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One in the Spirit: The Summoning of the Spirit in the Spread of Christianity, Capitalism and Democracy

Whitney E. Easton

University of Connecticut

February 28, 2010

Since the founding of the United States, presidential rhetoric has often been riddled with references to the ‘spirit’, be it the ‘American Spirit’, the ‘spirit of democracy’ or the ‘spirit of capitalism’. This paper seeks to understand what animates that spirit in an effort to understand the religious underpinnings of American capitalism and democracy as an ideology that is not founded on the letter of the Bible but one that is rooted in an accessible, amorphous spirit that brings order and control to the individual soul. This paper will seek to link the invocation of this amorphous spirit as an important element through three phases of history since the descending of the Holy Spirit in the early church era; the Protestant Reformation and the birth of the spirit of capitalism; manifest destiny and the invocation of the American spirit: and finally, the Wilson Doctrine and the branching out of America onto the world stage with the spread of the spirit of democracy. This ethereal binding element has allowed the founding fathers as well as subsequent presidents to pursue what they consider to be a rational/moral foundation in government while largely avoiding the literalism of Christian fundamentalism. The invocation of a zealous spirit is a common thread throughout American history and may bring an understanding of the character of the religious sentiment that has permeated American cultural heritage and how it has been tied closely to the spread of emergent ideologies. By speaking of the spirit within the framework of capitalism and democracy, presidents such as Reagan, Wilson, George W. Bush, Nixon, and Lincoln have helped to spread democracy and capitalism using tools similar to the spread of Christianity in the early church era. This is done namely by imbuing capitalism and democracy with a spirit, sacraments, scripture, and myths.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 17

Keywords: presidents, religion, politics, manifest destiny, pioneers, capitalism, spirit, reformation, martin luther, calvin, weber, democracy, early church, christianity, holy, pentecost, woodrow, wilson, puritan, spread, theology

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Date posted: February 28, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Easton, Whitney E., One in the Spirit: The Summoning of the Spirit in the Spread of Christianity, Capitalism and Democracy (February 28, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1561282 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1561282

Contact Information

Whitney E. Easton (Contact Author)
University of Connecticut ( email )
Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States
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