According to author Kevin Kruse, the phrases One Nation Under God and In God We Trust are the brand slogans of one of the longest running and most successful grassroots PR campaigns ever run in the United States. The campaign detailed in Kruse’s book One Nation Under God, created the concept of a Christian America linked to libertarian ideals. It was the cradle for the Christian Coalition in the 1970s and the Tea Party movement in our decade.
According to Kruse, industrial leaders unhappy with post-Depression regulations and social programs wanted to sink the New Deal. No dice–until they recruited a Congregationalist pastor who preached against the New Deal. Over the next 30 years, this pastor recruited ministers to preach the gospel of Christian American libertarian ideals from thousands of pulpits across the nation. As he became influential with church-going business titans, he became an influential power-broker to politicians and the wheel kept turning. One Nation Under God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954–three decades after the campaign began. In God We Trust became the national motto by act of Congress in 1956.
Kruse’s outline follows classic public relations agenda-setting theory–a dynamic attempt to engage the media, the public and policy-makers changing public opinion and ultimately public policy. Industry titans engaged populist ministers to carry the message over and over through many channels. The message spread. As it spread, the messengers’ influence over the agenda increased.
History is a never-ending lesson.
Photo credit: “One Nation Under God” cover, by Kevin Kruse.