The history of American Christianity and American human rights

Cover of Kevin Kruse's book

Cover of Kevin Kruse’s book “One Nation Under God.” (Photo source: NPR.)

On The Immanent Frame, Gene Zubovich provides an interesting overview of the history of America’s recognition of human rights, specifically by way of the Cold War era (post- World War II until the early 1990s) American Christian reaction (and the tensions within) to communist movements in Russia and China:

In 1948, the year that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, three debates were most salient in the American context about the boundaries between the religious and the secular. The first was on the doctrine of church-state separation (the Everson case in 1947 and the McCollum case in 1948 established a “wall of separation” between “church and state”). The second debate was the stir caused by the publication of a series of articles in The Nation by Paul Blanshard in 1947 and 1948 that criticized the Catholic Church’s position on birth control, reproduction, end of life care, and censorship. Lastly, the boundary between religion and secularity was debated in reference to the specter of communism in Europe and East Asia.

By extension, Kevin Kruse, the author of the book One Nation Under God separately discusses the role of capitalism and commercial special interests after World War II in leveraging American Christian movements to protest against increasing regulation of business by the American Government:

Kruse’s book investigates how the idea of America as a Christian nation was promoted in the 1930s and ’40s when industrialists and business lobbies, chafing against the government regulations of the New Deal, recruited and funded conservative clergy to preach faith, freedom and free enterprise. He says this conflation of Christianity and capitalism moved to center stage in the ’50s under Eisenhower’s watch.

This is an intriguing intersection of analysis that sheds light on the roles of communism, capitalism and American Christianity in shaping American views about human rights and secularism. Read Gene Zubovich’s full essay at The Immanent Frame, and listen to Kevin Kruse discuss his book, One Nation Under God, with NPR.


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