One Nation Under God Forum: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

A Forum on Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate American Invented Christian America

Kevin Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Basic Books, 2015, 384pp., $29.99
Kevin Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Basic Books, 2015, 384pp., $29.99
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Only recently did religion, politics, and business interests become entangled in a nation that constitutionally separates church and state. In his new study, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Kevin Kruse contends that the idea of America as a “Christian nation” originated in the mid-twentieth century. He examines the efforts of corporate leaders to forge an alliance with religious activists to oppose FDR’s New Deal, and follows the surprising narrative of how Cold War politicians, media moguls, and ideologues developed the “Christian nation” myth.

In this forum edited by MRB Associate Editor Ryan T. Woods and James Dennis LoRusso, contributors Diane WinstonJeania Ree Moore, Chip Callahan, and Matthew Avery Sutton appraise Kruse’s contribution from various angles of race, class, politics, theology, and history. In the final installment, the author responds to the essays.

 

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Diane Winston, Capital in the (Seventeenth to) Twentieth Century

Last but hardly least, scholars might look at those whom conventional narratives have traditionally glossed over and remember to include them in histories where their stories matter. In his review of Kruse’s book, Darren Grem notes, “the politics of church and state were not indistinct from conflicts over race, structural racism, segregation, privacy rights, and private spaces, from schools to businesses. Here, however, they oddly are.” By ignoring those other lenses, historians like Kruse perpetuate the notion that history is mostly made by a handful of white men in the Boston to Washington corridor.

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Jeania Rae Moore

Jeania Ree Moore, United We Stand: Faith, Freedom, and Free Enterprise

How and why do leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, not fit into the narrative of the birth and development of Christian America? King and the movement he shaped approached America as one nation under God not merely as rhetoric, but as reality, to the point of death. Through nonviolent resistance and an ethic of love, they sought to transform the nation into a religious vision: the table of brotherhood where all are welcome. Their embrace of public religiosity sprang from different roots than that of the corporate cohort Kruse considers, but their influence on the development of American civil religion is difficult to overstate. A Christian minister, King is the only non-military figure memorialized on the National Mall, the pantheon of American civil religion.

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Richard J. Callahan, Jr., The Invention of Corporate America’s Invention of Christian America

The corporate invention of Christian America was at its core anti-labor. The vision of a free market Christian America was also opposed to the rights and interests of labor to bargain collectively, protest working conditions, or propose regulations. How, then, did we get to where we are today, where working people have internalized and embraced a laissez-faire vision of Christian America? Just because corporate leaders could create this ideal hardly ensured that it would reshape the political and religious landscape. Yet it did. Some of the loudest and proudest mobilizers of this sentiment are working-class Americans.

Matthew Avery Sutton

Matthew Avery Sutton, Piety and Prosperity in Christian America

“During the Eisenhower era,” Kruse explains, “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.” Only when Americans prayed more, went to church more, added “In God We Trust” to their paper money and “Under God” to their pledge did substantial numbers of Americans conceive of the United States as a “Christian” nation.

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Kevin Kruse, A Response to the One Nation Under God Forum

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