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One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

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The provocative and authoritative history of the origins of Christian America in the New Deal era We’re often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the belief that America is fundamentally and formally Christian originated in the 1930s. To fight the “slavery” of FDR’s Ne The provocative and authoritative history of the origins of Christian America in the New Deal era We’re often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the belief that America is fundamentally and formally Christian originated in the 1930s. To fight the “slavery” of FDR’s New Deal, businessmen enlisted religious activists in a campaign for “freedom under God” that culminated in the election of their ally Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. The new president revolutionized the role of religion in American politics. He inaugurated new traditions like the National Prayer Breakfast, as Congress added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and made “In God We Trust” the country’s first official motto. Church membership soon soared to an all-time high of 69 percent. Americans across the religious and political spectrum agreed that their country was “one nation under God.” Provocative and authoritative, One Nation Under God reveals how an unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin story that continues to define and divide American politics to this day.


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The provocative and authoritative history of the origins of Christian America in the New Deal era We’re often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the belief that America is fundamentally and formally Christian originated in the 1930s. To fight the “slavery” of FDR’s Ne The provocative and authoritative history of the origins of Christian America in the New Deal era We’re often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the belief that America is fundamentally and formally Christian originated in the 1930s. To fight the “slavery” of FDR’s New Deal, businessmen enlisted religious activists in a campaign for “freedom under God” that culminated in the election of their ally Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. The new president revolutionized the role of religion in American politics. He inaugurated new traditions like the National Prayer Breakfast, as Congress added the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and made “In God We Trust” the country’s first official motto. Church membership soon soared to an all-time high of 69 percent. Americans across the religious and political spectrum agreed that their country was “one nation under God.” Provocative and authoritative, One Nation Under God reveals how an unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin story that continues to define and divide American politics to this day.

30 review for One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Combs

    Excellent book! By reading this well-researched book you will learn things like: - A Christian minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote the original American Pledge of Allegiance without any mention of God because he thought that unifying church & state demeaned & insulted both. He also believed that Jesus taught economic equality and sided with the poor & working class. The original Pledge in 1892 reads, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, wi Excellent book! By reading this well-researched book you will learn things like: - A Christian minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote the original American Pledge of Allegiance without any mention of God because he thought that unifying church & state demeaned & insulted both. He also believed that Jesus taught economic equality and sided with the poor & working class. The original Pledge in 1892 reads, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." - The phrase "One Nation Under God" wasn't added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950's, when President Eisenhower's pastor -- who was strongly encouraged by corporate America in their campaign to unite religious piety with anti-government freedom in order to fight New Deal regulations -- urged Ike to add the phrase in 1954, who in turn urged Congress to pass legislation to include the phrase, which they did. - "E pluribus unum," which is Latin for "One from many," is the phrase that was adopted as the de facto US motto by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, & Benjamin Franklin. The change for a new, official US motto came in the 1950's via the powerful economic influence of American corporations seeking to dismantle the New Deal by making government regulations anti-God. Hence, an Act of Congress made "In God We Trust" the USA's new official motto in 1956. That phrase was added to paper money in 1957. - It was religious leaders who were not in bed with corporate America who had finally had enough and stopped prayer from being instituted in public schools in the 1950's, because they found the marriage of church & state demeaning to their beliefs, much like Francis Bellamy thought when he did not include any mention of God when he authored the original Pledge. Those are just a few of the many things you'll learn in this very informative historical book that has great relevance to contemporary American politics & culture. Read it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, there's a lot of useful information about the emergence of religion as a central part of American political life in the years surrounding World War II. I learned a lot about the highly ideological "Religion in American Life" and "Freedom Under God" campaigns, both orchestrated by businesses threatened by FDR's New Deal. Similarly, I hadn't been aware of how important Eisenhower was in establishing "civic deism" in our political life--prayer I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, there's a lot of useful information about the emergence of religion as a central part of American political life in the years surrounding World War II. I learned a lot about the highly ideological "Religion in American Life" and "Freedom Under God" campaigns, both orchestrated by businesses threatened by FDR's New Deal. Similarly, I hadn't been aware of how important Eisenhower was in establishing "civic deism" in our political life--prayer breakfasts, etc. Not an accident that the Eisenhower era gave rise to the addition of the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance of the establishment of "One Nation Under God" as the national motto enshrined on our money. Kruse certainly establishes his thesis that the now-take-for-granted assertions that "America has always been a Christian country" are myths created to mask the origins of the Christian/political constellation which has grown in power fairly consistently since the 1950s. But I have some problems with the book, reflected in the subtitle. At some points in the story, Kruse has a compelling case that the motivations for the emphasis on religion came from corporate sources. But once he gets to the 60s (which is my particular interest), he shifts to a much more general examination of places where religion enters into American politics: the Supreme Court cases regarding school prayer and Bible reading; the cynical Nixon use of religion as part of an appeal to the mythical "silent majority." There's certainly a connection between capitalism and a certain brand of Christianity, but Kruse takes the identification of Christianity with conservatism pretty much for granted and he never really considers the ways in which conservative Christians acted independently of corporate control. All of which is to say that while I found the book useful, it ultimately felt like Kruse had tilted his argument and analysis to create more buzz with the subtitle's questionable claim.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alan Johnson

    This is a very good account of the development of the concept of a "Christian nation" from its use as conservative propaganda against the New Deal to the present. The author interestingly shows how President Dwight D. Eisenhower transformed the idea from being simply part of the tool kit of big business to something that the anti-New Dealers had never intended: it took on a life of its own that has permeated American political culture ever since. Although the author does make an occasional bow t This is a very good account of the development of the concept of a "Christian nation" from its use as conservative propaganda against the New Deal to the present. The author interestingly shows how President Dwight D. Eisenhower transformed the idea from being simply part of the tool kit of big business to something that the anti-New Dealers had never intended: it took on a life of its own that has permeated American political culture ever since. Although the author does make an occasional bow to nineteenth-century developments, he sometimes seems to forget that the idea of a "Christian nation" was not invented in the twentieth century but rather in the nineteenth, specifically as part of the Second Great Awakening, which explicitly and implicitly opposed the separation of church and state consciously formulated by such Founders as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and embodied in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. For nineteenth-century developments, the reader is advised to consult David Sehat, The Myth of American Religious Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), which I have reviewed here and which Kruse himself cited in his book. See also Steven K. Green, The Second Disestablishment: Church and State in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), and Benjamin T. Lynerd, Republican Theology: The Civil Religion of American Evangelicals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). Although I do not agree with everything in these books, they are, along with Kruse's analysis, interesting histories of the anti-First Amendment meme in American history. All of these authors focus on the combination of religion and politics characteristic of religious nationalism or "civil religion," which is really a throwback to seventeenth-century theocratic dogmas. I develop this theme at considerable length in my book The First American Founder: Roger Williams and Freedom of Conscience (2015). Roger Williams (ca. 1603-83) opposed, on both religious and secular grounds, all attempts to merge religion and government, considering them, among other things, blasphemous. All such blending of religion and government results, inevitably, in government using religion for political ends. Kruse's One Nation under God demonstrates exactly how religion has become politicized in this manner during the last several decades. (Originally posted 5/4/2015; revised 10/5/2015)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bobby Sullivan

    There were times I had to put this book down, because it made me so angry. It incenses me that there are so many Americans who think "In God We Trust" has always been on our money, and "Under God" has always been in the Pledge of Allegiance. This book is important, because it goes back to first causes, when big business intentionally tried to cloak their libertarianism in religion, in order to destroy FDR's New Deal. We see the monster they unleashed every day in American politics.

