A Cautious Patriotism

The American Churches and the Second World War

By Gerald L. Sittser

330 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5713-7
    Published: May 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6839-8
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6454-8
    Published: November 2000

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World War II was a turning point in twentieth-century American history, and its effects on American society have been studied from virtually every conceivable historical angle. Until now, though, the role of religion--an important aspect of life on the home front--has essentially been overlooked. In A Cautious Patriotism, Gerald Sittser addresses this omission. He examines the issues raised by World War II in light of the reactions they provoked among Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Unitarians, and members of other Christian denominations. In the process, he enriches our understanding of the relationships between church and society, religion and democracy. In deliberate contrast to the zealous, even jingoistic support they displayed during World War I, American churches met the events of the Second World War with ambivalence. Though devoted to the nation, Sittser argues, they were cautious in their patriotic commitments and careful to maintain loyalty to ideals of peace, justice, and humanitarianism. Religious concerns played a role in the debate over American entry into the war and continued to resurface over issues of mobilization, military chaplaincy, civil rights, the internment of Japanese Americans, Jewish suffering, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and postwar planning.

Originally published in 1997.

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About the Author

Gerald L. Sittser is associate professor of religion and philosophy at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington.
For more information about Gerald L. Sittser, visit the Author Page.


“The most comprehensive study of the role of religion in World War II, this book addresses the nature of the church’s patriotism.”--Religious Studies Review

“Brings a fresh perspective to the ‘last good war’ and provides new insights into the significance of religion in American history and culture.”--American Studies

“A pioneering work. . . . Because it is a trailblazing examination of an incredibly important topic, it has great value. . . . All serious students of Christianity and World War II in the future will have to begin with Sittser’s tome.”Christian Scholar’s Review

“Offers the most detailed account of organized Christianity’s response to World War II and provides a bridge to the ecumenical work that dominated the postwar religious landscape.”--Journal of American History

"An excellent, seminal, systematic work that reveals the role of the church in the United States during World War II."--History: Reviews of New Books

"We know less about religious dimensions of World War II than any other war in American history. Sittser's book is an invaluable introduction to the issues and choices that shaped American religion in the second half of what Henry Luce called 'the American Century.' He helps us understand why the war was so important for American religion in the twentieth century and for American culture."--John M. Mulder, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary