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Ecumenical Quest for a World Federation: The Churches' Contribution to Marshal Public Support for World Order and Peace, 1919-1945 Paperback – January 15, 2016
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"...key, highly placed individuals in both Britain and America attempted to harness the churches for a secular technocratic programme to build a new world order - and ultimately a world government - that would rest upon the minimalist theology of a vague Christian ethic."
Although written by a Christian scholar (this is an extended version of his Ph.D. thesis), this is NOT a religious book. Indeed, it is of great interest to anyone interested in the shape of our present world and how it came to be that way.
A concept that occasionally surfaces these days is Dominionism, the idea that Christians should take positions of political power and seek to enforce Biblical precepts as law. In one extreme variant, the idea is that humankind itself must build the Kingdom of God on earth, to which Christ will then return. To all non-religious people and many religious ones, this may all sound totally wacky, but seeing the targeting of US evangelical Christians by the Republican Party, and the influence that these often power-hungry and unscrupulous people have suddenly acquired as a result and their attempts to enforce their agenda on the country, it cannot be completely dismissed as wild ravings.
As Dr. Pearse said above, the forerunner described in this book actually started off the other way around, an attempt by secular individuals to utilise the church for its own ends. Dr. Erdmann's book gives a fascinating insight into this world. In the late 19th - early 20th century, people on both sides of the Atlantic came to the understandable but highly idealistic conclusion that the curse of the human race is nationalism and that only a world government could prevent future wars. Some British (and some American) intellectuals saw the British Empire, the most extensive in the history of the world, as being the kernel of a new world order. So, where does the Kingdom of God come into this essentially secular enterprise? This elite, the intellectuals and politicians of the day, saw that the agreement of the common man (it was "men only" in those days) was needed for this enterprise. How to do this? Through the Church and the idea of universal Christian brotherhood (not only "men only", but also "Christianity only"- WHAT other religions?).
It is also largely the story of one man, John Foster Dulles, distinguished lawyer and later US Secretary of State. His beliefs in the inherent nastiness of nationalism and the need for a universal government were passionate, as was his belief that the churches had to be on board. He was a religious man, but in a vague, ill-defined, non-doctrinal way. He agreed with the general thrust of Biblical teaching, but was quite capable of glossing over inconvenient details, which didn't suit his purposes. In a sense, it was all a con, but a con in which many churchmen readily participated. And it had major repercussions on world events. It was ultimately instrumental in the founding of the United Nations. And more significantly, it was instrumental in persuading the USA out of its traditional isolationism to its present position as leader of the world community, something deeply desired by Dulles.
In the end, of course, the world government so ardently desired by Dulles and others, of which the UN was seen as the beginning, never eventuated, as no state was prepared to give up sovereignty. Tribalism, whether of the traditional or the nation-state variety, is not so easily supplanted. If anything, tribalism would appear to be on the increase. Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq, Libya and most recently the Syrian catastrophe would appear to demonstrate that humanity is not yet ready for so noble an idea as world government. In addition, as Dr. Pearse perceptively put it in his foreword:
"The easy assumptions inherent in such aspirations [world government with vaguely Christian ethic], namely the superiority of `Western Christian civilisation' and the ability of the West to impose its will upon the non-West, are unlikely to recommend themselves today, even to so conservative a commentator as S.P. Huntington [author of `The Clash of Civilisations', which has so strongly influenced so much recent thinking on Islam and the West]..."
The story ends in the 1940s, with the foundation of the United Nations. It would be nice to have a Part 2, to see how all the high ideals disintegrated in practice, how the proposed world government precursor degenerated into an expensive talking shop, and how the US became disenchanted with the organisation at whose birth it had been the midwife - and of course how the world government idea is going, or not going, as the case may be.
This is a work of considerable scholarship (as can be seen from the lengthy lists of references and footnotes, sometimes longer than the chapters they accompany). It is not light reading, in the sense that there is no superfluous waffle and every sentence says something that contributes usefully to the whole, so it defies skim reading. I found not a flabby sentence, not a superfluous phrase, anywhere in the entire thing. However, it is also a very approachable work, as it is written in plain simple language, and it has a remarkable facility for bringing together and making comprehensible many different threads. It is also scrupulously fair, and one only occasionally gets hints of what appears to be Dr. Erdmann's own point of view (that this was and is an abuse of Christianity). In short, it more than adequately repays the time spent in reading, as it opens up whole undercurrents of history, which are otherwise essentially invisible.
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The quest today for a world government is not so much a secret as it was some 100 years ago.Read more