I encountered for the very first time just the other day, Kevin Kruse and his book, One Nation Under God.
I had never read him, much to my chagrin because he had well worked the earth that I was just beginning to turn over, and I could have been much further along in my own planting if I had had him with me. Anyway, I jumped into his work and I haven’t stopped reading him since I began just a few days ago.
He doesn’t use my own expression, God’s path, or better maybe, God’s way, but he is really talking about that, about how our entire country would, or will have become now with Trump and his Evangelical base, a nation of people following God’s path.
This movement, of course, is more than anything else what has gifted us the presidency of Donald Trump. And here the irony is sharp indeed. We couldn’t have chosen a less god-like person to lead us into becoming an even more God decked out nation. And a God decked out nation was not the nation of the Founding Fathers. And in fact God was never mentioned in the Constitution, our founding document.
And who is principally responsible for this happening? Our nation swathed in God language? And here again the irony is no less sharp. The man who has done most to put the country on a God path is the man who did most to defeat the Axis powers during the Second World War, General Dwight Eisenhower. Going from waging war to waging God. Is General James ‘Mad Dog‘ Mattis another one? Can you wage God? Well Ike did. And Trump is trying but he happily doesn’t have the smarts to do so, as for so much else that he would like to do for the country.
Here is Kevin Kruse’s shortened and edited account of what Ike almost without asking us, the American people, no more than he had asked Charles deGaulle about his plans for invading France in 1944, about what he was intending to impose upon the people, about how he dressed us up in the language of God, from the prayer breakfast to begin the day, to the evening prayer of thanksgiving at the end of the day for all of God’s wondrous gifts.
THE INAUGURATION OF PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. Eisenhower was much more than a political ceremony. It was, in many ways, a religious consecration. Though such a characterization might startle us today, the voters who elected Eisenhower twice by overwhelming margins would not have been surprised.
In his acceptance speech at the 1952 Republican National Convention, Eisenhower promised that the coming campaign would be a “great crusade for freedom.” As he traveled across America that summer, Eisenhower met often with Reverend Billy Graham, his close friend, to receive spiritual guidance and recommendations for passages of Scripture to use in his speeches….
Eisenhower won 55 percent of the popular vote and a staggering 442-to-89 margin in the Electoral College. Reflecting on the returns, Eisenhower saw nothing less than a mandate for a national religious revival. “I think one of the reasons I was elected was to help lead this country spiritually….”
The inaugural ceremonies on January 20, 1953, set the tone for the new administration. Some of Eisenhower’s supporters tried to get Congress to designate it a National Day of Prayer, but even without such an official blessing, the day still had all the markings of one. In the past, incoming presidents had attended religious services… but Eisenhower turned spirituality into spectacle. At a transition meeting with his cabinet nominees, he announced that they and their families were invited to a special religious service at National Presbyterian Church the morning of the inauguration….
Immediately after his oath of office, in his first official words as president, Eisenhower asked the 125,000 Americans in attendance—and the estimated seventy million more watching live on television—to bow their heads so that he might lead them in “a little private prayer of my own” he had composed himself that morning.
“Almighty God,” Eisenhower began, “as we stand here at this moment my future associates in the Executive branch of Government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.” The inauguration and its immediate aftermath established the tenor for Eisenhower’s entire presidency.
On the first Sunday in February, Eisenhower became the first president ever to be baptized while in office, taking the rite before the congregation of National Presbyterian Church. That same night, Eisenhower broadcast an Oval Office address for the American Legion’s “Back to God” ceremonies, urging the millions watching at home to recognize and rejoice in what the president said were the spiritual foundations of the nation.
Four days later, he was the guest of honor at the first-ever National Prayer Breakfast, which soon became an annual tradition…. The convening pastor led a “prayer of consecration” for Eisenhower, who then offered brief remarks of his own. “The very basis of our government is: ‘We hold that all men are endowed by their Creator’ with certain rights,” the president asserted. “In one sentence, we established that every free government is embedded soundly in a deeply-felt religious faith.”