Last week I did a post titled “Can a Christian Embrace ‘America First’?” The post called attention to Fordham theologian Charles Camosy’s argument that “Trumpism” is a heresy because it places the nation over the gospel.
Today, over at The Anxious Bench, Chris Gerhz of Bethel University historicizes Camosy’s claim. In his post “The Christian History of ‘America First’,” Gehrz reminds us that the original “America First” campaign had a lot of Christian support.
Here is a small taste:
But while I continue to believe that “America First” as our president seems to mean it is inconsistent with Christian belief and witness, it’s also worth noting that the pre-World War II isolationist movement that pioneered that phrase actually had considerable support from a wide range of Christians.
There were actually two such groups. The first, more explicitly Christian America First (founded 1939) was a right-wing women’s movement affiliated with Gerald L. K. Smith, a firebrand preacher who entered politics via his association with Huey Long and published the conservative magazine, The Cross and the Flag. In a 1994 article for the journal Diplomatic History, Laura McEnaney argued that the self-styled “Christian mothers” of that America First fused religion, patriotism, and isolationism into “a defense of the nuclear family structure and the conventional gender roles that made this movement’s vision of social and sexual purity possible and sustainable.”
More famous is the America First Committee (AFC), an ideologically diverse group founded in September 1940 by law student R. Douglas Stuart. (You can learn more about AFC from Philip, who posted about it last month at The American Conservative.) A member of the anti-war Yale Christian Association, Stuart’s father and grandfather were both executives at Quaker Oats, a company that plays a key role in Tim Gloege’s history of “corporate evangelicalism.”
Read the entire piece here.