If we’re going to look back at how the rise of the fallacy that we are a “Christian nation” came to be, we need look no further than the Great Depression and the political tactics that were used to shift blame and build a movement that has now become too big for its britches.
When FDR implemented the New Deal after the fall of the economy which led into the Great Depression, he used a few tactics to sell his ideas. Tactics that included using scripture — accurate depictions of scripture. Such as, lifting the nation out of poverty by implementing economic measures that helped bring the economy back and relieve the worst effects of the downfall. Things like the FDIC to insure banking deposits for everyday Americans, the abandonment of the Gold Standard, the Home Owners Loan Act, the Glass-Steagall Banking Act which separated the risky business of banks from working Americans just trying to get by, several farming actions, and a number of other legislations that made it so Americans could pick themselves up and get the economy moving again.
Well, the big banks and corporate America did NOT like FDR selling his policies on the back of scripture, but instead of fighting him on it, they doubled-down and started a religious movement that is still around to this day — the Christian Right.
Kruse went back to the beginning when one minister in particular had significant sway with conservatives and its famous supporters. When the Rev. James W. Fifield Jr. spoke, people listened. He was a fervent believer in free enterprise and used this passion to forge a relationship with corporations and banks who were seeking to dodge the blame for the Great Depression that was coming out of the White House. Religion is a powerful tool, and once you can get people on board thinking that what they are doing is not only in the name of God, but also in the name of Freedom, well, you’ve got yourself a goldmine of a political platform. When these two ideas got married it was the birth of “Christian libertarianism.”
“It was a watershed moment—the beginning of a movement that would advance over the 1940s and early 1950s a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Fifield and like-minded ministers saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined, and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other. The two systems had been linked before, of course, but always in terms of their shared social characteristics. Fifield’s innovation was his insistence that Christianity and capitalism were political soul mates, first and foremost.
Before the New Deal, the government had never loomed quite so large over business and, as a result, it had never loomed large in Americans’ thinking about the relationship between Christianity and capitalism. But in Fifield’s vision, it now cast a long and ominous shadow.He and his colleagues devoted themselves to fighting the government forces they believed were threatening capitalism and, by extension, Christianity. And their activities helped build a foundation for a new vision of America in which businessmen would no longer suffer under the rule of Roosevelt but instead thrive—in a phrase they popularized—in a nation “under God.” In many ways, the marriage of corporate and Christian interests that has recently dominated the news—from the Hobby Lobby case to controversies over state-level versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—is not that new at all.”
Basically, it’s the same old conservative tactics being used time and time again, because hey, why not? They work. People fall for the “religious freedom” line every single time as though they have no ability to think for themselves whatsoever.
These “religious freedom” pioneers did all they could to combat the New Deal and turn things around back into the favor of big business and Capitalism — pardon me, corrupt Capitalism.
And with this “religious freedom” spiel came the birth of a “Christian nation” and going full speed into making people believe that the United States was founded on Christian principles and the freedom to do whatever you want — no government intrusion — you know, government intrusion like the New Deal. After all, the New Deal was trying to protect the everyday, average American, and these giant companies and banks had lost the freedom to screw people over. The religious right actually got people to start believing against their best interest in favor of the freedom of big business and not for themselves to be protected.
Kruse points out how the San Diego Gas & Electric Company tried to deter people from an “oppressive government,” and they wanted their customers to read the preamble to the Declaration of Independence as such:
“These words are the stones upon which man has built history’s greatest work—the United States of America. Remember them well!“ … all men are created equal … ” That means you are as important in the eyes of God as any man brought into this world. You are made in his image and likeness. There is no “superior” man anywhere.
“ … they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … ” Here is your birthright—the freedom to live, work, worship, and vote as you choose. These are rights no government on earth may take from you.
“ … That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men … ” Here is the reason for and the purpose of government. Government is but a servant—not a master—not a giver of anything.
“ … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … ” In America, the government may assume only the powers you allow it to have. It may assume no others.”
The “Christian” Right also started using words like “Heritage” and tried to get people to believe that this is the way our Founders had intended our government to be run. There were “Freedom Under God” festivities, as well as “Under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and “In God We Trust” added to currency in 1955, as well as becoming the nation’s motto in 1956.
This push to insert Christianity into the core of the United States has continued to this very day with Republicans using Jesus’ name to win elections, yet do exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. Instead of helping the poor, granting healthcare to all, and loving thy neighbor as yourself, Republicans cut aid for the poor, try to repeal health care, and promote an individualistic attitude amongst their base where everyone is better off on their own.
If we actually wanted a more “Christian-like” nation, ironically it would look more like the one FDR tried to maintain with the New Deal, and again with the Second New Deal. FDR also spoke of a Second Bill of Rights that included:
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
FDR wanted what was best for all Americans and not just for those who are wealthiest on top. However, over time these ideas have been demonized by supposed “Christian” conservatives who only work in the interest of Corporate America.
The “Christian” Right is literally holding Jesus hostage for their own personal gain to manipulate a voting public to vote in favor of corrupt Capitalism over what is best for themselves. Republicans also make sure to brand anyone who isn’t falling in line with their same brand of Christian corporatism as not really Christian. It’s the ultimate mind game, and so many are biting into it hook, line, and sinker.
We, as a nation, need to be well aware of this manipulation and fight back for we the people, and against the corporate interests who seek to gain a dollar at the cost of anyone who may get in their way.
The biggest real threat to Christianity is Republican politicking. And that Republican politicking is using Jesus’ name in vain all for the sake of the almighty dollar and the top one percent. Don’t fall for their lies and manipulation.