The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War

The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War

The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War

The Spiritual-Industrial Complex: America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War

Synopsis

In his farewell address, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the nation of the perils of the military-industrial complex. But as Jonathan Herzog shows in this insightful history, Eisenhower had spent his presidency contributing to another, lesser known, Cold War collaboration: the spiritual-industrialcomplex.This fascinating volume shows that American leaders in the early Cold War years considered the conflict to be profoundly religious; they saw Communism not only as godless but also as a sinister form of religion. Fighting faith with faith, they deliberately used religious beliefs and institutions aspart of the plan to defeat the Soviet enemy. Herzog offers an illuminating account of the resultant spiritual-industrial complex, chronicling the rhetoric, the programs, and the policies that became its hallmarks. He shows that well-known actions like the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance were a small part of a much larger and relatively unexplored program that promoted religion nationwide. Herzog shows how these efforts played out in areas of American life both predictable and unexpected - from pulpits and presidential appeals to national faith drives, militarytraining barracks, public school classrooms, and Hollywood epics. Millions of Americans were bombarded with the message that the religious could not be Communists, just a short step from the all-too-common conclusion that the irreligious could not be true Americans. Though the spiritual-industrial complex declined in the 1960s, its statutes, monuments, and sentiments live on as bulwarks against secularism and as reminders that the nation rests upon the groundwork of religious faith. They continue to serve as valuable allies for those defending the place ofreligion in American life.

Excerpt

If what undergraduates tell me is true, that Stanford’s beauty has a way of breaking their concentration, then late winter must be the cruelest time of all. the days grow warm, the orange California poppies multiply, and the brown hillsides give way to an impossible green. the afternoons are a time to hike or simply lounge on the quad. But this was not always an option in the late winter of 2006 for those enrolled in my colloquium on modern American conservatism. They spent Tuesday and Thursday afternoons discussing, among other things, the intellectual inheritance of Edmund Burke, Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, and the impact of California’s Proposition 13.

Of all the speeches, books, and tracts we examined that quarter, one modest pamphlet sparked the most unexpected and fruitful debate. Written by a Chinese American conservative in 1960, it was entitled “Why a Christian Cannot Be a Communist.” the students were accustomed to thinking about Communism as a political or economic system, and to them the argument seemed strange. What I originally thought would be a brief discussion ended up consuming the entire class period. We listed the reasons why Communism might be antithetical to Christianity, eventually producing a catalog far exceeding the author’s original argument. and then we began drawing out his logic, searching for its unspoken assumptions. Finally I asked: “If a Christian can’t be a Communist, can a non-Christian be an American?” the group began considering the deeper implications of a Cold War divided along religious lines.

Was this pamphlet an isolated argument? Was it a claim monopolized by the Right, or did it transcend political ideology? Did American leaders act upon this conclusion? While Communism, as we’ve long known, was atheistic, the pamphlet argued something more. It did not only construe Communism as a philosophy hostile to religion but also as a powerful religious system itself. I resolved to learn more.

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