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In the original Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy made no mention of God, Kruse says. Bellamy was Christian socialist, a Baptist who believed in the separation of church and state.
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Kruse's book investigates how the idea of America as a Christian nation was promoted in the 1930s and '40s when industrialists and business lobbies, chafing against the government regulations of the New Deal, recruited and funded conservative clergy to preach faith, freedom and free enterprise.
He says this conflation of Christianity and capitalism moved to center stage in the '50s under Eisenhower's watch.
"According to the conventional narrative, the Soviet Union discovered the bomb and the United States rediscovered God," Kruse says. "In order to push back against the atheistic communism of the Soviet Union, Americans re-embraced a religious identity. That plays a small role here, but ... there's actually a longer arc.
That Cold War consensus actually helps to paper over a couple decades of internal political struggles in the United States. If you look at the architects of this language ... the state power that they're worried most about is not the Soviet regime in Moscow, but rather the New Deal and Fair Deal administrations in Washington, D.C."
The New Deal had passed a large number of measures that were regulating business in some ways for the first time, and it [had] empowered labor unions and given them a voice in the affairs of business. Corporate leaders resented both of these moves and so they launched a massive campaign of public relations designed to sell the values of free enterprise. The problem was that their naked appeals to the merits of capitalism were largely dismissed by the public.
The most famous of these organizations was called The American Liberty League and it was heavily financed by leaders at DuPont, General Motors and other corporations. The problem was that it seemed like very obvious corporate propaganda. As Jim Farley, the head of the Democratic Party at the time, said: "They ought to call it The American Cellophane League, because No. 1: It's a DuPont product, and No. 2: You can see right through it."
So when they realized that making this direct case for free enterprise was ineffective, they decided to find another way to do it. They decided to outsource the job. As they noted in their private correspondence, ministers were the most trusted men in America at the time, so who better to make the case to the American people than ministers?
They use these ministers to make the case that Christianity and capitalism were soul mates. This case had been made before, but in the context of the New Deal it takes on a sharp new political meaning. Essentially they argue that Christianity and capitalism are both systems in which individuals rise and fall according to their own merits. So in Christianity, if you're good you go to heaven, if you're bad you go to hell. In capitalism if you're good you make a profit and you succeed, if you're bad you fail.
The New Deal, they argue, violates this natural order. In fact, they argue that the New Deal and the regulatory state violate the Ten Commandments. It makes a false idol of the federal government and encourages Americans to worship it rather than the Almighty. It encourages Americans to covet what the wealthy have; it encourages them to steal from the wealthy in the forms of taxation; and, most importantly, it bears false witness against the wealthy by telling lies about them.
So they argue that the New Deal is not a manifestation of God's will, but rather, a form of pagan stateism and is inherently sinful.
Read more: How 'One Nation' Didn't Become 'Under God' Until The '50s Religious Revival | WSHU