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Religion in American War and Diplomacy: A History

General Programming

dateDecember 5, 2012 timeWednesday, 5:00pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life
  • Department of History
  • Consortium for Intellectual and Cultural History
  • Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated
  • Photo ID required for entry
Cover of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith by Andrew Preston

From the first colonists to the presidents of the 21st Century, religion has always shaped America’s relationships with other nations. During the presidency of George W. Bush, many Americans and others around the world viewed the entrance of religion into foreign policy discourse, especially with regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a “new” development. Despite the official division between church and state, the presence of religion in American foreign policy has been a constant. Yet aside from leaders known to be personally religious, such as Bush, Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson, few realize how central faith has always been to American governance and diplomacy–and indeed to the idea of America itself. This paper will trace some of the main themes of the relationship between religion and American foreign relations, and use two more detailed case studies — John Foster Dulles and international organization; and missionaries and the establishment of a human rights discourse — by way of example.

Andrew Preston, Senior Lecturer in American History and author of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith (Knopf, 2012), will speak on "Religion in American War and Diplomacy: A History."

  • Andrew Preston Senior Lecturer in American History University of Cambridge