The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism

Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations

Markku Ruotsila

"Ruotsila has given us a superior study. It is refreshing to see church history treated with such sophistication."
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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.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Christian Anti-Internationalism

1. The Social Gospel and Modern Internationalism

2. Dispensationalists: Prefiguring the Latter Days

3. Calvinists: Contesting the Public Means of Grace

4. Lutherans: The Two Kingdoms and the Antichrist

5. Methodists and Episcopalians: A Few Dissenting Voices

6. Religion and the League of Nations Fight in the Senate

7. Religion and the League for the Preservation of American Independence

8. The Persistence of Christian Anti-Internationalism

Conclusion: Christian Anti-Internationalism in Historical Context





"Ruotsila has given us a superior study. It is refreshing to see church history treated with such sophistication."—Journal of American History

"Ruotsila has done impressive research, immersing himself in unexplored original source material. He treats matters of faith respectfully with a seriousness not always found among scholars today."—Politics and Religion

"A well-researched and adeptly argued book . . . Ruotsila demonstrates yet again why scholars of religion and diplomatic historians should study together more often. In the key debate over U.S. entry into the League of Nations, won eventually by the naysayers, Ruotsila clearly shows the influence of conservative Christianity."—Church History

"The evangelical reaction to the debate over the League of Nations occurred during a fascinating period in religious and political history—churches split over theological debates, new theological traditions were born and empowered, and evangelical eschatology was an important element of the debate. This book will interest political scientists, sociologists, historians, students of religious studies, and anyone interested in the role of religion and American foreign policy."—Clyde Wilcox, Georgetown University


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Markku Ruotsila is an adjunct professor of American church history at the University of Helsinki and an adjunct professor of American and British history at the University of Tampere. He is the author of several books, including John Spargo and American Socialism.

256 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-190-8
Dec 2007

256 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-191-5
Dec 2007

256 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-452-7
Dec 2007

Religion and Politics series
John C. Green, Ted G. Jelen, and Mark J. Rozell, series editors

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