My first book, To Bring the Good News to All Nations: Evangelicals, Human Rights, and U.S. Foreign Relations, traces the development of evangelical Christian foreign policy lobbying groups in the United States beginning in the 1970s. In contrast to scholarship on the ascendancy of the religious right as a domestic political force, my work focuses on how foreign missionary work contributed to the creation of an influential evangelical lobby with distinct interests in the trajectory of U.S. foreign relations. The vast expansion of evangelical Christianity throughout the world during the 1970s and 1980s nurtured ties between American evangelicals and their co-religionists abroad, creating a diffuse yet energetic global network of faith-based non-state organizations and actors. My research reveals that American missions in Central America and Southern Africa, and efforts to support persecuted evangelicals in the Soviet bloc, played a decisive role in shaping U.S. foreign relations. I argue that evangelicals pushed Congress to grant aid to favored yet repressive regimes in countries such as Guatemala while imposing economic and diplomatic sanctions on nations that persecuted Christians, such as the Soviet Union. In the process, evangelicals developed a limited yet unique perspective on human rights abuses in Eastern Europe and the Global South, which interacted in powerful ways with the revival of human rights activism in the 1970s more broadly.
This research adds to the historiography of modern American political, diplomatic, and religious history in three key ways. First, in illuminating the international outreach efforts of an influential and globally interconnected group of co-religionists, I place the rise of the religious right in the United States in a global context. Second, my research exposes how Christian interest groups blended their religious beliefs and conservative political ideology to drive national discourse about American foreign relations. In so doing, I show that evangelical lobbying efforts guided official decision making on a number of key issues. Finally, the book contributes to the growing literature on human rights during the 1970s by demonstrating that evangelical lobbyists used human rights language and influenced how policymakers interpreted state violence and repression abroad.
Selected Reviews of To Bring the Good News to All Nations:
- Wall Street Journal
- Passport: The Society for Historians of Foreign Relations Review Roundtable
- Christianity Today, “When Conscience Rights Come at the Cost of Human Rights”
- The Review of Faith and International Affairs
- Diplomatic History
- Religion, State, and Society
- H-Diplo Roundtable
- International Journal of Frontier Missiology
- First Things, “The Global Christian Right”
- Idées d’Amériques
- Choice Reviews 58:03
- Ten Outstanding Books in Mission Studies, Intercultural Theology, and World Christianity for 2020, International Bulletin of Mission Research, Overseas Ministries Study Center at Princeton Theological Seminary
- The Top 75 Community College Titles: November 2020, Choice Reviews
I recorded a brief talk about this book for the 2020 History Summit, a virtual book festival. You can watch it here:
I have given a number of other virtual talks about the book, several of which have been recorded and made publicly available, including those for the Associated Colleges of the South Virtual Convocation Series, the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, and Cornell University Press’s United States in the World Series Authors in Conversation: Religion and Empire.
I have also made appearances to discuss the book on a number of podcasts, including Professor Buzzkill, The UpWords, The F Word: Conversations On Faith with Matt Miofsky, Religion in the American Experience, Horns of a Dilemma, Uncommentary, Public Theologians, and the New Books Network, among others.