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David Walsh @DavidAstinWalsh
, 22 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
This is the best thing I’ve read on @jack’s Vipassana meditation thread, and it got me thinking about the similarities and differences as to how Bruce Barton treated Christianity in the 1920s. (THREAD)
Bruce Barton is a fairly obscure figure these days, but he was one of the first professional ad men in the country. Remember on "Mad Men" how they kept talking about BBDO? That was Barton's firm. (He was the second "B"--founded in 1919 by Barton and two other partners.)
But Barton's real claim to fame was writing "The Man Nobody Knows" in 1925, a massive bestseller that presented Jesus as -- wait for it -- the world's most successful businessman.
Barton had been on this kick for quite some time. He told the Federal Council of Churches in 1920 that the Bible was the best business book ever written. St. Paul was the consummate salesman who out-competed the other religions in Rome.
Barton's religious convictions were sincere (he was the son of a preacher) and he was no fool. Frederick Jackson Turner even attempted to recruit him as an historian at the University of Wisconsin before Barton turned to advertising.

He was also, unsurprisingly, not a humble man
In the introduction to "The Man Nobody Knows," Barton resolved to ignore everything he'd been taught in Sunday school and in sermons and instead focus on the "real" Jesus.
Barton discovered -- surprise, surprise! -- that Jesus was in fact a muscular, popular, hard-drinking businessman.
Any resemblance to Barton himself, of course, was purely coincidental. He was only the messenger. ("HOW IT CAME TO BE WRITTEN" is how he modestly titled his preface.)
I'm not going to go through the entire book, since most of it is just a retelling of the gospels with asides about contemporary (in the 1920s) figures.

You've probably already got the idea. If not, the chapter titles alone will help.
"The Man Nobody Knows" was a huge success and even turned into what we'd call today a multimedia property--Barton made a film based on the book that was screened at churches around the country.
Back to @jack. One important difference between Jack and Barton is that while Jack and other Silicon Valley gurus takes bits and pieces from Eastern religions and repackage them as ways to make themselves more efficient, Barton had a slightly different purpose.
Barton's project was not to look back at the New Testament and take lessons from Jesus's life and apply them to business. Quite the reverse, actually -- it was to work backwards and prove that Jesus used the *same* techniques as the modern businessman.
People like Barton, in other words, were doing God's work.
That's an important distinction, because Barton -- whatever else he was -- really was a believing Christian. His particular brand of Christianity may have been inextricably interlinked with his embrace of American capitalism, but he really did believe in Jesus.
If this sounds a lot like modern "prosperity gospel," and/or the kind of Christianity that the Falwells practice, well...
Without a doubt, Jack and his Silicon Valley cohort draw up the "hippie capitalism" of the 1960s more than Barton and the prosperity gospel, but they're two sides of the same coin.
Both Jack and Barton draw upon ancient religious traditions to justify and service modern American capitalism.
Barton, incidentally, later successfully ran for Congress in 1937 on an anti-New Deal, pro-Mussolini platform. (h/t @YAppelbaum) theatlantic.com/politics/archi…
FURTHER READING:

On hippie capitalism, you still can't do much better than Fred Turner's "From Cyberculture to Counterculture." press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book…
On corporate Christianity, there are two great books that are worth your time. One is Bethany Moreton's "To Serve God and Wal-Mart." amazon.com/Serve-God-Wal-…
And the other is @KevinMKruse's "One Nation Under God." (Kevin is the person who first introduced me to Barton.) amazon.com/One-Nation-Und…
/end
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