Malcolm D. Magee. What the World Should Be: Woodrow Wilson and the Crafting of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008. 189 pp.

Americans have generally seen President Woodrow Wilson as a tragic figure—an idealist whose fruitless quest to secure U.S. membership in the League of Nations ruined his health and left his country isolated from the remainder of the world for two decades. For many, Wilson was either a dreamer out of touch with the complexities of international affairs or a prophet whose rejected prescriptions for world peace could have prevented the resumption of a second world war only two decades after the end of the first.

There is truth in both views, but people often miss the role Wilson's Reformed Christianity played in his conduct of his country's foreign policy. Malcolm D. Magee, Director of the Institute for the Study of Christianity and Culture in Lansing, Michigan, has written this book to set the record straight. Though some scholars have sought to play it down, Magee argues for the crucial influence of Wilson's faith, not only in God, but also in his own status as a divinely chosen instrument for carrying out God's will. This influence was so strong that it sometimes trumped ordinary political considerations, making it difficult for him to accept the need for compromise.

The Virginia-born Wilson was the son of Rev. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, a minister in the Presbyterian Church. Woodrow was thus raised in a family deeply immersed in the southern Presbyterian ethos and in the orthodoxy of Princeton Seminary. Accordingly, he never embraced the "pietist" polarity of sacred versus secular. For Wilson, true religion was one "pervading every act—which is carried with ...

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