Historical Study of United States Religious Responses to the Vietnam War

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A historical analysis of the how various American religious groups responded to the Vietnam war, both in support and in opposition.


“The author expertly navigates these troubled waters, and the result is a judicious treatment of religious attitudes toward the Vietnam War. This is a good and important book, exhaustively researched and compellingly presented.” – Prof. Randall Balmer, Barnard College

“… an extraordinarily useful study of the various religious reponses to U.S. engagement in Vietnam. … a model for at least a generation of scholars.” – Prof. Charles Lippy, University of Tennessee--Chattanooga

"... is an extremely important contribution to our understanding of American religious history in the last half of the twentieth century. In some sense, It's amazing that forty years transpired before someone undertook to explore the role of religion in the Vietnam War. ... the account documents unmistakely [show] the important role that the war played in creating the current politicization of religion that so bedevils our contemporary religious and political situation." -- James W. Lewis, Executive Director, The Louisville Institute

"Religion and war have been a focus of his research since, and this comprehensive record of religious stances on war will be indispensable for future scholars as well as challenging for religious leaders." --Prof. Peter Steinfels, Fordham University

Table of Contents

Part One


Chapter I: “A Preservation and Extension of Freedom”: Background of the Vietnam War and Religious Attitudes Toward U.S. Foreign Policy

Chapter II: “Let Every Person Be Subject to the Governing Authorities”: Religious Leaders and Organizations

Chapter III: “One Could Regret the Killing and Insist That It Should Continue”: Denominational Support for the Vietnam War

Chapter IV: “Our Action in Vietnam Falls Within International Law and the Laws of War”: Just War Defense of the United States in the Vietnam War and the Embrace of Exceptionalism

Part Three

Chapter V: “Some Are Guilty, All Are Responsible”: Liberal Ecumenical Para-Religious Organizations Assess the Morality of the Vietnam War

Chapter VI: “The Greatest Purveyor of Violence in the World Today: My Own Government”: Other Christian and Jewish Organizations and Leaders Respond to the Morality of the Vietnam War

Chapter VII: “Moral Outrage Over This War is Simply not an Emotion Shared By the Nixon Majority”: Issues Confronted by Para-Religious Organizations and Individuals during the Vietnam War

Chapter VIII: “Does Our Nation Need Restraining By Other Nations?”: Denominations Questioning the Morality of the Vietnam War
Old-Line Protestant Denominational Statements up to the Tet Offensive

Part Four

Chapter IX: “The Profound Moral Dimensions of the War and the Chasm This Opened in U.S. Public Opinion”: Opposing the War with Moral Arguments and a New Understanding of Exceptionalism

Chapter X: “The American Ghetto and the Hanoi Operation were a Single Enterprise”: Rejecting the Belief in United States Morality and Exceptionalism


National Moral Challenges from the Vietnam War

Vietnam as a Unique War in the Nation’s Religious Experience

The Politicization of Religion in the United States

A Concluding, Largely Unacademic Postscript

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