Sociologist Max Weber called it “the disenchantment of the modern world” and philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan refers to it as “the absence of god in modern culture.” Whatever we call it, the political and cultural clash between secular and religious factions in modern societies across the world is familiar to us all and its deeply polarized animus marks it as one of the major political and spiritual conundrums of modern times.
In “The Call: The Spiritual Realism of Sargent Shriver,” author Jamie Price demonstrates that Sargent Shriver’s approach to serving people, designing public policy and transforming conflict situations makes it possible to imagine a constructive way forward – a path that makes it possible to imagine integrating the spiritual values of compassion and service into the secular structures of public affairs without the divisive, polarizing effects of politically ratifying or establishing particular religious doctrines or traditions. As Shriver concretely put it, “Peace Corps exemplifies the way spiritual values can be infused into the work of government.”
Sargent Shriver (1915 – 2011) was one of the most innovative and accomplished American peace builders of the 20th century. He was a major figure in business, education and civil rights in Chicago in the 1950s. He was the founder of the Peace Corps under President Kennedy, architect of the War on Poverty under President Johnson and, as the U.S. Ambassador to France, host of the first round of peace talks to end the Vietnam War in the 1960s. In subsequent years, he served as the Democratic nominee for vice president, worked as a citizen diplomat to marshal inter-religious peace building in the Middle East, fostered detente between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and championed the “No First Strike” nuclear arms policy affirmed by the U.S. Catholic bishops and senior U.S. foreign policy leaders.
Jamie Price, who worked closely with Shriver for more than 20 years, is the founding director of the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute.