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Basic Books
  • Hardcover
  • $29.99 / $37.50 CAN
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-465-04949-3
New York Times Book Review
"Kruse tells a big and important story about the mingling of religiosity and politics since the 1930s."

Wall Street Journal
"America was founded in 1776, but it was only in 1953, with the inauguration of Dwight David Eisenhower as the 34th president, that it became a Christian nation. Such is Kevin M. Kruse's thesis and, after reading One Nation Under God, it makes perfect sense- an important and convincing reminder that the roots of Christian America were cultivated well before the era of the religious right."

Washington Post
"Fascinating."

The Nation
"An illuminating addition to the growing field of the history of American conservatism and capitalism, as well as a vibrant study of the way cultural influence works—one that will make it impossible to take for granted the small print on the back of a dollar bill ever again.... This is what's most interesting in the story Kruse is telling: the pattern of continuity and change that links our own time with those that came before."

One Nation Under God

How Corporate America Invented Christian America

By Kevin M. Kruse

From an award-winning historian, the story of how in the middle of the 20th century, corporate titans and evangelical activists rewrote history and created the pervasive myth that America was, is, and always will be a fundamentally Christian nation.

We're often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the idea of "Christian America" is an invention—and a relatively recent one at that.

As Kruse argues, the belief that America is fundamentally and formally a Christian nation originated in the 1930s when businessmen enlisted religious activists in their fight against FDR's New Deal. Corporations from General Motors to Hilton Hotels bankrolled conservative clergymen, encouraging them to attack the New Deal as a program of "pagan statism" that perverted the central principle of Christianity: the sanctity and salvation of the individual. Their campaign for "freedom under God" culminated in the election of their close ally Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

But this apparent triumph had an ironic twist. In Eisenhower's hands, a religious movement born in opposition to the government was transformed into one that fused faith and the federal government as never before. During the 1950s, Eisenhower revolutionized the role of religion in American political culture, inventing new traditions from inaugural prayers to the National Prayer Breakfast. Meanwhile, Congress added the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance and made "In God We Trust" the country's first official motto. With private groups joining in, church membership soared to an all-time high of 69%. For the first time, Americans began to think of their country as an officially Christian nation.

During this moment, virtually all Americans—across the religious and political spectrum—believed that their country was "one nation under God." But as Americans moved from broad generalities to the details of issues such as school prayer, cracks began to appear. Religious leaders rejected this "lowest common denomination" public religion, leaving conservative political activists to champion it alone. In Richard Nixon's hands, a politics that conflated piety and patriotism became sole property of the right.

Provocative and authoritative, One Nation Under God reveals how the unholy alliance of money, religion, and politics created a false origin story that continues to define and divide American politics to this day.


Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University and the author or co-editor of four books, including the award-winning White Flight. Kruse lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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