Just war, just revolution: Self-evident truths, biblical roots, and the revolutionary origins of American exceptionalism

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Abstract

The United States has relied heavily upon "just war" thought to justify morally and politically its wars of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Today, however, competing understanding of the "presumption against violence" and the resort to force threaten the internal coherence of this tradition. Interestingly, these different contemporary approaches to just war have analogues in the moral deliberation about the US War of Independence. Justifications for the American Revolution drew, on the other hand, from republican political theories about self-governance, human equality, and inalienable rights and, on the other hand, from biblical roots emphasizing early Americans' religious sense of calling and their belief in God's providential working in history. The Revolution served as a defining moment in which these two strands converged to form what became known as American civil religion. Since that time, just war thought has been unable to bridge its own universal and particularist elements in ways it successfully was able to do through just a revolution. This essay argues that both strands must be re-appropriated and sustained if just war thinking is to overcome its current internal divisions and cohere as a moral-political theory to which the United States can lay exemplary claim.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-341
Number of pages17
JournalAnnali di Storia dell'Esegesi
Volume26
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

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American Exceptionalism
Just War
Revolution
Political Theory
Particularist
Thought
Religion
Governance
Justification
Deity
Presumption
American Revolution
Equality
Moral Deliberation
Civil Religion
History
Republican
War of Independence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • History

Cite this

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