In This Review

A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America
A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America
By Peter Steinfels
Simon & Schuster, 2003, 416 pp
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The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War
The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War
By Elisabeth Sifton
W.W. Norton, 2003, 288 pp
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Conservative evangelicals have been getting most of the publicity lately, but evangelical Christians represent only one facet of Christianity in the United States. With more than 63 million members, the Roman Catholic Church remains the nation's largest denomination, and the political and foreign policy views of U.S. Catholics will arguably play a larger role in shaping the future than those of the evangelicals. Steinfels' masterful and sympathetic study of the complex forces at work among Catholics is required reading for anyone interested in looking at the counterweights and counterforces that continue to play a vital role in U.S. foreign policy.

Sifton, meanwhile, is not only one of America's most distinguished book editors; she is also the daughter of Reinhold Niebuhr, perhaps the greatest American Christian thinker of the twentieth century. In Sifton's personal and intellectual memoir of her father, the complex ideas of mid-twentieth-century mainline Protestantism are beautifully recalled and celebrated. These ideas helped shape the U.S. response to both fascism and the Cold War and inspired the Civil Rights movement. Both books are timely reminders of the wealth and diversity of the American religious tradition. Whether looking at liberal or conservative tendencies, it is hard to overestimate the importance of religion in U.S. foreign policy.