Reviews

One Nation Under God

As entertaining as it is revealing…Kruse weaves a narrative that is quite funny, in an understated scholarly way.
Richard White, Boston Review

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.
D.G. Hart, Wall Street Journal

Kruse tells a big and important story about the mingling of religiosity and politics since the 1930s.”
Michael Kazin, The New York Times Book Review

What accounted for the dramatic change in religious practice and the more explicit religious concerns of politicians in the 1950s? According to Kruse, the answer is a concerted and well-financed effort by powerful corporate and politically conservative forces to clothe their long-standing opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the pieties of ‘Christian libertarianism.’ Returning the nation to a ‘government under God’ meant restoring the freedom of big business and dismantling the ungodly welfare state.
Paul Baumann, Washington Post

Illuminating…a useful corrective to preacher-politicians who endlessly call for a return to the nation’s religious roots. As Kruse skillfully demonstrates, some of those roots took hold only yesterday.
Chris Tucker, Dallas Morning News

It is hard to take issue with Kruse’s well-documented, persuasively argued thesis.
Don Spritzer, The Missoulian

In Kevin M. Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, the author lays out a deftly detailed history of Christianity’s service to capitalism in the United States. Christianity was brought into the service of laissez-faire economics in Puritan devotion to work and thrift, but the decisive moment at which Christianity fused with free enterprise in the American psyche occurred, Kruse argues, in the middle of the twentieth century.
Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The New Republic

Many of the most familiar manifestations of religion in government—the legislatively mandated allusions to God in the country’s official motto, on its money, and in its Pledge of Allegiance—emerged during the Eisenhower era. Kruse masterfully excavates this tale.
James Morone, Foreign Affairs

One Nation Under God is a close study of postwar political liturgy. …. Kruse combs over these events with far greater attention to detail than most other scholars have done, and even a specialist reader will learn something new. More important, he weaves together these episodes to explain how a string of simple words or rote classroom recitations—what the legal scholar Eugene Rostow once dismissed as ‘ceremonial deism’—can have great cultural power.
Molly Worthen, The Nation

Kruse has crafted a tight argument and marshaled a mountain of evidence to support it. His writing is sharp and clear, and his telling eye for detail makes this an engaging story. Simply put, One Nation Under God is an excellent book. Kruse has done in this book exactly what he set out to do.
Matthew Avery Sutton, Marginalia: Los Angeles Review of Books

“One Nation Under God comes as something of a revelation (pardon the expression). Kruse makes the case that whatever the relationship between faith and the state in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, that connection went through a profound transformation in the 1950s.”
Kim Phillips-Fein, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

A new, meticulous, and vital historical account that should be read by anyone who still scratches their head over whether the Tea Party is a religious movement, or wonders how the idealized conception of America as a ‘Christian nation’ was constructed…. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand that uniquely American alliance between God and mammon.
Sarah Posner, The National Memo

Kruse’s book is a deft elaboration on the irony of the corporate involvement in the Christian America promotion: Supporters, be they of good or ill will, converged on the idea that they were producing or re-producing a nation united “under God.” Frustrated in their attempts to change the Constitution, they had to settle for the insertion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Yet, as the author makes clear, they were, ironically, producing a new and enduringly conflicted and polarized America.
Martin E. Marty, America

Kruse identifies One Nation Under God as an origins story, tracking how “liberals and conservatives [became] locked in an intractable struggle over an ostensibly simple question: Is the United States a Christian nation?”…[His] lucid narrative is a model of historical writing aimed at a general public.
John McGreevey, Commonweal

One Nation Under God is a thorough and fascinating treatment of a little known thread of U.S. history.
C. Christopher Smith, Sojourners

It sheds new light on our tortured past and our abiding predicament.
Alan Bean, Baptist News

One Nation Under God is a historical narrative, not a theological or political treatise.…Kruse doesn’t take sides, instead letting the individuals involved in these debates speak for themselves. His goal is to simply remind us of the recent history of our nation’s struggle to balance religious and political life. Regardless of one’s theological or political position, the truth of the matter is, as Kruse lays out in meticulously but readable detail, that ‘our public religion is, in large measure, an invention of the modern era.’
Dan Wilkinson, Patheos

To hear Princeton historian Kevin M. Kruse narrate the complex interplay of religion and the state—seeded in Americans’ postwar exhaustion and gratitude; residual anger at the New Deal and labor unions; the feared rise of communism from within the United States (less from Europe or Asia); and a zeal for a Fourth Great Awakening—is to stand in stupefied witness at the relentless need conservative Christians have to stamp their dogma on the citizenry.
Thomas Larson, Humanist

Throughout its volatile past, American religion has smartly reconfigured itself in tandem with the convulsions of our market society–so much so that, as Kevin M. Kruse observes in his engaging history of modern religious nationalism, One Nation Under God, our crowning Protestant myth of a spiritualized American founding is an all but wholly owned subsidiary of a brave new evangelical-corporate establishment.
Chris Lehmann, Bookforum Magazine

Kruse’s book will be an important resource for anyone who wonders why so many fundamentalist figureheads – clergy and politicians alike – promote fiscal conservatism alongside social conservatism. By extension, it also explains why the Religious Right continues to benefit from a remarkable financial war chest. Finally, it provides a timely look at the political origins of Ceremonial Deism and, in the process, undermines claims that the practice isn’t intended to exclude Americans who belong to minority belief traditions or are non-believers.
Sarah Jones, Church and State

Fascinating, vividly drawn portraits of many players in this drama.
Susan Jacoby, The American Prospect

Thorough and thought-provoking scholarship…. Kruse reveals the marketing machine behind American godliness with authority, insight, and clarity. He illustrates key turning points along the way to provide a cohesive picture of a well-powered movement. He hands us the agenda behind the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘in God we trust,’ and other cornerstones of American patriotism. In short, he exposes the PR man behind the pious curtain.
Library Journal, Starred Review

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.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review