The Sacred and the Sovereign

Religion and International Politics

John D. Carlson and Erik C. Owens, Editors

"A highly useful collection of thoughtful, reflective essays on the intersections, overlaps, and tensions between religion and realpolitik in humanitarian interventions, from a rich array of perspectives—theological, philosophical, diplomatic, and military. Taken together, they constitute a marvelous resource for both research and teaching."
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Until September 11th, 2001, few in the West fully appreciated the significance of religion in international politics. The terrible events of that day refocused our attention on how thoroughly religion and politics intermingle, sometimes with horrific results. But must this intermingling always be so deadly? The Sacred and the Sovereign brings together leading voices to consider the roles that religion should—and should not—play in a post-Cold War age distinguished by humanitarian intervention, terrorism, globalization, and challenges to state sovereignty. But these challenges to state sovereignty have deep and abiding roots in religion that invite us to revisit just what values we hold sacred.

Offsetting the commonly shared idea that religion is politics' perennial nemesis, this volume demonstrates that religious traditions, institutions, and ideas are essential elements of the political quest for human rights, peace, order, legitimacy, and justice. The Sacred and the Sovereign brings distinguished scholars of religious studies, theology, and politics together with ranking members of the military and government to reflect seriously about where—and if—safe boundaries can be drawn between religion and politics in the international arena.

Table of Contents

Jean Bethke Elshtain

Introduction: Reconsidering Westphalia's Legacy for Religion and International Politics
John D. Carlson and Erik C. Owens

Part I: Religion and Armed Intervention
1. The Moral Measurement of War: A Tradition of Change and Continuity
J. Bryan Hehir

2. Ethical Implications of Kosovo Operations
James P. McCarthy

3. An Editor's View of Kosovo: Dilemmas and Criteria for Humanitarian Intervention
Margaret O’Brien Steinfels

4. Just War, Realism, and Intervention
Jean Bethke Elshtain

5. Justice, Political Authority, and Armed Conflict: Challenges to Sovereignty and the Just Conduct of War
John Kelsay

Part II: Human Rights, Political Authority, and Religious Commitments
6. Religious Concomitants of Transnationalism: From a Universal Church to a Universal Religiosity
Susanne Hoeber Rudolph

7. The Future of Sovereignty: A Christian Realist Perspective
Robin W. Lovin

8. Serving Two Masters? Affirming Religious Belief and Human Rights in a Pluralistic World
R. Scott Appleby

9. Trials, Tribunals and Tribulations of Sovereignty: Crimes against Humanity and the imago Dei
John D. Carlson

Part III: Sovereignty and Its Critics
10. Weighing Sovereignty in the "Sit Room": Does It Enter or End the Debate?
Robert L. Gallucci

11. Religious Allegiance and Political Sovereignty: An Irreconcilable Tension?
Paul J. Griffiths

12. Sacred Nonsovereignty
Fred Dallmayr

Conclusion: Sovereignty after September 11: What Has Changed?
Erik C. Owens


"A significant contribution to advancing our understanding of the nexus between international politics and religious beliefs and institutions. The Sacred and the Sovereign should generate healthy debate among students of religion and international politics. Hopefully, it will also convince skeptical readers of the great importance of Islam and Christianity and their attendant belief systems and institutions on the stage of world politics."—International Studies Review

"A timely study of the importance of religion in understanding international affairs, with some contributors arguing for the importance of religion in informing and sometimes guiding international affairs. . . . Highly recommended for anyone thinking about religion and the state of the world."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Will greatly enhance the public understanding of religion's role in political thought and international affairs. Readers intrigued by the demands of justice and state sovereignty, humanitarian intervention, war crimes, human rights, and the bases for political authority in a post-secular age will find much here to enrich the mind. Building on Augustine, Reinhold Niebuhr, Islamic tradition, and Catholic social teaching (among others), these essays will interest a broad range of scholars, citizens, and policymakers."—Richard B. Miller, professor and chair, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University

"The prophets of the brave new world told us that by this time, religion would be dead. Brave or not, the new world came, and lo, it is more religious than the old one. Carlson and Owens realize that religious questions are real questions, and they won't go away."—J. Budziszewski, University of Texas at Austin and author of The Revenge of Conscience

"I know of no comparable dialogue between theologians, scholars of religion and religious leaders on one hand, and political scientists, military experts and diplomatic leaders on the other. This volume offers a discerning set of perspectives on the relationship of divine sovereignty to the changing senses of the sovereignty of the nation state in a global era. Marked by discussions of the increasingly trans-cultural acceptance of the doctrines of human rights, just and unjust wars, and the duties of humanitarian intervention, views of the sacred are shaping both polity and policy, nationally and internationally, in ethical directions today. The implications for a contemporary understanding of the interplay of religion and politics in a constructive, and not only a de-constructive, postmodern future are profound."—Max L. Stackhouse, professor of christian ethics and director, Kuyper Center for Public Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"What has Jerusalem to say to Rome (the Vatican to Washington, or Mecca to Riyadh)? After Kosovo, the second intifada, and September 11, fourteen illuminating essays by engaged scholars, policymakers, and warriors offer answers about the new relationships of religious conviction and political sovereignty in tomorrow's world."—Tom Grassey, James B. Stockdale Chair of Leadership and Ethics, U.S. Naval War College

"The Sacred and the Sovereign explores a vital and growing tension in international politics that surprisingly few scholars have noticed, one between forms of sacredness that are increasingly asserting their own versions of sovereignty, and the state, which has enjoyed sovereign status since the Peace of Westphalia. In assembling a coalition of top flight scholars to cover the sundry manifestations of this tension—in scholarly discourse about justice and war, in conflicts like Kosovo, in the rise of new institutions like the international criminal court—John Carlson and Erik Owens provide rich fare for hungry intellects."—Daniel Philpott, assistant professor, Department of Political Science and faculty fellow, Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

"A highly useful collection of thoughtful, reflective essays on the intersections, overlaps, and tensions between religion and realpolitik in humanitarian interventions, from a rich array of perspectives—theological, philosophical, diplomatic, and military. Taken together, they constitute a marvelous resource for both research and teaching."—Albert C. Pierce, director, Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics, U.S. Naval Academy


John D. Carlson Erik C. Owens J. Bryan Hehir James P. McCarthy Margaret O'Brien Steinfels Jean Bethke Elshtain John Kelsay Susanne Hoeber Rudolph Robin W. Lovin R. Scott Appleby Robert Gallucci Paul J. Griffiths Fred Dallmayr Joshua Mitchell

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

John D. Carlson is an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

Erik C. Owens is assistant director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College.

312 pp., 6 x 9

Jun 2003

312 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-908-2
Jun 2003

312 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-465-7
Jun 2003

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