In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Religion and the Cold War
  • Stephen J. Whitfield
Dianne Kirby , ed., Religion and the Cold War. New York: Palgrave, 2003. 245 pp. $72.00.

"Catholicism is the oldest and greatest totalitarian movement in history," philosopher Sidney Hook asserted in 1940. For Hook, a great champion of social democracy, no adjective in the lexicon of politics was more pejorative than "totalitarian." That he applied it to the ecclesia so closely associated with the Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union suggests the complexity of the topic that Dianne Kirby and her colleagues have chosen to tackle.

Although modernity has been so corrosive that verities could no longer be taken as absolutes, the tenacity of piety remains a phenomenon that social scientists are often obliged to rediscover; and the period from 1945 until 1960 that is mostly the chronological framework of Religion and the Cold War was also an era of burnished faith in faith itself. In no other phase of the geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington was Rome reckoned with more seriously until a Polish prelate was given the keys to the kingdom at the end of the 1970s and subsequently helped pick the lock of Western victory. This last part of the story is, oddly, outside the historical boundaries of Kirby's anthology, which is based on a conference of the same title held [End Page 138] in 2000 under the sponsorship of the Institute of Contemporary British History. Kirby and her collaborators exhibit an admirable geographical range—from Canada to Yugoslavia, for example, with two stops in Britain. The subject is analyzed mostly through institutional history and what the clergymen who profess to speak for the faithful have claimed and sought. Yet the two chapters on Germany are primarily forays in intellectual history. Matthew D. Hockenos recounts the genesis of the Darmstadt statement of 1947, in which the confessional churches, largely at the instigation of the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, repudiated the doctrine of the two kingdoms—a separation of religion from politics that was blamed for the failure to resist Nazism—by denouncing Stalinism as a gross violation of spiritual dignity. Studying the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Hartmut Lehmann traces the oscillations in how it chose to remember the titans of the Reformation—particularly the peasant leader Thomas Müntzer and his foe, Martin Luther. The GDR, despite invoking its own historical bona fides, had to peddle furiously away from the "bourgeois" and even reactionary features of the national past. Stopping in 1989, Lehmann's essay is unique in bringing the story into the twilight of the Cold War.

Kirby herself is the sole contributor to focus entirely on the hegemon of the Western alliance. She portrays Harry Truman as motivated by a messianic conviction in the mission of his country to defeat evil. Yet she does not weigh Truman's religious convictions, insofar as they animated his foreign policy, against other sources of American statecraft. No more excusable is Kirby's failure to mention Truman's own denominational affiliation, even though none of the major Protestant groups in the United States matched the Baptists in their traditional reluctance to entwine faith in government. Nor were other groups more averse than the Baptists to the Vatican, which had mounted an all-out campaign against atheistic Communism during Truman's presidency. (In 1960 a Baptist preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. initially opposed the Democratic candidate, John F. Kennedy, because of his Catholicism.)

The Catholic Church—what comedian Lenny Bruce called "the only 'The Church'"—inspires four chapters in this book and produces the most historiographical heat. As Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli served as successor to St. Peter for nearly two decades (1939–1958) and was l'ultimo papa, the embattled champion of a presumably unchanging tradition yet also the first to invoke papal infallibility, in 1950, by declaring the bodily Ascension of the Virgin Mary into heaven. In the Second World War, Pius XII had feared that the Allied aim of unconditional surrender would devastate Germany (and his native Italy) and allow Bolshevism to reap the benefits of a power vacuum. In the 1948 Italian elections, the flood-the-zone propaganda of the Church...