  5. 5 out of 5

    victor harris

    A very cogent account of how business and religious interests merged to establish a formidable and influential flank in the Republican Party, and it could be argued - have come to dominate it. Initially, much of the alliance was part of an anti-FDR and anti-New Deal coalition, and it had no shortage of Democrats in the mix. From Eisenhower on, it would be the Republicans who would attract the most reactionary elements of Christianity as they sought to obliterate the barrier of church-state sepa A very cogent account of how business and religious interests merged to establish a formidable and influential flank in the Republican Party, and it could be argued - have come to dominate it. Initially, much of the alliance was part of an anti-FDR and anti-New Deal coalition, and it had no shortage of Democrats in the mix. From Eisenhower on, it would be the Republicans who would attract the most reactionary elements of Christianity as they sought to obliterate the barrier of church-state separation. Aided by corporate moguls with deep pockets (Marriott, etc.) and likes of Billy Graham (who claimed to be non-partisan, but acted aggressively on behalf of a series of Republican presidents), and unholy alliance was forged. It was anti-union, anti-liberalism, anti-government programs, and vehemently anti-feminist. Nixon and Reagan would parlay that into electoral strength and in today's political climate, any type of moderation has become anathema in Republican ranks as they are beholden to the Pat Robertson strain of Christianity. Dating back to Eisenhower where God became ensconced in the Pledge and on American currency, the United States as a " Christian nation" narrative has become part of the political fabric and dialogue, and no speech is complete without the mandatory " God bless you.", or some variation of that which invokes divine sanction for the candidate or policy in question. As Kruse shows, though some gestures are rather benign and part of the civic tradition, which was particularly true when America had a very active and large Christian population in the 50s, the modern incarnation has a disturbing theocratic strain that harbors anti-democratic impulses and contempt for compromise. When such factions are bankrolled by a wealthy elite, as they currently are, the very foundations of a pluralistic and representative form of government are imperiled. Excellent tracking of the lineage and evolution of the Christian Right/business hydra, and very good analysis.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melora

    Fascinating, edifying, and sometimes horrifying. Kruse examines how certain aspects of religion in American government and institutions which are often taken to be “foundational” are actually relatively recent innovations. Beginning in the 1930's, with the efforts of conservative businessmen to counteract FDR's “New Deal,” Kruse looks at conflicts over Social Security, unions, prayer in schools, the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. From backroom deals between businessmen and preachers to courtroom bat Fascinating, edifying, and sometimes horrifying. Kruse examines how certain aspects of religion in American government and institutions which are often taken to be “foundational” are actually relatively recent innovations. Beginning in the 1930's, with the efforts of conservative businessmen to counteract FDR's “New Deal,” Kruse looks at conflicts over Social Security, unions, prayer in schools, the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. From backroom deals between businessmen and preachers to courtroom battles, Congressional filibusters, Nixon's White House religious services, and Barack Obama's campaign speeches, Kruse reminds readers that the sort of nation we should be, which denomination, not to mention religion, if any, should dominate, what exactly we mean when we say “Under God,” are far from the settled issues which the famous phrase in his book's title would seem to suggest. (As a Christian reader who felt a bit of trepidation about possible anti-religious fervor before starting this, I will note that Kruse is not critical of religion or religious people but, rather, of those who calculatingly use the religious beliefs of their fellow citizens to manipulate their behavior to achieve their own economic and political ends.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Ashby

    Though the content was very compelling, I found the act of reading this book to be rather boring. I think the author did a great job on researching and sharing the information he gathered for this book, but the writing style to me was that of nonfiction that I tend not to dabble in. I found myself telling people as I was reading the book that I would have preferred to get this information in the form of a one hour podcast, rather than a 13 hour audio book. My two-star rating however is only a re Though the content was very compelling, I found the act of reading this book to be rather boring. I think the author did a great job on researching and sharing the information he gathered for this book, but the writing style to me was that of nonfiction that I tend not to dabble in. I found myself telling people as I was reading the book that I would have preferred to get this information in the form of a one hour podcast, rather than a 13 hour audio book. My two-star rating however is only a reflection of how much I enjoyed this book, rather than on the quality of the content or writing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    The story of how the persisting myth that America is a Christian nation was born and aggressively disseminated in the 1950s with the enthusiastic assistance of Corporate America. A fascinating, lucid, engaging history and, for those who believe in the strict separation of church and state, quite disturbing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Crunden

    A mind-blowing look at the way corporations and politicians used religion to gain power and money. Recommended reading for everyone.

