Harry S. Stout’s monumental history of religion and the Civil War, Upon the Altar of the Nation, has prompted other historians to write about the often vexed and complicated relationship be­tween faith and warfare. Recent contributions to this long-neglected genre in American religious history include works by Thomas S. Kidd and James Byrd on the American Revolution, by Jonathan H. Ebel on World War I, and by Rick L. Nutt on Vietnam.

In this important contribution to the conversation, Matthew McCullough argues that the Spanish-American War signaled a crucial turning point in American self-understanding and self-justification. Although it was relatively brief in duration and occurred between two much larger conflicts, the Civil War and World War I, the Spanish-American War saw the emergence of what Mc­Cullough calls “messianic interventionism” to justify an increasingly imperial foreign policy. Religious leaders, he contends, played a crucial role in this transformation.

McCullough makes a persuasive case. Whereas the Civil War was inward looking and fought in order to resolve a domestic crisis, Woodrow Wilson defined the nation’s task in World War I in far more global terms: “making the world safe for democracy.” How did we move from A to B?