It's more than Bible-thumping but how much more?
As a devout agnostic my project for the next month will be to explore modern hyper-Christianity through the eyes of three writers: old school Republican, Kevin Phillips, author of "American Theocracy"; retired US military commander, Andrew Bacevich, "The New American Militarism"; and Kevin Kruse, "One Nation Under God: "How Corporate America Created Christian America."
Phillips book, published in 2005, offers a look at the role hyper-Christianity plays in American society, how fundamentalism overwhelmed traditional Christian churches and the role this evangelism plays in the decline of the great superpower. The author describes 'radicalized religion' as one of the three major perils facing America.
Reckless dependency on shrinking oil supplies, a milieu of radicalized (and much too influential) religion, and a reliance on borrowed money - debt, in its ballooning size and multiple domestic and international deficits - now constitute the three major perils to the United States of the twenty-first century.From Bacevich we learn how the evangelical church along with the radical right managed to insinuate themselves into what we used to know as the "military-industrial complex." How was the US military reshaped by evangelism.
[War and terror] both derive much of their current impetus from the incendiary backdrop of oil politics and religious fundamentalism, in Islam as well as the West. Despite pretensions to motivations such as liberty and freedom, petroleum and its geopolitics have dominated Anglo-American activity in the Middle East for a full century. On this, history could not be more clear.
The excesses of fundamentalism, in turn, are American and Israeli, as well as the all-too-obvious depredations of radical Islam. The rapture, end times, and Armageddon hucksters in the United States rank with any Shiite ayatollahs, and the last two presidential elections mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in U.S. history.
Certain in their understanding of right and wrong, growing in numbers, affluence, and sophistication, and determined to reverse the nation's perceived decline, conservative evangelicals after the 1960s assume the role of church militant. Abandoning their own previously well established skepticism about the morality of force and inspired in no small measure by their devotion to Israel, they articulated a highly permissive interpretation of the "just war" doctrine, the cornerstone of Christian thinking about warfare. And they developed a considerable appetite for wielding armed might on behalf of righteousness, more often that not indistinguishable from America's own interests.
Conservative Christians have conferred a presumptive moral palatability on any occasion on which the United States resorts to force. They have fostered among the legions of believing Americans a predisposition to see U.S. military power as inherently good, perhaps even a necessary adjunct to the accomplishment of Christ's saving mission. In doing so they have nurtured the preconditions have have enabled the American infatuation with military power to flourish.
Put another way, were it not for the support offered by several tens of millions of evangelicals, militarism in this deeply and genuinely religious country becomes inconceivable.Finally there's Kruse. From The New York Times review.
Did you ever wonder how “In God We Trust” came to be quoted on every American coin and dollar bill? Or why the Pledge of Allegiance to the most revered symbol of the nation includes an explicit declaration of confidence in the Almighty? Or why the president and members of Congress host a National Prayer Breakfast the first Thursday of each February?
These now utterly commonplace markers of public piety were almost all created during the same decade — the 1950s. Their initial enthusiasts, as described by the Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse, were conservative Protestant ministers and businessmen who hoped Americans would not take their handiwork for granted. They believed the nation badly needed a religious awakening to reverse the depredations of a godless federal state.
“Every Christian should oppose the totalitarian trends of the New Deal,” asserted James W. Fifield Jr., an eloquent Congregationalist pastor from Los Angeles who, during the 1930s, created Spiritual Mobilization, a publicity offensive that joined megachurches like his with vocal, anti-liberal magnates like the Hollywood producer Cecil B. De Mille and J. Howard Pew Jr., the president of Sun Oil. They all believed religiosity, if widely and officially deployed, would be a mighty weapon in the battle against collectivist liberals at home and Communists abroad. As their ally, Billy Graham, preached in 1951 at one of his ever popular crusades, Americans urgently needed to rededicate themselves to “the rugged individualism that Christ brought” to the world.
But a funny thing happened on the road to spiritual and political redemption. By the mid-1950s, officeholders and social activists from every point on the ideological spectrum had signed on to the same righteous platform. In 1952, just before moving into the White House, Dwight Eisenhower (who was named after Dwight Moody, the renowned Gilded Age evangelist) told a gathering at the Waldorf Astoria: “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” Only a hardened atheist could object to such an ecumenical bromide. Under Eisenhower, Kruse writes, “the state no longer seemed ‘pagan,’ . . . and liberals could present themselves as acting in accord with God’s will too.” Two years later, when Congress agreed to add “one nation under God” to the Pledge, not even the American Civil Liberties Union objected. One lone Jewish representative from Brooklyn, Abraham Multer, did argue that putting God’s name on the currency would not stimulate “one single person to be more religious.” But even he didn’t dare vote against the bill.I'll be dusting off my copies of Phillips' and Bacevich's books. They're around here somewhere. "One Nation Under God" should be here in a couple of weeks. I'll be back with more once I've brushed up on the first two and read the third.