  10. 4 out of 5

    matt

    This book does a great job explaining the history of the relationship between conservative economics & politics and evangelical Christianity in the United States. I always wondered why Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school and was a publicly faithful practitioner of Christianity, was rejected by self-identified “values voters” in favor of Ronald Reagan, an occasional church attender whose wife was better known for her astrological beliefs than anything approaching mainstream Christianity. The p This book does a great job explaining the history of the relationship between conservative economics & politics and evangelical Christianity in the United States. I always wondered why Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school and was a publicly faithful practitioner of Christianity, was rejected by self-identified “values voters” in favor of Ronald Reagan, an occasional church attender whose wife was better known for her astrological beliefs than anything approaching mainstream Christianity. The possible answer: a decades-old concerted effort post-New Deal to link unfettered capitalism and Christian theology. The Cold War’s part in 1950s public faith (adding “under God” to the Pledge, etc.) was content with which I was familiar, but the documentation of corporate interests soliciting sympathetic Christian ministers from FDR to Eisenhower to Nixon and beyond was new to me. It took me a relatively long time to finish this book, but it fills in gaps for me about confusing elements of conservative American positions on Christianity and faith. (It might also explains why the Beatitudes seem to get short shrift at GOP rallies). If you grew up Protestant in the USA, this will ring bells for you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    Kevin M Kruse, a historian at Princeton University, does an excellent job of showing how politics and religion have intermingled since the 1930s. However, the argument suggested in the subtitle -- that corporate American played a large role in this entanglement -- largely falls flat. Devout lawmakers of that time and evangelical preachers like Graham were more than capable of arousing passionate religious sentiment in their constituency that led to the legislating of morality. And thus while ico Kevin M Kruse, a historian at Princeton University, does an excellent job of showing how politics and religion have intermingled since the 1930s. However, the argument suggested in the subtitle -- that corporate American played a large role in this entanglement -- largely falls flat. Devout lawmakers of that time and evangelical preachers like Graham were more than capable of arousing passionate religious sentiment in their constituency that led to the legislating of morality. And thus while icons of corporate America do appear in his narrative, they played only a minimal role in launching many of the 1950s initiatives he describes, such as the modification of the pledge of allegiance to include "one nation under god" and the push to introduce school prayer. Still the book is well worth reading, even if at times it oversells some of its arguments.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Kruse relies on particular, extensive research and storytelling to make his point, always preferable to nonfiction books that simply generalize about a time period or event. You learn a lot from reading Kruse's book: that businessmen in the 1930s used religion (and preachers) to overturn the New Deal, that the phrase "One Nation Under God" was added to currency as late as the mid-20th century and so is *not* part of a longstanding religious history as we've believed, that we've been arguing abou Kruse relies on particular, extensive research and storytelling to make his point, always preferable to nonfiction books that simply generalize about a time period or event. You learn a lot from reading Kruse's book: that businessmen in the 1930s used religion (and preachers) to overturn the New Deal, that the phrase "One Nation Under God" was added to currency as late as the mid-20th century and so is *not* part of a longstanding religious history as we've believed, that we've been arguing about prayer in schools for the last seventy years, that church leaders often opposed mandating (or even) having prayer in schools, unlike today. Perhaps the most interesting part was the final chapter on Nixon, in which Kruse charts the ways that Nixon consciously, deliberately used the forms of religion to his political advantage; given how the Nixon presidency ended, the chapter serves to reinforce biblical warnings against having prophets who are in league with the government, or paid by the government; there's real benefit in having Daniels and Nathans who will challenge authority. Yet ultimately, the book does not entirely convince me its premise: that the idea we are "one nation under God" can be attributed largely to the corporate push against the New Deal. Yes, this is partly true, but it doesn't explain the fact that millions of everyday Americans were eager to see religion take a stronger hold in the public square, as religion's influence expanded beyond the New Deal to the Einsenhower presidency. Clearly religion was important to these people; having a religious country was important. Why? Since Kruse does not answer that question, we cannot wholly understand the reasons people see their country, specifically, as one of faith.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan Wilkinson

    One Nation Under God is an important book. We — Christians and Americans — need to understand our history. This history consists of far more than the agenda-driven narratives promulgated by advocacy groups, it also includes word and events and motivations that have all too often been conveniently forgotten. In One Nation Under God, Kruse offers us a potent reminder of where we have come from, and, perhaps more importantly, how far we still have to go. Read my full review here: http://www.patheos. One Nation Under God is an important book. We — Christians and Americans — need to understand our history. This history consists of far more than the agenda-driven narratives promulgated by advocacy groups, it also includes word and events and motivations that have all too often been conveniently forgotten. In One Nation Under God, Kruse offers us a potent reminder of where we have come from, and, perhaps more importantly, how far we still have to go. Read my full review here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2015/04/one-nation-under-god-how-corporate-america-invented-christian-america/

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jodie L

    Excellent. thoroughly researched and organized. Confirms what I have surmised all along. The profound impact of using religion, not only as a means for corporate America to propogate their own agenda, but to drive a wedge between those in this nation deemed as "the morale majority" and those on the "godless" immoral left, cannot be overstated.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Justin Powell

    It's a shame that this book was so short. The author easily could have added another 200+ pages if he had gone into the Reagan administration and on in more detail. I think there's an interesting story of change and resistance to the theocracy from Eisenhower to George Bush Sr. Hoping for a part two of this story!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I really like Kevin Kruse and this story is an essential and interesting one, but the book did not feel entirely complete and coherent to me. I think I was perhaps hoping for more analysis instead of details about the different people and movements involved in the fusion of politics with religion. It's a historians history so by that metric, it's successful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lene Jaqua

