A page-one item in the March 15 New York Times “Sunday Review” section, headlined “How Business Made Us Christian,” highlighted a couple notable fashions in daily newspapering. Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse drew this article from his new book with the provocative title “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.”
In part, Kruse revisited the familiar theme of “piety on the Potomac” in the 1950s when President Eisenhower was baptized a Presbyterian, Billy Graham led a D.C. revival meeting, Catholic lobbyists got “under God” inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance and annual Presidential Prayer Breakfasts began.
Kruse’s new emphasis is how business interests promoted “capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.” It seems a 1930s Congregational pastor to the elite named James Fifield “paired Christianity and capitalism against the New Deal’s ‘pagan statism.’ ” Kruse fuses that with later businessmen backing Graham’s crusades and Abraham Vereide’s prayer breakfasts.
All rather interesting.
Nevertheless, old-fashioned journalism would immediately raise questions. Is the scenario skewed? What’s missing? Was this cynical service to mammon or authentic piety? Did such efforts have any actual effect on America’s politics and policies?