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Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
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Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  87 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
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 t
Hardcover, 832 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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"[F]or our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

-Mark Twain, the War Prayer

To Andrew Preston, it is not a question of whether
Sarah Finch
Mar 04, 2014 Sarah Finch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely thorough and intelligent guided tour of the interplay between religion and American foreign policy. Preston examines how so many great thinkers and statesmen (and some not so great ones) have seen war and diplomacy through the lens of religion. He goes in-depth with the influence of Reinhold Niebuhr, which proved to be the most enjoyable segments of the book for me, and also touches on the speeches and writings of everyone from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Pat Buchanan. Sadly, Dorothy ...more
Nov 16, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing
Andrew Preston has done an admirable job trying to interweave the history of American religion and American diplomacy. In the book he leaves little doubt that faith, particularly protestant faith, has at times served both to spur the United States into conflict and has also been a vocal voice of restraint and pacifism. For historians, religion tends to be something that they often overlook, in particular political and diplomatic historians tend to assign logical and realist causes to peoples act ...more
May 01, 2015 Samuel rated it liked it
Andrew Preston explores the concept of American exceptionalism read through a religious lens. Beginning with John Winthrop declaring that the Puritans’ American settlement would be “a city on a hill” in the 17th century, Americans’ role in the world has been shaped by their belief that God has something special in mind for them. There are liberal and conservative strains of religious fervor (also pacifist and militant, internationalist and isolationist). Religion has continually been one of the ...more
H Wesselius
Apr 24, 2012 H Wesselius rated it liked it
As the author notes, the rest of the world ignore the influence of religion on US foreign policy at their peril. He presents a encyclopedic outline of the religious influence on foreign policy, the religious nature of the policy makers, etc. However, there are a number of difficulties for a reader -- the sheer volume, the differing time periods, the lack of cohesion and focus, and his inability to provide causation rather we are presented with correlation and coincidence. And more importantly he ...more
Mar 24, 2014 Beau rated it it was ok
I think a better case could have been made that class conflict has played a bigger role than religion in American diplomacy and history. Preston sticks to well known historical figures and the occasional religious leader. Apparently government leaders and religious leaders were responsible for ending the Vietnam War. No mention of prohibition and religions role in that colossal fucking waste of time and funds. Butterfield would be proud of his objectivity. Take a freakin' stand Preston. Stop try ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Diane rated it liked it
This book provides a comprehensive view of the impact of religion on American foreign policy, from colonial times until the present. The author provides a detailed account, and he provides a subtle analysis that shows the differences between and among denominations. He often provides evidence to deepen the reader's understanding of major historical figures. Unfortunately, the book is organized badly, which makes it hard to follow at times, and the author contradicts himself in several instances.
Wes Pue
Jan 05, 2017 Wes Pue rated it it was amazing
At som 600 pages, excluding notes, this is a somewhat demanding book covering the intersection of USA religion and public policy from colonial times to Obama. Persistent themes (God's chosen people, for example, co-exist with changing perceptions of evil (Catholics, Jews, Communists, liberal Protestants, Muslims). The author designates the Judeo-Christian tradition (itself a relatively recent notion) as America's civil religion. Exhaustively research, informative, and beautifully written, this b ...more
Jul 03, 2012 Anne added it
Very interesting. Quite dense and slow reading. Frames American history, character and actions as influenced by religion, religious beliefs. Even proposes that the passion that inspired the American Revolution was not so much about democracy as about fear of Church of England and Catholic Church. I only made it about 1/3 the way thru then had to return to the library. But I will take it up again.
Feb 23, 2013 Charles rated it it was ok
I started this book with a certain amount of curiosity, but quickly became overwhelmed by the endless dissections of various religious sectarian beliefs & intrigues as they influenced American politics & diplomacy. So much so that I couldn't get past the 1/2 way mark in the book, & unlike the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, I couldn't get Divine intervention to hold the flood of information, and so didn't finish the crossing.
Rancy Breece
Apr 13, 2013 Rancy Breece rated it really liked it
"Sword..." is a fascinating look at how religion influences US foreign and, in some cases, domestic policy. It provides a unique perspective on American history as most focus on politics, social perspectives, military campaigns, etc. Preston provides a lot of information, and for the most part is making a good case for his perspective on the influence of religion on American foreign policy. It is not an easy or casual read so I expect it will take a while to finish.
Jun 24, 2013 Eunice rated it really liked it
It is a big book - over 600 pages. I was not able to finish it as I had to return it to the library as others were waiting to borrow it. The author showed how much Christianity played a part in the history of America right from the beginning. It is well-written and balanced.
Oct 01, 2014 Brandy rated it really liked it
Read this for a grad class.

I very much enjoyed this book. It was incredible writing. Incredible research. I'm not giving it five stars because there was the occasional argument that seemed a bit of a stretch. But yeah. Great book.
Dec 27, 2012 !Tæmbuŝu marked it as to-read
Recommended to !Tæmbuŝu by: Foreign Affairs
Mar 27, 2014 Anthony rated it it was amazing
Profound, insightful, and well researched! Well worth the time!
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