though the Declaration of Independence refers to rights coming from the Creator, the Constitution only invokes God in its dating “in the year of our Lord.” The other references all keep the state out of religion: no religious tests for office holders, no established national religion, no interference from Congress with individual religious exercise.
More explicitly, the Founders made their feelings clear in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli—begun by Washington, signed by Adams, passed unanimously by a Senate half-full of signers of the Constitution—that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Over the nineteenth century, especially during the crisis of the Civil War, there were many Americans who insisted we should be (or already were) an officially Christian nation. So the idea of it began then, though the implementation of it wasn’t successful until the 1950s.
During the postwar religious revival, countless slogans and ceremonies that we now take for granted—the National Day of Prayer, the National Prayer Breakfast, the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the formal motto “In God We Trust”—were established in quick order.”
You can read the rest of the story here: The Invention of a Corporate Christian America.
As someone who has written about some of these issues before, mostly in the context of young earth creationism and the Cornwall Alliance, and the completely weird alliances that are formed between right wing reactionaries and way out religious fundamentalists, like the Cornwall Alliance, which leads them to take up campaigns like their “Resisting the Green Dragon,” where they try to convince people that religious arguments favoring environmental politics are really the devil in disguise, trying to convert you to the Paganism and become a demonic anti-capitalist agent, not to mention the biggest lie this side of the Atlantic.
No seriously, this is kind of crap they actually dump huge sums of money into. And the worst part is the blatant hypocrisy and lies they peddle, like saying that environmentalism is devastating to the world’s poor and threatens the sanctity of life. Uhmmm, last time I checked, capitalism pretty much has a monopoly on both.
Krus should be given kudos for writing a fascinating book peeling the rhetoric we hear so often from folks on the Fox shoutbox telling us about our “Christian values” and defending all things about this “Christian nation” as if they were, I dunno, written into the Constitution or something. Which of course they were not, as Kruse kindly reminds us!