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Editorial Reflections

Moneyed interests find ways to influence people of faith

People of faith have been—and still are being—manipulated in a blatantly cynical manner by moneyed interests who try to keep their real interests undercover.

Among the ideas that we are currently encouraged to believe is that this country was founded as a Christian nation.

One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University, has just been published. 

It is a fascinating book, even though it is not an easy read, and it definitely isn’t sensationalistic, although it is being called controversial. 

The subtitle tells the scope of the book: “How Corporate Americans Invented Christian America.”

The time period is primarily from the 1950s through the administration of President Richard Nixon, with following administrations briefly touched on in an epilogue.

The idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation is the story that we are being given now.  The idea that it should be has been part of the religious discussion since the states were deciding whether to ratify the Constitution.  

During its earliest years, the U,S, Constitution was attacked in some sermons as “godless.” 

An early leader of a movement to have the United State declared a Christian nation felt that the founders had erred in not doing it. 

Adopting  “In God We Trust” as an official motto and having it printed or stamped on all our money became a step toward correcting their perceived mistake. 

Incidentally, we had not had an official motto before 1954. 

“E pluribus unum”—From many (people), one (nation)—had served the purpose unofficially until Congress adopted “In God we trust” and “One nation under God” in 1954.

“Under God” was also added to the pledge to the flag in 1954, signed into law by President Ike Eisenhower on Flag Day.

The part of corporate America is harder to summarize.  Basically, the biggest companies on Wall Street and their related organizations, such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the Advertising Council and the Chamber of Commerce, provided the money and the marketing and organizational expertise to allow organizations such as Spiritual Mobilization and Liberty Lobby to operate nationwide on generous budgets.

Their motivation was not religious, however.  It has been traced back to opposition to the domestic policies of the New Deal in the 1930s and 1940s.

The combination of conservative political, economic and religious beliefs, and non-literal interpretations of the Bible gave rise to what has been called “Christian libertarianism.”  

Caring for the poor through Social Security, unemployment benefits or any other use of government became a perversion of Jesus’ teachings for them.  Indeed, they were nothing less than a violation of the commandment against covetousness, because they led the poor to envy the rich.

As they ask in mystery novels, “Who benefits?”

A popular but somewhat gritty series of mysteries by Michael Connelly features a police detective named Harry Bosch. 

He is sometimes asked why he works as hard on a case involving a person who “doesn’t matter” as he does on others.  He answers, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”

That’s an attitude we need more of in our current public discourse and behavior as we also ask, “Who really benefits?” and as we try to distinguish information from propaganda.

Nancy Minard

Contributing editor

Copyright © June 2015 - The Fig Tree