When conversing with individuals or groups who lay claim to an association or membership to the conservative and religious right in this country, there is one thing you can be certain of: Almost every one of them believes, or at least says they believe, that this nation was founded under religious (read: Christian) principles.
Put this belief to some test, however, and you can count on their reaction to be uncomprehending. For them, it is as self-evident a truth as the founding principle of all men being created equal. To say otherwise is anathema of almost punishable proportion.
So let’s give it a try here in this column with some pesky facts for those in the religious right to consider, seen compiled on a meme of all places, and let’s see to what extent the cognitive dissonance unfolds.
First, the Constitution of the United States had only one reference to religion when it was ratified in 1789 under Article Six: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the united states.”
Next, the defacto motto of the United States, adopted as part of the Great Seal of the U.S. by an Act of Congress in 1782, was “E. Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one). Congress changed it 174 years later to “In God We Trust.”
And lastly, the U.S. did not issue paper currency until 1861, and “In God We Trust” did not appear on it for 96 years.
These facts stand in direct opposition to the notion that this country was founded on religious grounds.
It is asserted by some that it was the Red Scare of the 1950s that moved our leaders to change these things out of a fear of communism. McCarthyism and J. Edgar Hoover’s maniacal reign of the FBI come to mind.
Today, the mania continues with the word “communism” now substituted with “socialism.” Might be fun to do a “man on the street” interview here in St. George and see how many people can articulate the difference between the two, let alone define either one correctly.
But the truth of the matter is a little more sinister. It is worth noting here that something both right and left factions seem to agree on as one of the single most devastating forces to our liberties in the U.S. is the corporate influence, or outright control, of our political and legislative machinery. Profit is the justification for any and all behavior, and any notion that this country ought to model the principles of Christ in giving to the poor is seen by the left as obvious and the right as a recipe for freeloading.
But to the point here, the push for the creed of “In God We Trust” came about during Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency as a direct response to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was seen as legislation that ushered in a social welfare state but in fact was also a major threat to the bottom line of some very large corporations at the time.
As early as the 1930s, businessmen began enlisting the help of religious activists to preach and teach from the most unchecked source of information in the history of man—the pulpit—that the New Deal was akin to Satanism. A country endowed to help its citizens was not seen as Christian at all but rather as communist.
As Kevin M. Kruse put it in “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” “For they saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other.”
For ultimately, Christianity champions the salvation of the individual. It was all to easy for a group of monopolizing business tycoons to enlist the help of the preachers in the land to change the collective narrative and principle of faith from that of charity to one of self-service and, ultimately, greed.
The religious right and the liberal left may agree that corporate cronyism is the root of some serious disease in our country socially. However, they will disagree on how this is coming about. And that is the crux of the most critical and profound discourse that must be had in this country if we are to go forward with any measure of real success.
See you out there.