One Nation under Graham
Apocalyptic Rhetoric and American Exceptionalism
Imprint: Baylor University Press
192 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in, 2 b&w photos
- Published: September 2021
For centuries, particular readings of the biblical text have shaped the course of Western history. Scripture, used as a political totem for those in power, gives divine weight to political agendas. This trajectory is particularly evident in the fiery career of Billy Graham, "America's evangelist." Graham's rhetoric, steeped in his political appropriation of Scripture, ultimately motivated the insertion of "under God" into the pledge of allegiance: his message of national repentance made its way to President Dwight Eisenhower, who converted it into legislation and changed history. America became self-consciously a nation under God, over against the world.
One Nation under Graham investigates how one man's interpretation of the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation has impacted how the United States sees itself on a global and cosmic scale. Jonathan Redding argues that Graham rode the wave of American xenophobia to rebrand evangelical patriotism as essential to national stability and cosmic balance. A survey of Graham's influences reveals that, while Graham was far from the only Christian leader to preach gloom and doom, he was one of the first to make the theme publicly and profoundly American. Graham's influence and drive to make America a nation "under God" ensured that, with the recitation of the American pledge, his reading of Scripture would endure. Redding further shows the continued capacity of "under God" to equip contemporary leadership to leverage Christian faith for personal gain with a political base.
Graham's response to major political and global events created a thoroughly American apocalyptic lens that continues to be used to give life and potency to biblical interpretations. In the same way that Daniel and Revelation warned of the dangers of unchecked political power and misplaced priorities, One Nation under Graham uses Graham's interpretations to urge all of us to consider under whom we serve and under what flag we kneel.
Introduction: Blood, Faith, and Country
1 Anything but Extraordinary: A Brief History of Apocalyptic Reception
2 The Roots of Graham’s Apocalyptic Nationalism
3 Billy Graham’s Apocalyptic Worldview
4 Preacher, Pastor, and President
5 Evangelical Nationalism after Eisenhower: From John F. Kennedy to Donald J. Trump
Conclusion: With Liberty and Justice for Some
In One Nation under Graham, Jonathan Redding charts a trajectory of apocalyptic politics from early Christian hermeneutics to contemporary public discourse. In his careful reading of historical data, Redding offers insight not only into the political aspirations of Billy Graham, the man once deemed ‘the greatest preacher since Jesus,’ but also into the heart of American nationalism. This is an essential book for anyone interested in American evangelicalism, biblical reception, and intersections between politics, faith, and governmentality.~Rebekka King, Associate Professor, Middle Tennessee State University
Timely and thoughtful, Redding’s One Nation under Graham explores the roots and branches of American apocalyptic thinking through the work of Billy Graham, often imagined as ‘America’s Pastor.’ Placing Graham’s apocalyptic interpretation within the larger story of how biblical books like Daniel and Revelation have been received and reinterpreted across time, Redding helps readers understand the explosive intersection of religion and politics in the U.S. today. Redding takes his story up to the infamous moment when Donald J. Trump held up ‘a Bible,’ clearly not his, for a photo-op and asks his reader to think carefully about the troubling path that the apocalypticism of Graham and Evangelical Christianity more broadly has set before us.~Lynn R. Huber, Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Honors Program, Elon University
In this intriguing study, Jonathan Redding explores various ways in which famed evangelist Billy Graham linked biblical apocalypticism with American chosenness and exceptionalism, and the impact of those issues in presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Trump. His work offers insights into the evolution of a particular type of Christian Nationalism that is increasing within and threatening to American democracy. A timely study.~Bill J. Leonard, Professor of Divinity Emeritus, Wake Forest University