One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America – Kevin M. Kruse
My rating – Put it on your list
Level – easy, a little wordy, medium length but reads quickly
The title might be a bit of a misnomer. People expecting this book to be about whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation should look elsewhere. There a many, many books with this title that more or less discuss that idea or whether we are currently. In many ways, it is a great and accurate title as the insertion of the phrase ‘under God’ is a critical juncture in his story line. For those unaware, it was added in the 50’s, the so-called ‘good ol’ days’.
What the book is about, is how a group of people decided to try and revise history, and shape the future, for their own personal financial gain. Conflating Christianity with the nation is the method they choose. This started maybe further back than people might have thought. If you are like me, you might assume much of the rhetoric started with Reagan. Instead, Kruse traces is back to the 30’s and business responses to New Deal regulation. In fact, he barely discussing Reagan.
The book is broken into three major parts – creation, consecration, and conflict. That is, the ideas and actions behind the national religion push (very conspiratorially written), the achievement of those goals, and the current situation of those goals clashing with modern America.
I guess I should also note that Kruse is a historian. I have no idea his religious preference, if any, and do not think he mentions it in the book. Point being, this is not written from the Christian prospective and though quite fair and accurate, he does seem suspicious of it. However, it certainly isn’t anti-Christian or an attack in any way.
I hate to admit that I like this book because it confirmed my own beliefs, but it is true. If you are ever involved in anything politically liberal, you will likely hear that Christians have corrupted the Republican party. However, it is the other way around. I’ve always viewed the situation as Reagan’s attempt to tie Evangelicals to the Republican party as a response to and actual Evangelical Christian, and likely the most religious president in American history, Jimmy Carter. If I ever do get a change to pursue a PhD, I’d like to write my dissertation on this topic.
Interestingly, the attempt to put them together is much, much older and was well in place and already successful before Reagan. It was very interesting, yet disturbing, to read the entanglement of business interest, prosperity gospel preachers, and politics. Perhaps the most shocking thing to me was the placement of the 10 Commandments at courthouses. Many people may have though, well, they’ve been there all along, perhaps hundreds of years. No. Almost all of the monuments, the large, stone tablet looking representations were put up in the early 50’s. They were a marketing ploy. Like a Captain American action figure in a happy meal, they were used to promote the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’.
It all comes down to a basic fear felt by many of the Evangelical Left (that is, those who are political liberal, but deeply conservative in Christian belief) – that Christianity, God, and the Bible have all been used by business interest. Greed has lead to obfuscating history and the portrayal of the future as antagonistic to Believers. All so that certain people in companies could have less regulation and taxes.
This will be hard to swallow for many staunch conservatives. I know, because I used to be one. Then I started to become suspicious that we were being used. Now, I will say, if you are politically conservative, that’s fine, nothing wrong with that. Just don’t claim the Bible is the bases of your economic or tax policy. You’ve been used as a pawn, even voting against your own self interest by people who may not even view God as you do.
However, anyone will to sit, read, and review the facts about politics and religion, this book needs to be on your list. If you are a Christian and political liberal, who has always wondered how it got so off, this book is a must read for historical understanding. If you are a Christian, who maybe doesn’t even have strong political leanings, but were just always curious as to why, in America, the political right and Evangelicals are so intertwined, this book is also a must read. Any Christian with any interest in political at all, should add this to their list of books to read.
I want to wrap up with a quick note about Trump. I’m writing this 4 days before the election, but I don’t think it will be posted until a few weeks after. But, if you’ve looked around and wondered how in the Hell is Trump the supposed representative of the Evangelical vote, this book will help you understand. For one, Trump grew up in the church of one of the biggest, most popular/powerful prosperity gospel preachers. Sadly, this history presented in this book will also explain why so many ‘preachers’ or other ‘Evangelical’ public figures have support the thrice divorced, pro-choice, multi-millionaire. If you’ve read some of these guy’s condemnation of Bill Clinton from the 90’s, but their full throated support for Trump and though, that doesn’t make any sense, then read this book, and it will. We go from claiming that morality matters in the White House, to the weak and somewhat ridiculous claim that we are not electing a ‘pastor-in-chief’ (ridiculous, not because it is wrong, but that apparently only pastors shouldn’t grab random women by the pussy).
I will say, I do hope that the Trump candidacy will disentangle party politics with religion. As I write this, I have a sincere wish that Evangelicals will not vote (majority) for Trump; however, I am not hopeful.
Edit – He won 81% of the Evangelicals, more than Romney or even Bush.