Thomas Elliott

Thomas Elliott

2018 Undergraduate Fellow
History

Thesis title and description:

"God’s Chosen People? Religion and Anti-Communism in 1950s America"

In my senior thesis I want to focus on what appears to be a turning point in the 1950s, by examining how the federal government used religion as a tool in its ideological campaign against Communism, especially under the Eisenhower administration. The work I hope to do advances scholarly research that has not been fully fleshed out in current historical scholarship. The majority of the work that has been done on the role of religion in American politics in the 20th century falls into two categories. The first is an examination of anti-Communist rhetoric in the US government, mainly by historians. The second category consists of work by political scientists interested in the role religion has come to play in government since the rise of the “religious right” following Ronald Reagan’s election as president. The first type of work largely neglects the relationship between politics and religion, while the second overlooks the deeper historical roots of that relationship. My thesis, then, aims to bridge the gap in the existing literature by exploring the rise of the political-religious nexus in the 20th-century US as it emerged during the peak of anti-Communism in the 1950s. To that end, I plan to do archival research this summer in the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas; the archives of the Princeton Theological Seminary; and the archives of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut to find primary source documents that explore the connections made between religion and anti-communism.