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Reverse Mission

Reverse Mission: Transnational Religious Communities and the Making of US Foreign Policy

Timothy A. Byrnes
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Reverse Mission
    Book Description:

    Many Catholic priests, nuns, and brothers in the United States take a strong interest in US policies that affect their "brothers and sisters" abroad. In fact, when the policies of their native government pose significant dangers to their people internationally, these US citizens engage actively in a variety of political processes in order to protect and advance the interests of the transnational religious communities to which they belong. In this provocative examination of the place of religion in world politics, Timothy A. Byrnes focuses on three Catholic communities-Jesuit, Maryknoll, and Benedictine-and how they seek to shape US policy in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Based on years of fieldwork and on-the-ground interviews, Reverse Mission details the transnational bonds that drive the political activities of these Catholic orders. This fascinating book reveals how the men and women of these orders became politically active in complex and sometimes controversial causes and how, ultimately, they exert a unique influence on foreign policy that is derived from their communal loyalties rather than any ethnic or national origin.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-789-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Transnational Religious Communities and the Making of US Foreign Policy
    (pp. 1-27)

    A Jesuit priest in California’s Silicon Valley agrees to drop everything and take over as academic vice president of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in San Salvador when that Jesuit university’s entire administration is murdered in cold blood by the Salvadoran military. At the same time, many other Jesuits in the United States devote themselves to halting US financial support to the Salvadoran military and insist that the murders at the UCA be properly investigated and aggressively prosecuted.

    A Maryknoll sister, who is spending her life in Nicaragua, travels back to the United States to speak at public meetings, where she...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Ours: Martyrdom in El Salvador, Mobilization in the United States
    (pp. 28-67)

    The rose garden outside the Pastoral Center at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) in San Salvador is now a site of pilgrimage, a place where countless visitors come to sit, reflect, and usually pray. This placid spot along the back edge of the university used to be just the yard behind a house where several of the Jesuit priests who served as administrators and faculty lived. But the beautiful, lush garden was planted in grief and homage by Obdulio Ramos after his wife, Elba, her daughter Celina, and six of the Jesuit priests were murdered at the site...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The People: On Mission from Nicaragua to the United States
    (pp. 68-105)

    Nancy Donovan was already back at the Maryknoll motherhouse in Ossining, New York, when I began to visit her. After thirty years as a missionary in Nicaragua and throughout Central America, she was living with many other retired Maryknoll sisters in a sprawling house that feels more like a large college dormitory than a convent. Way too big for Maryknoll’s dwindling numbers, it is set on the grounds of a compound whose size and beauty would put most college campuses to shame. I spent a number of very pleasant afternoons with Nancy (as she asked to be called), sitting in...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Hospitality: A Covenant between Mexico and Vermont
    (pp. 106-150)

    Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its spectacular year-round weather, Cuernavaca, Mexico, is also notable for its abundant natural beauty—and for its equally abundant, but not always equally visible, local poverty. Amid the hundreds of restaurants serving prosperous Mexicans and visiting tourists, Cuernavaca also features countless children hawking gum, row after row of women selling fruit and fabric, and whole stretches of urban landscape where the sturdiest structure is made of scrap metal walls and a tarpaper roof. Through its own diversity, Cuernavaca serves as a kind of living symbol of Mexico’s own complex identity as...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Conclusion
    (pp. 151-168)

    Running through my academic discipline of political science is a powerful assumption that political activities derive the bulk of their meaning from their influence on public policy. This assumption is not always explicit, and the influence need not be direct or obvious. But somewhere down the causal chain of activity there ought to be a tangible relationship between the action being examined and policy. Otherwise, many ask, why examine it? The first question in summing up and justifying the examinations that have occupied the three central chapters of this book, therefore, is whether these particular transnational religious communities have had...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 169-180)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-186)
  11. Index
    (pp. 187-196)