The “America First Exhibit” at the Holocaust Museum

US Holocaust Museum in Washington

My forthcoming book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump devotes several pages to Trump’s use of the phrase “America First.”  The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum‘s exhibit “Americans and the Holocaust” was not yet open when I was writing these pages, but if it had been open I am sure a quick trip to Washington D.C. would have inspired some of my writing on this topic.

Over at The Atlantic, Eliot Cohen reviews the new exhibit. Here is a taste:

This might all be an occasion for mere brooding about the past, were there not some jarring echoes for today. The isolationist organization America First gets its share of attention here, and deservedly so. Launched in September 1940, it soon built up a membership of over 800,000. Led by the retired general and business executive Robert Wood, its most charismatic spokesman was the heroic aviator Charles Lindbergh, a strange but inflammatory hero for the isolationists, who was not beyond the occasional Jew-baiting himself. America First opposed the Atlantic Charter issued by Roosevelt and Churchill in August 1941 after their meeting off Newfoundland, presumably including clauses like the pledge to respect the right to self-government. It captured the imaginations of some privileged young men, to include a couple of future presidents and assorted intellectual luminaries. It vanished into thin air after Pearl Harbor, and many of the young men who supported it, like John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford, changed their views in later years.

America First is, because of its discreditable history, a disreputable slogan, which has not prevented President Trump from embracing it and subordinates who know better from defending it. In so doing, they unwittingly undermine their other slogan, “Make America Great Again,” because the America of the 1930s was not all that great. There were—as we have been reminded by the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice—the pitiless murders of African Americans by lynch mobs. There were scores of such killings in the 1930s. There was casual and open bigotry and discrimination against Jews and other religious and ethnic groups. If Roosevelt proclaimed the Four Freedoms in his 1941 State of the Union address—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—the great objectives of the struggle that impended, it was not because America was contentedly enjoying them and wished to share in their bounty, but because he knew that they had to be fought for, at home and abroad simultaneously.

Read the entire review here.

Throckmorton on Metaxas

Metaxas

Warren Throckmorton has weighed-in on Jon Ward’s piece on Eric Metaxas at Yahoo News.  Here is a taste:

More contradiction comes via Metaxas’ opinion of Hillary Clinton. On one hand, he wrote to Ward:

Christians who think the Church in America might have survived a Hillary Clinton presidency are something like the devout Christian Germans who seriously and prayerfully thought it unChristian to be involved in opposing Hitler because to do so would have dirtied their hands with politics,…

He even once tweeted “Hitlery Clinton“), but in the email exchange he told Ward: “Nor do I mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, but the principle at issue is the same nonetheless.” If he didn’t mean to compare Hillary to Hitler, then why bring up Hitler?

Despite his complaints of being pilloried, he did not hesitate to pillory. His response to a question about historian John Fea’s spot-on critique of his book If You Can Keep It is a case in point.

Read the rest here.  See my response here.

The Pope Goes There

pope-and-trump

That’s right. Francis played the Hitler card.

Here is a taste of an NBC news article about the Pope’s recent interview with a Spanish newspaper:

ROME — Pope Francis has warned against growing populism in Europe, saying such movements could result in the election leaders of like Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

“In times of crisis, we lack judgment, and that is a constant reference for me,” the pontiff said in an in-depth interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais. “The most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933. After the crisis of 1930, Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler.”

“Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people,” the pope added.

Pope Francis’ warnings come as a wave of populism washes over Europe, and as voters angry with traditional political elites throw their weight behind nationalist, anti-immigrant leaders.

During the same interview, the pope said he was reserving judgement on President Donald Trump.

“I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion,” he said.

Read the rest here.

The American Flag, the Nazis, and the Socialist Origins of the Pledge of Allegiance

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Check out Jordan Teicher’s great short piece at JSTOR Daily about the so-called “Bellamy Salute.”  (Pictured above in 1915).

Seventy-four years ago today, lawmakers passed an amendment to the U.S. Flag Code, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt had approved just a few months earlier, instructing Americans reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to do so while “standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.”

This may have been the earliest federal rule addressing what civilians should do to accompany the recitation of the Pledge, but it was by no means the first time someone had thought about it. That distinction goes to Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist minister who, in 1892, was working at Youth’s Companion magazine. He came up with a physical component to the Pledge because, in fact, he was the guy who wrote it.

Keep reading.