Richard M. Gamble: The War for Righteousness

Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation

ISI Books, 2003

Back Cover:

In The War for Righteousness, Richard Gamble tells the story of how progressive Christian leaders in America transformed themselves from principled pacifists to crusading interventionists at the time of the First World War. Gamble reconstructs the inner world of the social gospel clergy, showing how they came to see their task as evangelists for the new creeds of democracy and internationalism, and ultimately for the redemption of civilization itself through the agency of total war. World War I thus became a transcendent moment of fulfillment. Gamble also engages the broader questions of religion’s role in shaping the modern American mind and the development, at the deepest levels, of the logic of messianic interventionism – the idea that America has been destined by divine Providence to bring a kind of secular salvation to the less enlightened nations of the world. This timely book not only fills a significant gap in our collective memory of the Great War, it also helps demonstrate how and why that war heralded the advent of a different American self-understanding.

“Gamble’s insight could scarcely be keener, nor his timing better. From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, America’s wars have always been ‘holy’ because Americans, from the Puritans of old to the secular liberals, neoconservatives, and evangelicals of today, imagine their country a promised land with a calling to redeem the world…if necessary, by force. The War for Righteousness brilliantly parses the ‘progressive’ theology sustaining that mission.”  Walter A. McDougall, University of Pennsylvania, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian

The War for Righteousness is ‘relevant’ history in the best sense. Nobody can claim to understand truly the role of the United States government in the world today unless he has been over the ground that Gamble has covered. It is impossible to overestimate the contribution of this book to American self-understanding.”  Clyde N. Wilson, Professor of History, University of South Carolina

“This is a splendid study of progressive Christianity and its political significance before and during the Great War. Gamble perceptively explains the important connection between a spiritually dubious form of Christianity and a desire for international political crusading. This fine historical work is also highly relevant to assessing present moralistic calls for American empire.”  Claes G. Ryn, Professor of Political Science, Catholic University of America

About the Author:

Richard M. Gamble is Assistant Professor of History at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he has tauht in the history and honors programs since 1994. He is also a Visiting Scholar at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University, and regularly returns to the Western Front to lead travel-study programs on the Battle of Verdun. His essays and reviews have appeared in Humanitas, the Journal of Southern History, Chronicles, the Independent Review, and Ideas on Liberty.

JOB’s Comment:

I think Gamble is now at Hillsdale College. I met him at a colloquium in Savannah, GA in 2000. A charming, humble scholar, thoroughly familiar with the work of Irving Babbitt, which is fundamental to his analysis in this book.

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