I read this paper by Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs last week. It is a typically excellent Mead product.
I think the main thing Mead is trying to accomplish with this article is to show unreligious people who are part of the Northeastern establishment that (1) there is a lot more to the so-called “religious right” than their stereotypes can capture, (2) that the impact of the evangelical community is going to continue to be major, and growing influence on US foreign policy, and (3) that the policies that this community is going to advocate in the future, again, may differ from the stereotypes which the non-religious establishment has of evangelicals. Basically, American evangelicalism is a vast and influential and active world unto itself that most people who are interested in or participate in public policy know nothing about. One friend commented that Mead is being more than fair to these folks. I think he is appropriately fair. But Mead�s goal is not to criticize this community, but to try to explain them to an uncomprehending and hostile audience.
1 thought on “Evangelicals and U.S. Foreign Policy”
Mead does go astray in one very important sense though in following the typical secularist’s obsession with “Calvinism”. The main influence on the Missouri Synod Lutherans, as well as most Evangelical Protestants (albeit indirectly) is that of (surprise!) Martin Luther who did indeed take a very much more optimistic view than Calvin did. The intellectual wellsprings of the Baptists would derive from that of the Anabaptists so they come by their distrust of government and the secular world from a long tradition that has nothing to do with Calvin. Indeed, given the persecution they experienced from Zwingli, Calvin’s immediate predecessor, and the fact that their doctrine was almost the exact opposite of the Zwingli/Calvin view of the world there is a somewhat grotesque element in speaking of their theology in terms of “Calvinism”.
For what remains of Calvinism look to the Presbyterians but I think you will find that it was already in decline at the time of John Adams and in decay by the time of Nathanial Hawthorne. If even Mr. Mead makes this error then I can only conclude that modern American scholarship needs to learn that there is a world outside of New England.
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