Leftwing college professors love nothing better than attacking Christianity unless, of course, it is attacking corporate America. Consequently, among elitist Ivy League college professors Princeton historian Kevin Kruse is thought to have hit a homerun. His new book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America is a liberal’s dream in that it manages to simultaneously attack both Christianity and corporations. In fact, according to Kruse Christian America is the invention of corporate America. You read that right. This liberal college professor attributes the few dangling threads of Christian thought that still remain in today’s increasingly secular-humanist society not to our nation’s founders, not to the church, and not to believers, but to corporate tycoons.
In reality, not only did Kruse fail to hit a home run with his new book—he struck out. There is one glaring problem with his new book: it is inaccurate in its portrayal of both Christianity and corporations. It also misrepresents the motives of business leaders who believed that Christian values were good for America. In fact, the book is 384 pages of mushy-headed liberal tripe—a chronicle of leftist thought from cover to cover that is predictable in its bias, condescending in its tone, and inaccurate in its content. Don’t get me wrong, Kruse cites numerous examples of where business leaders have attempted to promulgate the values and tenets of Christianity and the citations are accurate for as far as they go. Where he goes off track is in denouncing business leaders for doing so. When Kruse writes about business leaders advocating Christian slogans and values, he comes across as a leftwing version of Elmer Gantry condemning corporate devils.
Kruse goes so far out of bounds in this book it is hard to know where to start in challenging his biased suppositions. In fact, the book is little more than a compilation of distorted opinions masquerading as facts. This being the case, I chose just three areas in which this card-carrying member of the cult of liberal elitism let his imagination outrun the facts and his bias overpower his scholarhip. These areas are Kruse’s: 1) Supposition that Christians believe they must work their way into heaven, 2) Presentation of widely-known facts as new revelations unearthed by the author, and 3) Obvious bias against business leaders who advocate Christian values they believe are good for business and for America.
Concerning his supposition that Christians believe—because corporate tycoons taught them to believe—that they must work their way into heaven, Kruse’s exact words are: “Christianity and capitalism are both systems in which individuals rise and fall according to their own merits.” In other words, Kruse holds that Christians believe they get into heaven or don’t on the basis of how hard they work and how many good deeds they do prior to arrival at the Pearly Gates. The obvious corollary to this supposition is that if they don’t work hard enough they won’t get into heaven. And, of course, Kruse attributes this supposed belief to corporate bigwigs who foisted it on an unwitting American society to get them to work harder. Why? According to Kruse, it is because corporate big wigs need their personnel to work hard—as if there is something wrong with working hard.
It appears that as a boy Kruse might have skipped one too many Sunday Schools lessons. Salvation by grace as opposed to salvation by works has been an accepted tenet of the Christian faith since Martin Luther led the Great Reformation. Of course Christians believe they should work hard. This belief in the value of work was the subject of Max Weber’s landmark book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. To a Christian, working hard is a way to honor God. Christians know that God places great value on working hard because, among other things, he admonished us to work six days and rest one.
In addition to working hard, Christians believe they should do good works. But Christians do good works not to be saved, but as evidence that they have been saved. Good works are the tangible fruit of salvation, not an admission ticket to it. Reading Kruse’s take on this basic tenet of Christianity, I found myself wondering if as a child the author might have been admonished by his parents that “you won’t go to heaven if you don’t do your chores.” Even if this is the case, the parents enforcing the Biblical admonition that young Kevin should honor his father and mother (Fifth Commandment), not illustrating the concept of salvation.
The second area where Kruse went off the tracks was in presenting widely-known facts as startling revelations unearthed by his dogged research. These facts include such nuggets as: Corporate America played a leading role in the establishment of the National Prayer Breakfast and National Day of Prayer and that Reverend Billy Graham had the backing of some corporate leaders. My reactions to these underwhelming revelations and others in Kruse’s book were all the same: “And the problem with this is?”
In the first place, these revelations are no more revelatory than the news that Bill and Hillary Clinton received financial backing from countries seeking to influence American policy or that a socialist would feel at home in an Ivy League institution such as Princeton. Rather than being shocked—the response Kruse apparently hoped for—that corporate leaders teamed with religious leaders to establish a National Day of Prayer and the annual National Prayer Breakfast, I am not shocked, I am thankful. Somebody needed to lead the way. As to Reverend Billy Graham having the backing of business leaders, again I ask: “And the problem with this is?” Is there some prohibition against business leaders being Christians and then putting their money where their faith is? I wonder what Kruse thinks of the financial support Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received from business leaders including Nelson Rockefeller.
In a free society, people support those institutions and causes they believe in. Horror of horrors, some corporations even support institutions of higher education such as Kruse’s institution, Princeton. Since institutions of higher education do everything in their power to spread a secular-humanist worldview and use corporate contributions to help finance their nefarious agenda, it is hypocritical in the extreme for Kevin Kruse to question corporate leaders who support Christian values and symbols. Why not question those who support Princeton and other institutions of higher education?
As to Kruse’s attempt to portray Christian beliefs and symbols as part of an evil conspiracy of self-serving corporate bigwigs, he should have done more research. Go to any library or book store and locate the shelf containing books about succeeding in business and competing in the global marketplace. With a few unfortunate exceptions, the overwhelming majority of the books will recommend such strategies as honesty, integrity, loyalty, commitment, perseverance, teamwork, and a positive work ethic. Every one of these characteristics of successful people can be traced directly back to Holy Scripture. Every one of them is just a secular twist on a Biblical concept. Even atheist and agnostic corporate leaders want managers, supervisors, and employees who are honest, loyal, committed to doing their best, and who have a positive work ethic. Without this kind of personnel, businesses cannot survive and thrive in a globally competitive environment and, after all, that is the point of the enterprise. What Kruse conveniently overlooks is that if businesses do not succeed, they cannot make contributions to Christian causes or institutions of higher education.
Kruse claims that corporate tycoons admonished Americans to adhere to Christian values and principles as a way to ward off the negative effects of creeping socialism. I for one hope he is right. However, if he is, something certainly went wrong along the way because every sector of the American economy has been undermined by the slow but steady advance of creeping socialism in America. And nowhere on the planet has socialism insinuated its way into every fiber of an organizations so completely as in institutions of higher education.
Liberal universities such as Princeton take in hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate donations every year and then use those dollars to support mushy-headed professors like Kevin Kruse who hypocritically use the funds to tear down corporate America. If Kruse wanted to write a truly revelatory book, he might have focused on what universities do with the corporate support they receive and depend on. At least Christian organizations and individuals who receive corporate support put the money to good use.