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God's Cold Warrior
The Life and Faith of John Foster Dulles
PAPERBACK; Published: 2/9/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7572-3
Price: $ 23.99
271 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Series: Library of Religious Biography

When John Foster Dulles died in 1959, he was given the largest American state funeral since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s in 1945. President Eisenhower called Dulles—his longtime secretary of state—“one of the truly great men of our time,” and a few years later the new commercial airport outside Washington, DC, was christened the Dulles International Airport in his honor. His star has fallen significantly since that time, but his influence remains indelible—most especially regarding his role in bringing the worldview of American exceptionalism to the forefront of US foreign policy during the Cold War era, a worldview that has long outlived him. 

God’s Cold Warrior recounts how Dulles’s faith commitments from his Presbyterian upbringing found fertile soil in the anti-communist crusades of the mid-twentieth century. After attending the Oxford Ecumenical Church Conference in 1937, he wrote about his realization that “the spirit of Christianity, of which I learned as a boy, was really that of which the world now stood in very great need, not merely to save souls, but to solve the practical problems of international affairs.” Dulles believed that America was chosen by God to defend the freedom of all those vulnerable to the godless tyranny of communism, and he carried out this religious vision in every aspect of his diplomatic and political work. He was conspicuous among those US officials in the twentieth century that prominently combined their religious convictions and public service, making his life and faith key to understanding the interconnectedness of God and country in US foreign affairs.

Table of Contents

Introduction: “He Being Dead, Yet Speaketh”
1. “Don’t Let the Little Ones Forget Me”
2. “His Character Is Straightforward and Sweet” (1888–1912)
3. “Does the Ark Need the Sustaining Hand of Uzza?” (1912–1926)
4. “Work, for the Night Is Coming” (1927–1939)
5. “Everything Is Fine until You Relax” (1940–1946)
6. “Give a Man a Revolver” (1946–1952)
7. “A Faith Linked with the Pursuit of Justice” (1953–1959)
Epilogue: Civil Religion, Progressive Christianity, and John Foster Dulles

“Written with compassion and scholarly care, assiduously researched and a pleasure to read, with so many moral lessons offered for today, John Wilsey’s study of John Foster Dulles is Christian biography at its absolute best. Here readers gain fresh access to one of the most consequential men of the twentieth century and learn how this towering political figure, often caricatured as stodgy and sanctimonious, was at his core a principled and pragmatic Christian whose faith animated his daily life and ambitions to change the world. God’s Cold Warrior is a sparkling addition to the Eerdmans religious biography series and to the annals of religion and politics in modern America.”
— Darren Dochuk
author of Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America
“With acute insight and commendable empathy, John Wilsey has rescued John Foster Dulles from the simplistic caricatures and partisan criticism that characterize so much of the writing on Eisenhower’s much-maligned secretary of state. This work—written with verve by a man of faith—carefully explores Dulles’s religious journey and reveals well his humanity, his morality, and his complexity. God’s Cold Warrior joins the ranks of important recent works that shed essential light on the interaction of faith and American foreign policy.”
— Wilson D. Miscamble, CSC
University of Notre Dame
“I owe a shallow knowledge of the Dulles name to having grown up in the 1950s when one would often hear mention of the Dulles family in news reports. When I came to study theology with John Foster Dulles’s youngest son Avery Dulles, SJ, my interest was piqued. The then-Father, and later Cardinal, Dulles was discreet in speaking of his father when I would ask, alluding only to his advocacy of a ‘religiously grounded public consensus.’ Thus, I was enriched in reading God’s Cold Warrior not only to see the depth of John Foster Dulles’s thinking and religious commitment but also to deepen my appreciation of the Dulles intellectual dynasty.”
— Robert A. Sirico
president of the Acton Institute
“At a time when many associate Christian nationalism with evangelical Protestantism and regard the religious right as a threat to liberal democracy in the United States, John Wilsey’s astute and thorough biography of John Foster Dulles is a good reminder of what faith-based politics looks like. A lifelong liberal Presbyterian who played a major role in the United States’ Cold War strategies as secretary of state in the Eisenhower administration, Dulles had the rare combination of tolerant religion and militant nationalism. This book helpfully shows the access to power and significant influence that mainline Protestantism had on the United States’ policy as the nation rose to a global hegemony.”
— D. G. Hart
author of Damning Words: The Life and Religious Times of H. L. Mencken
“Wilsey illuminates the important role of Christianity in the life and work of John Foster Dulles, the towering and controversial US secretary of state in the Eisenhower administration. The book highlights how Dulles’s progressive faith guided his ecumenical church service in the 1940s and his work as America’s leading diplomat in the 1950s. While some scholars view Dulles as an inflexible moralist who intensified the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Wilsey’s biography offers a helpful corrective, providing a sympathetic account of this influential public servant.”
— Mark R. Amstutz
Wheaton College
“John Foster Dulles looms large in the pantheon of Cold War foreign policy leaders, yet the apparent space between his inner life and outer presentation have long rendered him an enigmatic figure. Wilsey’s warm and deeply researched volume offers an intimate portrait of Dulles, capturing the man in all of his contradictions and complexity. Blending spiritual and intellectual biography, Wilsey reveals much about Dulles’s internal world, teasing out the roots of his pragmatism in matters of faith as well as diplomacy, and highlighting the relationship Dulles saw between moral laws and the natural world. With this work, Wilsey has added tremendously to our understanding of the ideas and values that shaped Dulles’s worldview and thus US politics and foreign policy.”
— Lauren Turek
Trinity University
Publishers Weekly
“Readers with an interest in postwar politics will appreciate Wilsey’s perspective on what made his subject tick.”