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Religion and the Cold War.

Religion and the Cold War. Edited by Dianne Kirby. Cold War History Series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. xiii + 247 pp. $72.00 cloth.

The thirteen essays in this collection address the largely neglected but immensely important impact of religion on Cold War foreign policy making and doctrine. Derived from papers originally presented at an April 2000 conference, the essays form the first collated contribution that the international Religion and the Cold War project has made to the historiography of the Cold War.

In her introduction, Dianne Kirby provides a highly useful, contextualized overview of the so-called New Cold War scholarship from which the writers take much of their inspiration. For some years, this school has tried to transcend the typical diplomatist's concentration on tangibles and instead to privilege culture and ideology as key dimensions of the superpower confrontation. With reference to Akira Iriye's calls for cultural studies of foreign policy, Kirby asks scholars to go one step further and to consider whether religion, too, might have been not just a tool but also a shaper of Cold War policy, additional to and independent of secular ideology. The book's key hypothesis and preliminary conclusion is that religion should, indeed, be recognized as a "significant Cold War component" (6).

Most of the essays interrogate the political uses of religion, rather than the role of religious believers as shapers of policy. Even on this plane, the writers offer highly useful insights into little known aspects of the Cold War confrontation. Anna Dickinson's piece on the Russian Orthodox Church, for example, shows that the Soviet leadership's well-known concessions to the Orthodox during and after the Second World War were intended not just to build the Orthodox Church as a pro-Soviet fifth column in the international religious community. Dickinson shows that the domestic context was important, too, in that Stalin saw the Orthodox Church as a key instrument in putting down nationalist sentiment in the largely Catholic areas of Russia that had been under German occupation. Similarly, Paul Hainsworth shows how the international and the domestic, the religious and the nationalist, blended in the French Communists' prolonged effort at chaining French Catholicism to an accommodationist line on the superpower confrontation. With some success, these Communists appealed to French nationalism among the socially activist clergy to counteract President De Gaulle's conservative domestic and anti-Communist foreign policies.

Dianne Kirby's own article on Harry Truman's religious Cold War diplomacy maintains that the President regarded religious faith as a key means of inoculating the West against the lures of materialist Communism. That Truman integrated this conviction with policy, as Kirby shows he did, may have been as important an aspect of his anti-Communist policies as any. Kirby shows that Truman engaged the Pope in a deliberate creation of a "religious anticommunist front" (77) to which he hoped eventually to add also the World Council of Churches, the Dalai Lama, and key Muslim leaders. According to Kirby, this religious plane of anti-Communist policy was "integral" (77) to Truman's larger vision of waging the Cold War. Like Kirby, in his essay on Cold War cinematic propaganda Tony Shaw shows convincingly how central were the Christian presuppositions of many apparently secular Hollywood studio heads (and similar British filmmakers) when they set out to disseminate their anti-Communist message in the 1950s.

In this context, Cecil DeMille's Ten Commandments and Quo Vadis appear as deliberately created Christian anti-Communist artifacts that played a singularly important role in fostering a popular conflation of anti-Communism and Christian religious belief. All this is welcome and adds to our understanding of the Cold War. But, it seems, the writers of this collection do not always inquire deeply enough nor broadly enough. One of the problems is that fully half of the thirteen essays deal with Catholicism, and more particularly, with Pope Pius XII's anti-Communist activities. While this helps the reader in appreciating the Vatican's centrality in provoking and sustaining the Cold War, it tends at the same time to obscure the contributions of other faith communities. A further, related shortcoming is the entire absence of essays on the Cold War in Asia and Africa, on the roles of non-Christian religions, and on the use of religion by states that were ostensibly neutral and by the churches of such states. To be comprehensive, the collection should have included studies of such locales, as well.

Moreover, a more fully representative treatment of the issues would have required that attention be given also to such highly important American Protestant groups as the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade and the Christian Crusade and to the international Moral Re-Armament Movement. Others have, indeed, studied the politicization of prophecy speculation that these groups represented, but that does not justify passing them by in a supposedly comprehensive survey. As it is, of these three groups only the last-mentioned makes an appearance in this book, and that in a footnote. To have found a way of including studies of these and other similarly under-researched groups would have strengthened the collection considerably.

The drawbacks notwithstanding, this book should act as a powerful call to scholars, prompting more of them to inquire into the role that religious belief has played not only during the Cold War but in foreign policy making more generally, in other periods, in countries not dealt with here, and on a number of apparently secular issues that were, in fact, full of religious significance. That religion should be regarded as a category in foreign policy making co-equal with race, gender, and class is a challenging contention, but the case for it is well argued in this book.

Markku Ruotsila

University of Tampere, Finland
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Author:Ruotsila, Markku
Publication:Church History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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