Adam Kirsch on a new book that “shows how Nazism and the Ku Klux Klan prompted the American establishment to look beyond longstanding divisions and see Catholics, Protestants, and Jews as kin”:
When you consider how much blood has been spilled over questions of theology, there is something quite wonderful about the way Americans are so eager to give every religion equal credit for good intentions—or even to believe that good intentions are more important than theological correctness. And what is most amazing of all is the way Jews are automatically included in this consensus—in what Eisenhower went on to call “the Judeo-Christian concept.” The very term “Judeo-Christian,” which is now a cliché in American political discourse, represents a healing of a 2,000-year-old breach, an off-hand repudiation of the whole bloody history of Christian anti-Judaism.
When and how did America start to think of itself as a Judeo-Christian country, rather than what it historically has been, a Protestant one? That is the question Kevin M. Schultz asks in Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise (Oxford), and he gives a very concrete answer. The change came about in the 1930s and 1940s, thanks primarily to the concerted effort of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, a lobbying and educational group founded in 1927.