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Faith and War

Faith and War: How Christians Debated the Cold and Vietnam Wars

David E. Settje
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Faith and War
    Book Description:

    Throughout American history, Christianity has shaped public opinion, guided leaders in their decision making, and stood at the center of countless issues. To gain complete knowledge of an era, historians must investigate the religious context of what transpired, why it happened, and how. Yet too little is known about American Christianity's foreign policy opinions during the Cold and Vietnam Wars. To gain a deeper understanding of this period (1964-75), David E. Settje explores the diversity of American Christian responses to the Cold and Vietnam Wars to determine how Americans engaged in debates about foreign policy based on their theological convictions. Settje uncovers how specific Christian theologies and histories influenced American religious responses to international affairs, which varied considerably. Scrutinizing such sources as the evangelical Christianity Today, the mainline Protestant ,Christian Century, a sampling of Catholic periodicals, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the United Church of Christ, Faith and War explores these entities' commingling of religion, politics, and foreign policy, illuminating the roles that Christianity attempted to play in both reflecting and shaping American foreign policy opinions during a decade in which global matters affected Americans daily and profoundly.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0872-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Christianity and Foreign Policy, 1964–1975: An Introductory Analysis
    (pp. 1-22)

    Throughout U.S. history, Christianity has shaped public opinion, guided leaders in their decision making, and stood at the center of every contentious issue. One cannot study any period of time or major issue in American history without confronting Christianity’s effect. Religious sensibilities have had positive and negative influences, but they have alwayshadan influence. The founding of the nation incorporated intense discussion about church and state, including a constitutional amendment to separate the institutions. The Civil War stemmed from a battle over slavery, which emerged in part from the abolitionists’ Christian calling to combat an immorality. Throughout two centuries,...

  5. 1 Christianity and the Cold War, 1964–1968
    (pp. 23-60)

    In September 1964, Billy Graham held the Greater Omaha–Council Bluffs Crusade. Graham told the 16,100 participants that teenage rebellion, sexuality, and a collapse of law and order endangered the United States, and he emphasized that this situation paved the way for Communists, who were “just waiting until we get soft enough” with moral standards and anti-Communist vigilance to swoop in and conquer America. The Cold War continued to threaten America and demanded action from Christians to help defeat communism. A conservative Christianity during the 1960s undergirded U.S. public opinion about Cold War policy and thereby assisted the government in...

  6. 2 Christian Responses to Vietnam, 1964–1968
    (pp. 61-94)

    In 1968, Dr. Harold John Ockenga, pastor of Park Street Church in Boston, traveled to Vietnam and wrote an article for Christianity Today in response: he castigated those who called for negotiations with North Vietnam or prophesied a U.S. defeat because doing so did “a great disservice to a heroic people and a great cause.” He felt that a “compromise with the VC [Vietcong]” would mean doom for everything the South Vietnamese had fought to establish, which in his mind was democracy and religious freedom. For Ockenga and many other conservative Christians, Vietnam represented a domino to protect in the...

  7. 3 Christianity Confronts Cold War Nixon Policies, 1969–1973
    (pp. 95-126)

    In June 1970, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual gathering signaled a continued conservatism in their foreign policy outlook. Coming at the end of a violent few years in U.S. history, with the assassination of leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy, urban rioting and burning, the eruption of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and antiwar protests that met with prowar demonstrators and turned into brawls, this convention offered messengers a chance to articulate their view of the problems to the rest of the nation. Though it allowed for the possibility of...

  8. 4 Christian America Responds to Nixon’s Vietnam Policies
    (pp. 127-160)

    Elected in 1968 partially because he pledged to seek peace in Vietnam, Richard M. Nixon became a lightning rod for Christian debates about the Vietnam War during the 1970s. Establishing a policy that came to be known as “Vietnamization,” Nixon insisted that he would not abandon the U.S. ally in South Vietnam until it could prosecute the war on its own and thereby protect itself. This stance and a desire to maintain U.S. credibility and prestige in the Cold War led to Nixon’s assertion that he sought “peace with honor,” not peace at any price. History has demonstrated that, in...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-178)

    By 1975, much of America had grown tired of foreign policy debates, a reality borne out in portions of the Christian community yet with significant exceptions. Many entities lost interest in global issues, as revealed in the fact that Christian sources that had previously contained numerous and lengthy articulations of foreign affairs viewpoints housed much less such discussion by 1975. Yet other Christians remained aware of both the Cold and Vietnam wars in their print media, assemblies, and churchwide discussions. From March 1975 to early July 1975, Christian America’s reaction to events in Southeast Asia summarized where the 1960s and...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 179-200)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-224)
  12. Index
    (pp. 225-232)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 233-233)