The politicization of Christianity. Politics and religion have always made uneasy bedfellows- but there was a definitive shift in America’s political and religious culture in the 1940s – that set Christianity on its current course. As historian Kevin Kruse notes in a recent essay, it was during this period that Christian America was co-opted by corporate America. Following the Great Depression Big Business had something of an image problem – and needed rebranding. Also problematic was FDR’s New Deal – which was indispensable to the middle class but anathema to corporate interests.Industrialists realized Kruse writes – that ‘As men of God ministers could voice the same conservative complaints as business leaders – but without any suspicion that they were motivated by self-interest’. Kruse goes on to explain how religious authorities were recruited by business leaders: ‘It was a watershed moment – the beginning of a movement that would advance over the 1940s and early 1950s a new blend of conservative religion – economics – and politics – that one observer aptly anointed Christian libertarianism’. Under the guise of this ideology American clergy began to demonize the state – individualism was exalted – secularism was synonymous with socialism – and collectivism became the preferred boogeyman of businessmen and Christians. In short capitalists purchased the pulpits of preachers – who equated economic freedom with spiritual salvation – God with limited government.
This alliance paved the way for the prosperity gospel – a preposterous doctrine according to which godliness and wealth are one and the same. Although the prosperity gospel emerged in the late 1940s as an independent Pentecostal movement – it aligned perfectly with the free market theology of Christian libertarianism.
Much like Christian libertarianism – the prosperity gospel is a swindle – a half-baked justification for hucksterism and greed.