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Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2012
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A richly detailed, profoundly engrossing story of how religion has influenced American foreign relations, told through the stories of the men and women—from presidents to preachers—who have plotted the country’s course in the world.   Ever since John Winthrop argued that the Puritans’ new home would be “a city upon a hill,” Americans’ role in the world has been shaped by their belief that God has something special in mind for them. But this is a story that historians have mostly ignored. Now, in the first authoritative work on the subject, Andrew Preston explores the major strains of religious fervor—liberal and conservative, pacifist and militant, internationalist and isolationist—that framed American thinking on international issues from the earliest colonial wars to the twenty-first century. He arrives at some startling conclusions, among them: Abraham Lincoln’s use of religion in the Civil War became the model for subsequent wars of humanitarian intervention; nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries made up the first NGO to advance a global human rights agenda; religious liberty was the centerpiece of Franklin Roosevelt’s strategy to bring the United States into World War II.   From George Washington to George W. Bush, from the Puritans to the present, from the colonial wars to the Cold War, religion has been one of America’s most powerful sources of ideas about the wider world. When, just days after 9/11, George W. Bush described America as “a prayerful nation, a nation that prays to an almighty God for protection and for peace,” or when Barack Obama spoke of balancing the “just war and the imperatives of a just peace” in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, they were echoing four hundred years of religious rhetoric. Preston traces this echo back to its source.   Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith is an unprecedented achievement: no one has yet attempted such a bold synthesis of American history. It is also a remarkable work of balance and fair-mindedness about one of the most fraught subjects in America.
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Street Date:
02/28/2012
Language:
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ISBN:
9780307957603
ASIN:
B005IQZ7A4
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APA Citation (style guide)

Andrew Preston. (2012). Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Andrew Preston. 2012. Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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Andrew Preston, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012.

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Andrew Preston. Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        ANDREW PRESTON teaches American history and international relations history at Cambridge University, where he is a fellow of Clare College. Before Cambridge, he taught history and international studies at Yale University. He has also taught at universities in Canada and Switzerland, and has been a fellow at the Cold War Studies Program at the London School of Economics. He is the author of The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam.

      • name: Andrew Preston
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title
Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith
fullDescription
A richly detailed, profoundly engrossing story of how religion has influenced American foreign relations, told through the stories of the men and women—from presidents to preachers—who have plotted the country’s course in the world.
 
Ever since John Winthrop argued that the Puritans’ new home would be “a city upon a hill,” Americans’ role in the world has been shaped by their belief that God has something special in mind for them. But this is a story that historians have mostly ignored. Now, in the first authoritative work on the subject, Andrew Preston explores the major strains of religious fervor—liberal and conservative, pacifist and militant, internationalist and isolationist—that framed American thinking on international issues from the earliest colonial wars to the twenty-first century. He arrives at some startling conclusions, among them: Abraham Lincoln’s use of religion in the Civil War became the model for subsequent wars of humanitarian intervention; nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries made up the first NGO to advance a global human rights agenda; religious liberty was the centerpiece of Franklin Roosevelt’s strategy to bring the United States into World War II.
 
From George Washington to George W. Bush, from the Puritans to the present, from the colonial wars to the Cold War, religion has been one of America’s most powerful sources of ideas about the wider world. When, just days after 9/11, George W. Bush described America as “a prayerful nation, a nation that prays to an almighty God for protection and for peace,” or when Barack Obama spoke of balancing the “just war and the imperatives of a just peace” in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, they were echoing four hundred years of religious rhetoric. Preston traces this echo back to its source.
 
Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith is an unprecedented achievement: no one has yet attempted such a bold synthesis of American history. It is also a remarkable work of balance and fair-mindedness about one of the most fraught subjects in America.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Michael Kimmage, The New Republic
      • content: "Neither pedantic nor superficial. [Preston] is the rare scholar who can educate a non-academic audience in the complexity of an important subject. Preston cuts through a confusion that often surrounds America foreign policy, by laying bare the unusual moral history behind it, a history that begins with the Puritans and proceeds in the grooves illuminated in this beautifully written book."
      • premium: False
      • source: Roger Morris, The Globe and Mail
      • content: "A unified field theory of American foreign relations capturing the play of personality and politics, passion and hypocrisy--all written with a style that further distinguishes [Preston] in a domain as deficient in literary grace as in candour . . . Preston excels in portraits of the people at the heart of the matter, from the Puritans to Barack Obama. No governments here in faceless generality, no US in absolving abstract, but rather the frame and temper of human beings in all their force and frailty. History as biography, his work achieves the most elusive of biographical rendering--what did they really think about the nature of man and the universe, and how successfully, as Bierce would put it, did they adapt faith to the sins of policy. This is no simplistic case for religion as single cause. Preston's genius is to find the blending with all the other, frequently contradictory strains."
      • premium: False
      • source: Charles Hill, The Wilson Quarterly
      • content: "[A] monumental study . . . This book solidifies Preston's reputation as one of the foremost young scholars working in the great tradition of historical interpretation of war, diplomacy, and peace. . . Preston describes how America's religion has been far more intimately intertwined with its statecraft and foreign policy than is generally understood . . . This is not the new master narrative of America, but it is close enough."
      • premium: False
      • source: Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
      • content: "Fascinating . . . As a comprehensive survey, the book opens up pathways for others to explore."
      • premium: False
      • source: Richard I. Immerman, San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: "Encyclopedic . . . [Preston] leaves no religious stone unturned . . . I hunger for more."
      • premium: False
      • source: Bryce Christensen, Booklist (starred review)
      • content: "What is most astonishing is not this or that episode but rather the ubiquity of religious influence on America's international relations, an ubiquity that Preston complains has for far too long been hidden by the secularist bias of academic historians. A much-needed corrective to that bias."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
      • content: "[M]arvelously readable . . . A sharp, clear, deeply researched examination of the consistent application of the founding religious principles to American foreign policy."
      • premium: False
      • source: Karen Armstrong, author A History of God
      • content: "Reading this book is a thrilling intellectual adventure: it challenges received ideas at the same time as it throws light on buried, troubling perplexities and changes the way we view not only the United States but the rest of the world. Erudite, balanced and respectful, it could not be more timely and should be required reading for policy-makers, concerned citizens, atheists and religious alike."
      • premium: False
      • source: Mark Noll, author of America's God
      • content: "There have been a number of good books on particular aspects of religion and American foreign policy. But no one before Andrew Preston has written such a thoroughly researched, consistently insightful, and ideologically balanced general history of this timely, important, but strangely under-studied subject. This splendid book makes a major contribution in its own right, but also opens up an entire field for much-needed further study."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jon Meacham, author of American Lion
      • content: "In this landmark work, Andrew Preston sheds light on a critical element of the American experience: the role of religion in our relationship to the world. Faith is one of the most influential factors in our national life, and Preston's excellent book gives religion its due as a force that shapes who we are, what wars we fight, and which causes we make our own."
      • premium: False
      • source: Al Menendez, Voice of Reason
      • content: "This extraordinarily important book explores the relatively unknown link between religion and U.S. foreign policy. The author, a historian at Cambridge University, shows that religion has influenced the nation's foreign policies from the intermittent wars with the Barbary pirates in the 1790s to President Obama's Cairo speech in 2009 . . . Preston's work is exhaustive . . . in the opinion of this
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from January 1, 2012
        A sharp, clear, deeply researched examination of the consistent application of the founding religious principles to American foreign policy, from the colonists' sense of a Protestant exceptionalism to President Obama's "Good Niebuhr Policy." The invocation of God and religion to sanctify foreign-policy decisions is not a new or surprising idea, as Preston (American and International History/Cambridge Univ.) learned especially when he was researching his work on McGeorge Bundy and the Vietnam War (The War Council, 2006). However, the extent to which religion has been used consistently to shape U.S. diplomatic history proved "an odd and unsettling discovery." Here the author thoroughly documents that discovery, from the self-righteous Puritans' establishing their "City upon a Hill" to the modern-day presidents acting as self-appointed popes. Preston explores this fascinating paradox of a nation founded on freedom of religion yet exhibiting, in its relations with the wider world, a profound belief in a Judeo-Christian sense of "exceptional virtue." America's unique geographical position in the world allowed it "free security" to engender idealistic choices and values, reflected in its moralistic foreign policy. Its founding Reformation Protestant society eventually developed tenets of pluralism, libertarianism, a deep suspicion of despotism and hostility to arbitrary power, a faith-based progressivism, nationalism and even isolationism, all of which Preston explores systematically. America's reaction to what it perceived as corrupt and tyrannical foreign influences thus allowed the republic to model itself as virtuous and in the right, spreading "God's own cause" in subsequent dealings with the Indians, Canadians, Mexicans, Cubans and Filipinos, largely for worse. Preston sifts carefully through the "religious biographies" of certain key policymakers, including John Quincy Adams, William McKinley, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Foster Dulles and others. A frank, exhaustive, marvelously readable study.