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a significant book for Christians to read through, in particular when contemplating their own personal deeply held private beliefs in conjunction with the overtly political ostentation that often passes for Christianity in America. Does ostentation equate piety? Does bending down on a public football field in front of forty thousand people in the stadium (and who knows how many watching on TV), does praying demonstrably in front of the entire nation during a sports event make you more or This is a significant book for Christians to read through, in particular when contemplating their own personal deeply held private beliefs in conjunction with the overtly political ostentation that often passes for Christianity in America. Does ostentation equate piety? Does bending down on a public football field in front of forty thousand people in the stadium (and who knows how many watching on TV), does praying demonstrably in front of the entire nation during a sports event make you more or less Christian? (Mat 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.) Is a president more or less Christian if -- he rarely darkens the door of a church -- but he likes to put on pious displays of religious leaders during all public ceremonies of state? (Meet Ronald Reagan) The book is well-documented (academically speaking), and one character that stands out to me is Billy Graham the ardent supporter of Richard Nixon, he was basically the White House pastor during those years. I did not realize the extent to which Graham was politicizing his Christianity during the 50s and 60s. I had been under the impression that his crusades were more neutral politically. The other 'character' that stands out is corporate America, the moneyed influences that shape political events, support political characters, and influence public thinking on many issues. The sections on prayer in school are significant not just for their thorough historical detail, covering arguments on both sides of the issue during the 50s and 60s. It was a complicated matter where there were pious men and women on both sides of the issue. DO we want a national watered down one-size-fits-all prayer in school that is devoid of content, in order to say (show) that we prayed? Some devout people said no. Prayer has to belong in the private realm because making prayer public makes it meaningless because we do not agree on what it should say. (A side rarely explained today where prayer being absent in the public schools is seen as a lack of godliness). If you have always wondered why Christians tend to vote with people who are pro-oil, anti-environment, pro-business, anti-government regulation, look here. It starts with abortion as a lithmus test, it continues with those who advocate against abortion having all those other interests (oil, tobacco, sugar, etc.), and then you as an abortion opposer swallow the whole rest of that party platform. -- It is politics as a brilliant stroke. This book is a hard read. It is long. It has almost too many documented details in it. (Took me 6 months to read gradually at night, a snippet now and then). -- It does leave me with the sense that while I remain deeply committed to Christianity and consider myself religiously conservative, given the currently political climate where we are wrapping a not-so-holy president both in the flag and (as far as we can) around the cross, I want to retreat privately and not be wedded to party or ostentation, because it seems to me that in all things American the bigger it gets and the more political it gets, the more moneyed interests are infused (on either side of the political aisle) the less Christian it really is. Next, I would like to read about about the corporate or lobbying interests that control the left of the political spectrum, of their brushings with Christianity, and their ostentation.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    One Nation Under God is a book that should be of interest to a lot of people.  One can gather from the subtitle, How Corporate America Invented Christian America, that it’s approaching the topic from a left-leaning point of view, but don’t let that put you off - Kruse’s coverage of the issue is surprisingly even-handed.   The book paints a fairly ugly picture of how a cabal of shrewd, rich, white men commandeered American Christianity and forcibly injected a new, strident, politically loaded flav One Nation Under God is a book that should be of interest to a lot of people.  One can gather from the subtitle, How Corporate America Invented Christian America, that it’s approaching the topic from a left-leaning point of view, but don’t let that put you off - Kruse’s coverage of the issue is surprisingly even-handed.   The book paints a fairly ugly picture of how a cabal of shrewd, rich, white men commandeered American Christianity and forcibly injected a new, strident, politically loaded flavor of it into public life for their own ends, leaving inconvenient portions of the faith on the cutting room floor along the way.  Middle America, hungry for a religious revival, or at least willing to believe they should be, jumped aboard without looking too closely at what they were buying into, and readily accepted the new brand of public religion without noticing that it came with some pretty heavy political baggage. The new religion-infused form of American politics, and the politics-infused form of American Christianity, snowballed from there. Kruse doesn’t editorialize much while telling this story.  He doesn’t have to – the real outrage is not so much, “look what those right-wingers did,” but the simple fact of how religion was intentionally politicized and how the new Christian brand was aggressively (and successfully) marketed  to the nation.  It would be an equally ugly story no matter who did it.  It makes me extra mad that right-wingers did it to advance a right-wing agenda that I don’t remotely agree with, and it also makes me extra mad that in the process of politicizing religion, they stirred up religious division that harms religious minorities like me, but it should make anyone mad, including Christians.  It’s not in any way anti-Christian, but a lot of the story may be hard for Christians to accept… because who wants to hear that the version of their religious faith they’ve been taught all their lives is very likely a product that was carefully and expertly edited, packaged, and marketed to the public for someone else’s political gain?   Viewed another way, One Nation Under God is simply a history of a certain aspect of American politics.  Many of us, including many of my conservative friends, have noticed that the modern Republican party seems to consist of a couple of different elements whose messages sometimes get mixed and even seem to conflict:  There are the fiscal conservatives who believe in hands-off government, and that the government should be less involved in telling people how to live their daily lives. And then there is the religious element who have very firm ideas about how people should live from a religious moral perspective and don’t mind legislating their religious principles into law. More than one of my conservative friends have told me, “I’m a real conservative, and to me that means less government intrusion in people’s lives – I don’t really think all of this religious and moral stuff should be in politics at all.”   If you’ve ever wondered how these two disparate elements came to be represented under the same banner, One Nation Under God tells the story of how those two very different factions got in bed together and founded today's religious right. The link between religion and right-wing politics is a shorter history than you might think because it doesn’t start with the Founding Fathers, as the belief is commonly cultivated today. It starts in the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the era of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. A little surprisingly to me, Kruse doesn't delve deeper. I suspect he decided he didn't need to. Once you hear the story of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s, it's obvious enough that this was an utterly new development in American history, regardless of arguments about whether America was intended to be a “Christian” nation from its founding. Even as the orchestrators of the new religious right were building it, they were busily telling themselves and everyone else that they were only reviving the public religiosity that the nation's founding fathers had always intended. The new religious right slipped “under God” into the pledge of allegiance and “In God We Trust” onto the money almost before anyone could notice, and within twenty years most people willingly forgot what recent developments those had been and quickly came to consider them cornerstones of the American way. They defined taxation as a violation of the eighth commandment (“thou shalt not steal”) and any support for government programs designed to help the poor as a violation of the tenth (“thou shalt not covet”), and thus buried the Social Gospel under a wave of libertarianism, with a thin frosting of religion. This history of political religion in the 20th century is also necessarily a history of fighting over it. It quickly became apparent that there had been good reasons to keep religion out of politics. While simple things like “under God” in the pledge and “In God We Trust” on the money smacked of a vague and relatively inoffensive “ceremonial deism” that only atheists and pagans could object to (and who cares what they think, riiiiight???[/sarcasm]), things quickly became more complicated when it came to actual religious observances like prayer and Bible readings in public schools. In the new, ultra-pious environment, a popular push sprang up for more and more public demonstrations of faith, and schools became a major target. Just about everyone wanted more religion in schools, but funnily enough, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants couldn't seem to agree on exactly what form prayer and Bible readings should take. Surprisingly enough, the ones who complained the loudest were the Catholics. By papal decree, the King James Bible was and still is considered non-authoritative, and Catholics refused to even hear of their children reading from it at school. But out of the ensuing infighting, they got a result that made Catholics, Jews, and Protestants all co-equals in unhappiness – NO official prayers or Bible readings in public schools. The hilariously ironic thing about this outcome is that they hoisted themselves with their own petards - prayer and Bible readings in schools had been going on basically forever, sporadically and determined at a local, school-by-school level, and no one had ever thought to fight over it because each school (and individual schools were generally pretty homogeneous in those days) did what worked for it. But the new religious right was so keen to legislate religion on a statewide or even national basis that they drove too hard to the basket and fouled. And yet they've been loudly blaming other people for “expelling God from public schools” ever since. So next time someone bitches about how the "godless heathens" or whatever kicked God out of school, you can point out with confidence that in fact it was primarily Christians who kicked God out of school because they couldn't agree on exactly what form God should take in a public school.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Book

