The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism: Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations

The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism: Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations

The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism: Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations

The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism: Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations

Synopsis

The roots of conservative Christian skepticism of international politics run deep. In this original work Markku Ruotsila artfully unearths the historical and theological origins of evangelical Christian thought on modern-day international organizations and U. S. foreign policy, particularly in the fierce debates over the first truly international body -- the League of Nations.

After describing the rise of the Social Gospel movement that played a vital, foundational role in the movement toward a League of Nations, The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism examines the arguments and tactics that the most influential confessional Christian congregations in the United States -- dispensational millenialists, Calvinists, Lutherans, and, to a lesser extent, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Christian Restorationists -- used to undermine domestic support for the proposed international body. Ruotsila recounts how these groups learned to co-opt less religious-minded politicians and organizations that were likewise opposed to the very concept of international multilateralism. In closely analyzing how the evangelical movement successfully harnessed political activism to sway U. S. foreign policy, he traces a direct path from the successful battle against the League to the fundamentalist-modernist clashes of the 1920s and the present-day debate over America's role in the world.

This exploration of why the United States ultimately rejected the League of Nations offers a lucid interpretation of the significant role that religion plays in U. S. policymaking both at home and abroad. Ruotsila's analysis will be of interest to scholars and practitioners of theology, religious studies, religion and politics, international relations, domestic policy, and U. S. and world history.

Excerpt

The creation of the League of Nations in 1919 remains one of the pivotal turning points in American and world history. It marked the point of departure between a world system that had been structured around unfettered national sovereignties and merely ad hoc alliances and a new era of increasingly circumscribed sovereignty and institutionalized cooperation. By providing all nations with equal access to decision making, the League of Nations helped promote ethnic and religious egalitarianism. And by institutionalizing social reform in new multilateral agencies, it advanced purposive social renovation in ways that nation-states could never have done on their own. Its collective security apparatus failed in practice but did provide an abiding matrix for peacekeeping in the modern era. Although in the end the United States did not join this first world assembly of nation-states, no administration could ignore it in making foreign policy; nor could any politically aware American overlook the ascendancy of the new internationalism that it sustained. The age of internationalism that the League ushered in profoundly, if gradually, transformed American perceptions both of the world and of America's own role in it.

This multifaceted experiment interested many different constituencies, and perhaps none more so than the different groups of Christians who for decades had been at the forefront of those who called for international cooperation, peace, and solidarity. In the United States, the conventions of most . . .

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