        (COPYRIGHT (2012) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2012

        In this extensive study, Preston (American & international relations history, Univ. of Cambridge, UK; The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam) moves elegantly from Congregational colonialism's war with the Pequot through post-9/11 involvement in Afghanistan, tracing how American imperatives have been tinged with religious zeal. He cogently manages the breadth of his topic by use of such concepts as "Christian Republicanism," a persistent anti-Catholic strain, and serial U.S. "crusades" that started in Cuba and the Philippines in 1898 and have persisted in interventions ever since. Preston reminds us that while religion is only a single component in America's relationship with the world, it plays a distinct role in that relationship. Historically, religion has helped aggregate the claims of government and the opposition. Preston tells his story through individuals: devout American Presidents, zealous missionaries, and original thinkers such as James R. Mott and Reinhold Niebuhr. While Preston avoids commenting on current political issues, his book is relevant to questions such as the debates between libertarians and social conservatives. He sees the recent surge in Christian fundamentalism and evangelism as rooted in the McCarthy era. VERDICT Such a broadly conceived book not only will provoke controversy but also will appeal to readers beyond students of American history and religion.--Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie

        Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from February 15, 2012
        Explaining his confidence in American victory over the Nazis, FDR's vice-president, Henry Wallace, quoted Isaiah before declaring, Strong in the strength of the Lord, we who fight in the people's cause will never stop until that cause is won. Preston situates Wallace in a very long chain of American leaders, from seventeenth-century colonist John Winthrop to twenty-first-century president Barack Obama, intent on applying religious precept to international politics. Readers will probably recognize some episodes in this narrative, the eighteenth-century Great Awakening that helped kindle the colonists' revolt against Great Britain, for example. But Preston's painstaking research not only exposes new details in familiar episodes but also brings into view some entirely unfamiliar episodes. It will, for instance, surprise most readers that George Kennan turned to John Milton's Christian poetry to justify his Cold War strategy of containment. Most readers will likewise be surprised at how decisively seven Pentecostal immigrants affected Reagan's diplomacy with the Soviets. But what is most astonishing is not this or that episode but, rather, the ubiquity of religious influence on America's international relations, a ubiquity that Preston complains has for far too long been hidden by the secularist bias of academic historians. A much-needed corrective to that bias.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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In this unprecedented, monumental work--at once panoramic and rich with detail--Andrew Preston examines the role of religion in American foreign policy from the earliest days through the end of the Cold War, revealing the influence religion has had on the way Americans and our leaders have understood our place in the world.

Without arguing for or against any religion, Preston makes clear how faith, both public and personal, has figured into our foreign relations, from the question of slavery to the debate over imperialism in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, from America's involvement in World War I to Harry Truman's Cold War doctrine of containment. This is a boldly original synthesis of American history, a hugely ambitious book that fully acknowledges the complexities of history as it illuminates the ways in which Americans have balanced the intractable tensions between pragmatic self-interest and the idealistic demands of faith.

From the...

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