Thursday, October 02, 2008

One Nation, Under God

The debate's tonight. And just in time, Jeff Sharlet gives us a little update:

'...In 1932, James A. Farrell, president of US Steel, tried to persuade then Governor Franklin Roosevelt that economic depression was “caused by disobedience to divine law,” and that the only cure was a mix of spiritual revival and unprecedented powers for corporate leaders. In 1936, Frank Buchman, the founder of the Moral Re-Armament movement—a network of upper crust Christian clubs—announced, “Human problems aren’t economic. They’re moral, and they can’t be solved by immoral measures.” He suggested instead “God-controlled democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy.” Bruce Barton, a founder of advertising giant BBDO and the author of one of the 20th century’s bestsellers, The Man Nobody Knows (it was Jesus, whom Barton proposed as the greatest CEO in history), won a seat in Congress in 1938 by proposing to a nation battered by unfettered capitalism that it “Repeal a Law a Day.”

The most influential of these businessmen for God was a Norwegian immigrant named Abraham Vereide, founder of an annual ritual of piety and politics that survives to this day, the National Prayer Breakfast. In 1935, Vereide created a “fellowship” of Christian businessmen bound together by the idea that God hates government regulation because it interferes with a believer’s ability to choose right or wrong. He found receptive audiences in private meetings with Henry Ford and the president of Chevrolet, Thomas Watson of IBM and representatives from J.C. Penney. By 1942, he’d moved to the capital, where the National Association of Manufacturers staked him to a meeting of congressmen who would become students of his spiritual politics, among them Virginia senator Absalom Willis Robertson—Pat Robertson’s father. Vereide returned the manufacturers’ favor by telling his new congressional followers that God wanted them to break the spine of organized labor. They did...'

And thus was born the Family, which I've blogged about plenty of times before. Jeff Sharlet's book is a wonderful read on the subject. But what of Governor Palin?:

'...right now they’re loving Sarah Palin, a candidate who has excited the evangelical base like no other since William Jennings Bryan raged against the “cross of gold” at the 1896 Democratic convention, when fundamentalism and populism seemed like a match made in Heaven, not a bait and switch cooked up by the protégés of Karl Rove. Much has been made of Palin’s roots in Pentecostalism; not enough attention is being paid to her penchant for elite fundamentalism, a faith in which “a servant’s heart” is the power source for a politician’s perks and privileges.

Palin is an outsider moving in, rising up from the ranks of popular fundamentalism to join the movement’s leadership cadre. In Alaska, Palin has for the last two years presided over a “Governor’s Prayer Breakfast”—an offshoot of the Fellowship’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington—which declares that its “mission” “is to reaffirm and promote in a Christ-like manner the idea that God has a purpose for and authority over human events.” Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s far more militant son, has been the keynote speaker the last two years...'

Go read.