Civil Religion, Human Rights and International Relations
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Civil Religion, Human Rights and International Relations

Connecting People Across Cultures and Traditions

Edited by Helle Porsdam

This ground breaking book discusses whether human rights can be forged into a common set of transcendent principles against which actions of every nation can be judged and whether such a common understanding, or civil religion, could one day become a vehicle for global peace.
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Chapter 5: Rights, Religion, Security: A Christian Realist Perspective

Vibeke Schou Tjalve


Vibeke Schou Tjalve The church would do more for the cause of reconciliation if, instead of producing moral idealists who think that they can establish justice, it would create religious and Christian realists who know that justice will require that some men shall contend against them … this kind of Christian realism would understand the perennial necessity of political relationships in society, no matter how ethical ideals rise.1 INTRODUCTION Can a civil religion of human rights be forged and turned into a vehicle of global peace? Ultimately, that is the question of the present volume. This chapter attempts an answer from the perspective of what I shall develop as the tradition of Christian Realism: a largely American tradition, fundamentally at odds with the moral universalism implicit to the human rights narrative, yet dedicated both to the global advance of human justice and to justice as a practice dependent upon a religious – spiritual, utopian, transcendent – dimension to civil life.2 Through most of American history, 1 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (Charles Scribner’s Sons 1952). 2 As Americanist and historian Mark Edwards has recently argued in Diplomatic History, Christian Realism ‘as a label, has a complicated and contested history. For several years, it was forgotten in lieu of its equally broad European counterpart, “neo-orthodoxy”. Most scholars today use it exclusively in reference to the career of Reinhold Niebuhr. Edwards, Mark, ‘God Has Chosen U.S.’: Re-Membering Christian Realism, Rescuing Christendom, and the Contest of Responsibilities during the Cold War’ Diplomatic History (2009)...

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