Saturday, December 22, 2012

Woodrow Wilson's Calvinism

Check out my colleague Dean Curry's excellent review of Malcolm Magee's What the World Should Be: Woodrow Wilson and the Crafting of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy. (Baylor 2008).  Here is a taste:

Magee concludes that the tragedy of Woodrow Wilson "had more to do with Jerusalem than Athens. It was a tragedy of faith." And so it was. The lesson of Woodrow Wilson's presidency is not that Jerusalem has nothing to say to Athens in the realm of international politics; rather, it is that good intentions inspired by misguided theology can lead to disastrous foreign policy consequences.

The antidote to idealism of the Wilsonian sort is a deep knowledge of the contours of history, a keen understanding of the moral ambiguities that delimit human action in the "meanwhile" in which we live, and a commitment to honing the virtue of prudence in defining the purposes to which we direct national power. In short, Reinhold Niebuhr is not a bad place to start after all.

For those of you interested in some of the nuances of twentieth-century American Calvinism, Matthew Tuininga offers a slightly different perspective on Wilson.