    One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse “One Nation Under God" is an even-handed book that makes the record clear on where America’s religious identity came from. Professor Kevin Kruse makes the compelling historical case that America’s religious identity had its roots in the domestic politics against Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s. This scholarly 386-page book includes eight chapters broken out into the following three parts: I. Creation One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin Kruse “One Nation Under God" is an even-handed book that makes the record clear on where America’s religious identity came from. Professor Kevin Kruse makes the compelling historical case that America’s religious identity had its roots in the domestic politics against Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s. This scholarly 386-page book includes eight chapters broken out into the following three parts: I. Creation, II. Consecration, and III. Conflict. Positives: 1. Interesting and well-written book. Fair and respectful treatment. 2. A fascinating premise, how Corporate America invented a Christian America. 3. Kruse does not waste time in establishing his thesis for the book. “This book argues, the postwar revolution in America’s religious identity had its roots not in the foreign policy panic of the 1950s but rather in the domestic politics of the 1930s and early 1940s.” 4. The origins of the union of Christianity and capitalism. “At First Congregational and elsewhere, the minister reached out warmly to the wealthy, assuring them that their worldly success was a sign of God’s blessings and brushing off the criticism of clergymen who disagreed.” 5. The anti-New Deal movement. “For Fifield and his associates, the phrase “freedom under God”—in contrast with what they saw as oppression under the federal government—became an effective new rallying cry in the early 1950s.” 6. The role that Billy Graham played in American politics. “As the Washington crusade began in January 1952, Graham made clear his intent to influence national politics.” 7. It’s always interesting to read about the fathers of prominent politicians and religious leaders of today or recent past. See how many you find. 8. Political opportunism illustrated. “Vereide recognized that the tensions of the Cold War could be exploited to win more converts to his cause.” 9. A comprehensive look at the history of the National Day of Prayer. “In an apparent nod to the previous year’s “Freedom Under God” observance, which was set to be repeated in 1952, Truman selected the Fourth of July as the date for the first National Day of Prayer.” 10. Eisenhower unlikely role as the spiritual leader of a nation. “Eisenhower’s relationship with the Freedoms Foundation ran back to its founding. In his first meeting with Belding in September 1948, he discovered that the ad man shared his belief that the free enterprise system was in desperate need of defense.” “FOR EISENHOWER, THE “GOVERNMENT UNDER God” theme of the first prayer breakfast became a blueprint for his entire administration.” 11. Key stats that show the influence of religion and politics. “The decade and a half after the Second World War, however, saw a significant surge: the percentage claiming a church membership climbed to 57 percent in 1950 and then spiked to an all-time high of 69 percent at the end of the decade.” 12. The drive to declare the United States as one based on the Bible. In God We Trust. “In July 1953, the National Association of Evangelicals arranged to have Eisenhower, Nixon, and other high-ranking officials sign a statement declaring that the United States government was based on biblical principles.” 13. Interesting tidbits about our founding fathers. “The founding fathers had felt no need to acknowledge “the law and authority of Jesus Christ,” and neither had subsequent generations of American legislators.” 14. A comprehensive look at the history of the Pledge of Allegiance. “THE ORIGINAL PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, much like the Constitution itself, did not acknowledge the existence of God. Its author, Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister from Rome, New York, was a decidedly religious man, but when he wrote the pledge in the 1890s he described himself as something that would seem an oxymoron in Eisenhower’s America: a ‘Christian socialist’.” 15. Interesting history on the need to create an illusion of historical accuracy. 16. Separation of church and state. “The justice reached back to borrow a metaphor coined in a letter to his fellow Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, two and a half centuries before. “In the words of Jefferson,” Black wrote, “the clause against establishment of religion by laws was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and state.” “Religious liberty was essential, he told his wife, because “when one religion gets predominance, they immediately try to suppress the others.” 17. A look at the quest for school prayer amendment. The tactics used by both sides. “The issue is that agencies of government cannot avoid favoring one denomination and hurting another by the practical decisions that have to be made by government authority on what version of the Bible shall be imposed and what prayer. The churches know this and that is why they are against the Becker Amendment.” 18. Prayers at the White House. “In creating a “kind of sanctuary” in the East Room, Nixon committed the very sin the founders had sought to avoid.” 19. Republicans use of religion for political gain. “Much as Reagan used school prayer as a partisan issue, Bush used the pledge.” 20. An excellent epilogue. 21. Notes included. A section of abbreviations. Negatives: 1. Interesting but on the dry side. The book is scholarly but the author lacks flare. 2. Lacks conviction. The book feels more like a cold report than an engaging thesis. 3. Charts and timelines would have added value. 4. No formal bibliography. 5. At $14.92 for a Kindle book when the Hardcover was available for $15.70 at time of purchase may hurt some trees. In summary, this is really a 3.5 star book but I’m feeling generous. On the one hand, it’s an interesting topic that is covered in a fair and respectful manner while on the other hand it lacks panache. Kruse provides great insights into the evolution of the religious right and makes a compelling case of their true origins. A worthwhile book to read, I recommend it! Further recommendations: “Why the Religious Right Is Wrong about Separation of Church and State” by Robert Boston, “Nonbeliever Nation” by David Niose, “The Dark Side of Christian History” by Helen Ellerbe, “Birth Control, Insurance Coverage, & the Religious Right” by A.F. Alexander, “The God Argument” by A.C. Grayling, “Freethinkers” by Susan Jacoby, “Moral Combat” by Sikivu Hutchinson, “Republican Gomorrah” by Max Blumenthal, “American Fascists” by Chris Hedges, “Doubt” by Jennifer Michael Hecht, and “Society Without God” by Phil Zuckerman.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    During the Great Depression in the 1930’s, industrialists tried to counter the selflessness of the Social Gospel but failed. They said the welfare state was a “perversion of Christian Doctrine” and that the focus of Christianity was instead salvation. These industrialists created what is called Christian Libertarianism. They greeted each other with “Hail Capitalism… err, I meant Christianity, you know the guy with the beard.” One of their leaders, Fifield, said that to enjoy fish you have to tak During the Great Depression in the 1930’s, industrialists tried to counter the selflessness of the Social Gospel but failed. They said the welfare state was a “perversion of Christian Doctrine” and that the focus of Christianity was instead salvation. These industrialists created what is called Christian Libertarianism. They greeted each other with “Hail Capitalism… err, I meant Christianity, you know the guy with the beard.” One of their leaders, Fifield, said that to enjoy fish you have to take the bones out and so he takes out all the wealth and poverty stuff of the bible to create a new lean version, so that he can “morally” pedal financial success devoid of helping others. Economic success thus became a “sign” of God’s blessings. These Christian Businessmen (I’ll call them CB) had deep soul-searching questions – would Jesus want me to be a slumlord to better receive his financial blessings? Or, God willing, would he prefer I gentrify and quickly evict for greater long-term profit, in your Holy Name, My Lord? CB focused on stopping the growth of government. Their mantra, “Glorification of the state is a denial of God” meant the U.S. giving welfare and anything to humans to end the Depression was somehow a denial of God. They were all consciously New Deal killers