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Eisenhower Christianity

One of the things I think gets overlooked when describing American fundamentalist Christianity between 1925 and 1976 is the rise of a kind of conservative nationalist Christianity that tends toward civil religion; the best term I’ve heard for this is “Eisenhower Christianity,” because it places it in the right period of time and puts a pretty accurate face on it.

This was the period of time when “In God We Trust” became a second national motto and got stamped on currency, when “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, when the Cold War became a war against godless Communism, and when American prosperity became the birthright of the righteous.

I don’t know if this was a time when the pre-existing American civil religion began to take on more explicitly Protestant elements, when rising standards of living brought more devout fundamentalist-leaning Protestants into the national discourse on national identity, or what exactly. I suppose it’s possible that increased mobility and homogeneity in mass media in the postwar era made it possible for fundamentalism to leave its various enclaves and participate in the national conversation, too.

Regardless, I have yet to find a good description of Eisenhower Christianity in the press or even in books about American fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but it always seems to be lurking in the background by the time Jimmy Carter arrives on the national scene; after all, it’s really the Eisenhower era the conservatives want to get back to, despite their lip service to the Founding Fathers.

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