Kruse (History/Princeton Univ.; White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, 2007, etc.) explains the links between capitalism and Christianity.
This history is linked to industry’s reaction to reform, born during the Progressive Era, revived by the New Deal and perfected during the Cold War. The rise of the Social Gospel movement under Theodore Roosevelt redefined Christianity as faith concerned with the public good more than personal salvation. Business leaders saw new regulations as a threat to their bottom lines and looked for help redefining their roles. The author credits three men and their movements that helped build “Christian Libertarianism”: James Fifield’s Spiritual Motivation Group, Abraham Vereide’s prayer breakfast meetings and Billy Graham’s evangelical revivals. Major corporations, prominent industrialists and business lobbies supported these evangelists, who were promoting free enterprise. Using scare tactics and playing up the links between piety and patriotism, these groups sold faith and freedom. Who would be so foolish as to deny or fight either? As Kruse explains the connections, readers will begin to understand that the rallies to promote church participation and fights for school prayer were basically big business’s drive to eliminate the welfare state and labor unions. Throughout the book, the author exposes big money’s manipulation of the masses. The religious leaders no doubt had good intentions, but many of them became rich promoting the evils of unions and the dangers of socialism. Beginning with Dwight Eisenhower, Republican presidents continued the fight. Enter Madison Avenue and Hollywood, and the propaganda drive and the sacralization of the state were in full tilt.
In a book for readers from both parties, Kruse ably demonstrates how the simple ornamental mottoes “under God” and “In God We Trust,” as well as the fight to define America as Christian, were parts of a clever business plan.