with such successful infantile taunts as “The battle to collectivize America!” and “Will you be free to celebrate Christmas in the future?” Next stop was reframing the Declaration of Independence as “a purely libertarian manifesto”. To Kevin, the Declaration was not first a demand to be free from government, but was a demand for the exact government the colonists needed and followed a long list of their grievances about the LACK of government. Walt Disney started championing the little guy with Mickey Mouse, the Three Little Pigs and the Seven Dwarves but Walt took a right turn in the 40’s. Billy Graham invented a new swing dance – first you give labor the cold shoulder, then wave goodbye to the Social Gospel, and you smile and bend over for business. Now you’re doing the Graham Cracker! Billy thought labor strikes were “inherently selfish and sinful”. He was Christian Cold War paranoia generator #1. “He insisted that the poor in other nations, like those of his own, needed no government assistance.” All they needed was Christ he said – although a Christ who wouldn’t dream of picking them up if they fell. Of these such CB men, Eisenhower wrote, “their number is negligible and they are stupid.” And so, Eisenhower would not roll back the “welfare state” they despised. However, it was Eisenhower who sacralized the state, started the odious Pledge of Allegiance with the Bellamy Salute and prayer breakfasts, and who put God on the dollar bill (my grandfather HAW put the pyramid on the back on the dollar bill and I think that’s way cooler). “The state was now suffused with religion.” And you can thank Eisenhower for the greatest misallocation of energy wealth in human history (James Howard Kunstler): the creation of Suburbia and the Interstate Highway System. Thank you for starting us all living away from our jobs and food sources and friends and away from instead an Interstate Train System that uses shared energy (multiple riders) as well as far less energy than Otto’s engine! By 1953, did you know that one out of ten books sold in the U.S. were religious in nature? Luckily, I have some of those 1953 CB titles: “Is Mammon for You?”, “The Bible - minus the Commie Pinko bits”, “Christian Charity Stays at Home”, “If Your Priest Denies it, it Didn’t Happen”, “The J Man wants those Money Changers Back In”, “Last Supper Recipes”, “Why Jesus is White, but Not Too Good Looking”, “Herod was Horrid, and other Poems”, “How Long is God’s Beard? and other religious questions”, “Jesus Told Me to Bomb Korea’s Food Supplies”, “Turning Water into Wine for Profit” and the big hit, “Enforcing Jim Crow While Loving Christ -4th Edition”. Attention U.S. patriots: We don’t need outsiders trying to destroy our democracy and our freedoms – we are doing that perfectly well by ourselves, thank you very much. Cecil B. DeMille despised the New Deal and so the Old Testament films became his focus. For Justice Hugo Black, supporting the ethics of Jesus was more important than personal divinity. JFK backed off from the church and state thing but Nixon was a master of manipulating religion as a political instrument.” His aide Charles Colson said, “One of my jobs was to romance religious leaders… I found them to be about the most pliable.” Historically, James Fifield and Abraham Vereide were the biggest names in providing “the right with its own brand of public religion that could challenge the Social Gospel of the Left.” Reagan was divorced and rarely attended church – what a perfect candidate to be re-spun into “the” religious candidate. In a 1980 Gallup Poll half of Americans thought the Bible was unerring (God help us) and 80% thought Jesus was divine (especially in lip gloss with a little rouge). Anyway, after reading about that extremely depressing poll about the intelligence level of the average American, the book ended. A good solid book, that taught me what I told you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    In 1954, Congress followed Eisenhower's lead, adding the phrase "under God" to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. A similar phrase, "In God We Trust," was added to a postage stamp for the first time in 1954 and then to paper money the next year; in 1956, it became the nation's first official motto. During the Eisenhower era Americans were told, time and time again, that the nation not only should be a Christian nation but also that it had always been one. They soon came to believe t In 1954, Congress followed Eisenhower's lead, adding the phrase "under God" to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. A similar phrase, "In God We Trust," was added to a postage stamp for the first time in 1954 and then to paper money the next year; in 1956, it became the nation's first official motto. During the Eisenhower era Americans were told, time and time again, that the nation not only should be a Christian nation but also that it had always been one. They soon came to believe that the United States of America was "one nation under God." And they've believed it ever since. I could write an endless review praising this book but not even that would do this book justice. Kruse has done his research remarkably well on this topic. He goes through the years to show the stages of how America's history was rewritten to fit the Christian narrative. It begins to show how business leaders back in the 30s decided to overturn the New Deal since they felt it imposed on their rights - or perhaps their money, most likely. And through the 40s where businessmen joined with Christian leaders to convince America's citizens they should embrace Christianity and capitalism, because the way they saw it, these two were intertwined; capitalism only worked under God. It continued through the 50s and culminated in Eisenhower's presidency and has continued ever since. It wasn't that easy, which Kruse shows. It might be difficult to imagine today that back in the mid-1900s several religious leaders were firmly against Bible reading in schools or mandatory praying in schools as well. Back in those days, many religious leaders, Christian as well as Jewish, firmly believed in the separation of church and state. Several opposed the "one nation under God" and "in God we trust" since they either felt this devalued their own faith or that such general terms were an offense, a least common denomination religious phrase that had no meaning, and if it had no meaning, why use it at all? They opposed endorsement of one particular faith from the government and thus, if say Catholics wanted "their" sanctioned Bible version to be used for mandatory reading, that would impose on the other student's faiths if their faith required a different Bible, or a different Holy text. As said, much of this might be hard to grasp in today's political climate (in the U.S.) where a presidential candidate more or less "have" to be religious, or at least claim to be. Also as said, my review won't do this book justice, for Kruse packs the book with facts; it leaves no stone untouched. He also puts no personal opinion on the matter; he merely states the facts and connects the dots without taking shots at either religion, secularity, or others. It simply shows how the Christian right and capitalists in the form of business leaders worked to shape the country's perception of itself. This history reminds us that our public religion is, in large measure, an invention of the modern era. The ceremonies and symbols that breathe life into the belief that we are "one nation under God" were not, as many Americans believe, created alongside the nation itself. Their parentage stems not from the founding fathers but from and era much closer to our own, the era of our own fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers. This fact need not diminish their importance; fresh tradition can be more powerful than older ones adhered to out of habit. Nevertheless, we do violence to our past if we treat certain phrases - "one nation under God," "In God We Trust" - as sacred text handed down to us from the nation's founding. Instead, we are better served if we understand these utterances for what they are: political slogans that speak not to the origins of our nation but to a specific point in its not-so-distant past. If they are to mean anything to us now, we should understand what they meant then.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Anyone who tries to sell you the notion that America was founded as a "Christian nation" is full of shit, as this book explains. Most of what's taken for granted as proof, such as the Pledge of Allegiance, and "In God We Trust" as our motto was cooked up in the 50's, mainly as residue from the Red Scare of The Cold War, and exploited by corporations to keep the sheep in line. Should be required reading for Everyone.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Baal Of

