President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill making "In God We Trust" the nation's official motto, but his approach to religion was not excessive in its rigor. "Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious belief," he once declared, "and I don't care what it is."
He might have been taken aback at the spectacle presented by fellow Republican Ted Cruz Monday in Lynchburg, Va. The Texas senator sounded less like he was running for president of the United States than for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Invocations of the Almighty have long been a normal and harmless part of American political rhetoric. Even Barack Obama, whom many people continue to believe is a Muslim rather than a Christian, ends his speeches, "God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."
But Cruz takes this custom to a novel extreme. He was not paying the normal tribute to general and widely held Christian beliefs. He was informing a narrow slice of Protestants, "I'm one of you." Most religious expressions by politicians are inclusionary. His was the opposite, writes Steve Chapman.