Herbert London: The Double Standard & Foreign Policy

Sep 16, 2015

In Europe today Christian symbols are often seen to be part of archaeological troves that tourists pay to admire, but they are not seen as true testimony of faith – a condition considered offensive to other religions. Blasphemous expressions against Christianity are tolerated as an invocation of free speech. By contrast, Islam is treated with care since the criminal code is a source of protection and the fear of violent reaction is the unspoken word.

  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.


President Obama’s election in 2008 marked a landmark shift in American politics. But what if he had lost? What would life in America be like today, had John McCain and Sarah Palin headed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? 

Imagine a Sarah Palin presidency — what kind of a difference —if any — would it have made if the course of history had flowed in a different direction?

Over centuries, Christianity has accomplished much which is deserving of praise. Its institutions have fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, and advocated for the poor. Christian faith has sustained people through crisis and inspired many works for social justice. Although the word "christian" implicates the epitome of goodness, the actual story is much more complex.

That story is explored in Paul Kivel’s new book Living in the Shadow of the Cross- which reveals the ongoing everyday impact of Christian power and privilege on beliefs, behaviors, and public policy.