    I was angry almost every minute I was reading this book. It's worth reading, but it's damn infuriating. I had no idea that Christian libertarianism had been around for so long. I will also have no more patience for people who say that removing "In God we trust" from the currency is a waste of time. That fact is used continuously to bolster that claim that this is a Christian nation.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    "The Devil is in the details' as the saying goes and this book is dense with quotes from newspapers, historical brochures, speeches, letters and personal memoirs that "challenges America's assumptions about the basic relationship between religion and politics in their nation's history." Why do so many think we were founded as a Christian nation? Despite the facts found in reading the documents of the founding fathers who were clearly deists and Thomas Jefferson's insistence to 'build a wall betw "The Devil is in the details' as the saying goes and this book is dense with quotes from newspapers, historical brochures, speeches, letters and personal memoirs that "challenges America's assumptions about the basic relationship between religion and politics in their nation's history." Why do so many think we were founded as a Christian nation? Despite the facts found in reading the documents of the founding fathers who were clearly deists and Thomas Jefferson's insistence to 'build a wall between church and state" many hold that 'in God we Trust' is a statement found in the Constitution. Where did that belief come from? As it turns out, a period of time much like today when the country was struggling to recover from a depression brought on by the horrendous income inequality and stock market speculation of the late 1920's. As a result, FDR's administration was putting together what is known as "The New Deal" to put people back to work through government funded projects to improve infrastructure and new regulations like Glass-Steagal for Wall Street. It was then that "corporate titans enlisted conservative clergyman in an effort to promote new political arguments embodied in the phrase 'freedom under God". As the private correspondence and public claims of men leading this charge make clear, this new ideology was designed to defeat the state power its architects feared the most....FDR's New Deal. With ample funding from major corporations, prominent industrialists, and business lobbies such as the national Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce in the 1930's and 1940's, these new evangelists for free enterprise promoted a vision best characterized as "Christian libertarianism"." (from introduction) In my opinion, we are seeing the same arguments today. Those that have want to keep what they have inherited. Those who labor to create the wealth are to somehow to 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps' despite unfair tax policies, and lack of enough income to buy the products they make much less pay the rent. Combining religion with politics causes division rather than 'one nation under God." As the book thoroughly shows, division occurs over whose religion? whose god? whose prayer? whose practice? And that pesky Constitution that says there shall be no establishment of a state religion... Highly recommend. The story of our history contained here is quite the eye opener. 60 pages of footnotes, several pictures of documents and events of the time are included.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    Disclaimer: I am a Christian. However, I am a Christian who realizes that American Christianity has become a political tool, a corporatized Christianity, if you will. I read this book in hopes of learning more about this cultural and religious shift. Kruse's arguments focuses mainly on the 1950s-1980s, specifically on attempts by Christian denominations with national councils to influence the three branches of federal government. One cannot help but draw connections between their actions and the Disclaimer: I am a Christian. However, I am a Christian who realizes that American Christianity has become a political tool, a corporatized Christianity, if you will. I read this book in hopes of learning more about this cultural and religious shift. Kruse's arguments focuses mainly on the 1950s-1980s, specifically on attempts by Christian denominations with national councils to influence the three branches of federal government. One cannot help but draw connections between their actions and the Seven Mountain Dominion movement currently active in the United States. As far as it describes how American Christianity became political, Kruse's work is a success. However, Kruse has not delivered on his promise to explain how "Corporate America Created Christian America". By focusing on these few decades of the 20th century and with only anecdotal reference to the 18th and 19th centuries, Kruse explains modern America Christianity without actually tackling the question "Was America A Christian Nation?". Now, Kruse is much more credible than pseudohistorian David Barton, who believes that America was intentionally founded as some kind of Christian utopia which has since been corrupted, perverted, and rewritten by a vast liberal conspiracy. While Kruse is not necessarily kind to Christians, his argument does not rest on conspiracy but on fact. However, one of these facts is that he ignores the Christian tradition in America, only pointing out that the arguments in favor of a Christian America as presented in the mid-1900s rested on new arguments. For his misleading thesis and his relative inattention to two hundred years of American history, I cannot give Kruse an higher than three stars. A shame, really, for such a well-written book on America's Corporate Christianity. Change the thesis/subtitle, and I'd give it five stars. Note: I imagine that Barton's supporters and some of the more fundamental Christian denominations would take issue with Kruse's work. I would ask that they carefully read this book and ask "where is Kruse wrong?". Reading this book with an open mind may help some realize that they've conflated patriotism with Christianity.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    A highly researched investigation into the origins of American civic religion as currently manifest in its emphasis on the "Judeo-Christian" tradition and particularly the theme of "One Nation Under God." Kruse writes books with explosive subtitles with provocative theses that are laid out with impressive detail and saturated with primary source quotations. While most attempt to make sense of America's "civic deism" beginning in the 1950s, Kruse goes back to the 1930s with the coordination betwe A highly researched investigation into the origins of American civic religion as currently manifest in its emphasis on the "Judeo-Christian" tradition and particularly the theme of "One Nation Under God." Kruse writes books with explosive subtitles with provocative theses that are laid out with impressive detail and saturated with primary source quotations. While most attempt to make sense of America's "civic deism" beginning in the 1950s, Kruse goes back to the 1930s with the coordination between certain religious leaders who espoused a "Christian libertarianism" and who found the New Deal to be pagan socialism and the corporate titans of the day who were looking for some good PR and image rehabilitation. The story centered on Fifield and Vereide and their promotions interweaving "Judeo-Christianity," "freedom of association," "free markets," and the like, and all in contrast to the current government which to them was socialist, pagan, and threatening these values. By the 1950s they found their man in Eisenhower, who very much was about developing a more religious character to the nation. Kruse lays out exactly how Eisenhower promoted a "civic deism," encouraging religious belief and participation, "whatever it was." Yes, it was critiqued for its hollowness and vacuousness, but the appeal worked. All the forces behind the "Christian libertarianism" of the 30s and 40s supported Eisenhower, and Eisenhower responded with all kinds of appeals for civic religion: America became "one nation under God," in contrast to the godless Communists; Eisenhower promoted the National Prayer Breakfast; all kinds of pageantry was on display, often funded by corporate titans behind the scenes, espousing the strength of America as its faith, with few being confused about the nature of that faith: somewhat Jewish, but very much Christian. The message was sent, and heard loud and clear: to be a good American meant to have a faith in God, particularly in Christianity. Religious participation increased to a heretofore unseen level in America, and one which would never be eclipsed. And yet Eisenhower was a bit of a "poison pill" for the "Christian libertarians," because he had no interest in dismantling the New Deal state. Instead, the very things the "Christian libertarians" were trying to paint as pagan and socialist, and their skepticism of the government, was instead "baptized" and made part of this "Christian nation" and its ideology. Whereas promoting this civic deistic religion was a "right wing" thing to do in the 30s and 40s, it lost its partisan association in the 50s and became a bipartisan project. Kruse details how "under God" was added to the pledge at this time and the establishment of "In God We Trust" as the national motto. Kruse then describes the limits of this civic religion as it would become manifest in the 50s and 60s. Generic appeals to being under God were one thing. Gideons pushing the KJV on schoolchildren was perfectly fine to many, but deeply offensive to Jewish people, Catholics, and a few other groups. The imposition of a particular prayer in the state of New York led to the beginning of questioning about prayer and devotional time in schools; it would soon be entirely dismantled. Kruse does well at documenting, in detail, the response to these actions, especially the advancement of a school prayer amendment to the Constitution, and how the fault line developed between the institutional heads who generally spoke for Christian denominations and the "common man" and the "common preacher" who did not maintain the same fears or concerns. Kruse then compares and contrasts the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, demonstrating how the latter consciously attempted to turn back the clock, as if 1960-1968 did not exist, with Billy Graham prominent in his activities, a religious service in the East Wing of the White House, and a very deliberate appeal to the conservative religious voter. But Kruse demonstrates well that it was no longer unifying the nation, but a source of division. Kruse ends his main thesis in this period before 1972, but in an epilogue brings the story to the Obama years: the rise of Reagan, the faith talk of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama, and all of it coming back to the development and advancement of the civil deistic religion over this period from 1935 to 1955. There is a lot here worthy of consideration. Kruse does well at showing that while "Christian libertarianism" was one way of looking at Jesus, it was by no means the only one; FDR had a Christian faith, and associated his New Deal work with that faith. One could imagine an America in which the social safety net was understood in Christian terms and lauded and valued as such. It is worth noting that Fifield may have been politically right-wing but theologically was liberal. He rejected those aspects of the Gospel story that did not fit his libertarian and free market conceptions. While today those who are religiously liberal tend to do the opposite, and emphasize Jesus' concern for the oppressed, it's a good reminder that once one is untethered from the text one can go in a host of directions and in the end distort what God has made known in Jesus. Kruse provides great benefit in providing an often unacknowledged dimension in the explosion of religiosity in the postwar period. No doubt there would have still been a resurgence in faith even if there were not this sustained "marketing" of civic deism by the Eisenhower administration; nevertheless, what Eisenhower wrought has implications which last until today. The message, again, was that a good American goes to church. The driver was not faith but patriotism and citizenship. Throughout faith was secondary to the American project, and it has ever been thus since. To this day America has broad majorities who have faith in God; and yet, when probed, it is evident that faith is not deeply in what God has done in Jesus. It barely knows the substance of what the Bible teaches, but is very strong on the USA. It has advanced the agenda of the USA in whatever the USA has done, especially the agenda favored by conservatives. It does not handle critique of American policy or agendas well. And it certainly has not weathered the demographic battles of recent days well: American Evangelicalism today is not known as much for embodying Jesus as it is the GOP agenda, and has reached its apotheosis with the current executive, who in his life embodies almost everything which Jesus would be against. Such is almost the inevitable conclusion when conservative ideological nationalism is the driver, and faith is in the backseat. No argument: some who came to the pews because they wanted to be good Americans learned of the Christ, repented, and followed Him faithfully. Many of their children would become immersed in Christianity and would practice it. It wasn't a terrible move. But it benefited the state, and a particular political ideology, more than it benefited the Kingdom of God in Christ, and the latter has suffered because of it. Highly recommended for consideration.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    This book looks at the how America got "In God We Trust" on our coins and "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance during the 50s. The common wisdom of today is that it was mostly a reaction to the spread of 'atheistic' communism. As is usually the case, the common wisdom is wrong and only tells a part of the story. A good history of a subject looks at all the nuances, moving parts and complexity of the times before showing how the common wisdom has gotten it wrong. This book does just that. The a This book looks at the how America got "In God We Trust" on our coins and "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance during the 50s. The common wisdom of today is that it was mostly a reaction to the spread of 'atheistic' communism. As is usually the case, the common wisdom is wrong and only tells a part of the story. A good history of a subject looks at all the nuances, moving parts and complexity of the times before showing how the common wisdom has gotten it wrong. This book does just that. The author's major thesis that he lays out in this book is that the corporations needed allies in their fight against Roosevelt's New Deal policies and realized that Christian Americans would be a perfect ally. The religious saw the government as a threat to "Freedom Under God" and this led to "Christian Libertarians". The author looks at all the moving pieces and how they interacted primarily through out the 1950s and into the mid 60s. We came really close to having a constitutional amendment allowing for official sanctioned prayers in government building and schools. Billy Graham seems to be wrong about everything. From Graham telling us "there were no labor unions or strikes in the Garden of Eden", but there was a talking snake to his fervently desiring forced prayers within schools and steadfastly standing with Nixon. The Unitarians seemed to be right about everything and keep popping up through out the story on the correct side of history. Overall the book makes for a good story and is well worth a listen to learn a more nuanced telling of history for a period of time when religion tried to rule our lives and did not respect the secular.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Kevin M. Kruse's One Nation Under God looks at the rise of political evangelism in modern America, and its long history as a cat's paw for reactionary politics. Kruse's study focuses mainly on the period from the 1930s, when corporate and conservative interests embraced Christianity as a weapon against the New Deal, through the battles over the Pledge of Allegiance in the '50s and its evolution to stifle criticism during the Vietnam era. He views the whole thing as a largely cynical invention of Kevin M. Kruse's One Nation Under God looks at the rise of political evangelism in modern America, and its long history as a cat's paw for reactionary politics. Kruse's study focuses mainly on the period from the 1930s, when corporate and conservative interests embraced Christianity as a weapon against the New Deal, through the battles over the Pledge of Allegiance in the '50s and its evolution to stifle criticism during the Vietnam era. He views the whole thing as a largely cynical invention of opportunistic preachers and politicians looking to give a noble sheen to jingoism, greed and opposition to social progress. Kruse also argues that, in large part because of the Cold War, the idea of a "Christian America" became an unchallenged bipartisan consensus, to the point where even slight deviation from it became suspect - and when opponents of the status quo, be they mainstream liberals or Civil Rights advocates or antiwar protesters, were deemed not only "un-American" but ungodly (citing a particularly cynical Nixon speech in Knoxville where he shared the stage with Billy Graham to heckle and demean protesters). A more complete study might discuss earlier evangelical movements that shaped politics (19th century abolitionists, populists and progressives were, as he notes in passing, happy to embrace evangelism to endorse their ideas) but it's clear that the examples he cites are more directly relevant to our current situation. However many religious liberals and progressives exist, the Right has weaponized political Christianity to a pervasive, truly frightening degree, and Kruse's book is an invaluable study of how that came to pass.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Cheek

    I have a great interest in this topic. It amazes me how one vague statement, pulled from the greater context of the US Constitution, became a tool for the powerful, to rally the masses to their particular causes. How infantile & progress-ressistant this nation has become in the past 60 years because of this inculcation of piety and patriotism. Prior to reading this I had a vague idea of the facts surrounding the whole "religious foundations" of America. However, as I delved deeper into this book I have a great interest in this topic. It amazes me how one vague statement, pulled from the greater context of the US Constitution, became a tool for the powerful, to rally the masses to their particular causes. How infantile & progress-ressistant this nation has become in the past 60 years because of this inculcation of piety and patriotism. Prior to reading this I had a vague idea of the facts surrounding the whole "religious foundations" of America. However, as I delved deeper into this book and started understanding the series of events leading up to our current day politics, well lets just say my neck got a good workout from constantly shaking my head from side to side. I feel like Kruse kept a neutral stance, stuck to the facts, and highlighted how the misinformed American of today came to be. This should be required reading for everyone, because so many people's beliefs are instilled in "tradition" even though they have no clue where those traditions originated. I think Seneca had it right when he said, “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Henn

    I loved this book. A must read for anyone who shares my bewilderment on how patriotism, faith and the Republican Party became wedded. I thought the marriage began with Reagan. Kruse points us back to Eisenhower. Did you know Nixon and Billy Graham were close, that Graham used his crusades to rally support for Nixon during Vietnam protests? "The rites of our public religion originated not in a spiritual crisis, but rather in the political and economic turmoil of the Great Depression. The story of I loved this book. A must read for anyone who shares my bewilderment on how patriotism, faith and the Republican Party became wedded. I thought the marriage began with Reagan. Kruse points us back to Eisenhower. Did you know Nixon and Billy Graham were close, that Graham used his crusades to rally support for Nixon during Vietnam protests? "The rites of our public religion originated not in a spiritual crisis, but rather in the political and economic turmoil of the Great Depression. The story of business leaders enlisting clergy in their war against the New Deal is one that has been largely obscured . . ." Does anyone squirm under the irony and idolatry of printing currency with the phrase "In God we trust"?

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