Settje, David E. 1970-

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Settje, David E. 1970-


Born 1970. Education: Valparaiso University, B.A.; Kent State University, M.A., Ph.D.


Office—Concordia University Chicago, 7400 Augusta St., River Forest, IL 60305-1499. E-mail—[email protected]


Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, IL, associate professor of history and chair of history and political science department, 2002—.


Lutherans and the Longest War: Adrift on a Sea of Doubt about the Cold and Vietnam Wars, 1964-1975, Lexington Books (Lanham, MD), 2007.


Historian David E. Settje's Lutherans and the Longest War: Adrift on a Sea of Doubt about the Cold and Vietnam Wars, 1964-1975 is, according to H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online contributor Jacqueline Whitt, both a history of a religious denomination and a reassessment of the role of the silent majority in the social and political life of the mid-twentieth century. The author worked with a variety of sources, including "church publications, letters of lay support and opposition to church leaders, and … papers of Lutheran leaders from the era," stated Perry Bush in a review for the Journal of American History. The resulting book "contributes substantially to a more complex understanding of the relationship between religion and warfare," Whitt explained. "Settje's book stakes out two primary goals. First, as a denominational history, the book seeks to understand the Cold War's and Vietnam War's legacies on American Lutheranism…. Second, as a broader history of religious responses to the Cold War, the book proposes that Lutherans offer scholars an excellent lens through which to view ‘average’ Americans' responses to the Cold and Vietnam Wars because Lutherans held views all along political and theological spectrums—from liberal and ultra-conservative extremes to the moderate and conservative middle."

The type of people that Settje studies in Lutherans and the Longest War, while a majority of the population, are mainly defined by their inaction rather than their actions. The silent majority, first defined by former President Richard Nixon in a speech delivered on November 3, 1969, consisted of those individuals who rejected the counterculture movement of the 1960s, who were neither politically outspoken nor politically active—at least, not to the extent of opposing authority. The silent majority also included mainly World War II veterans, but also involved veterans who served in Vietnam and elsewhere. Settje's concentration on this aspect of society in the decade between 1964 and 1975 is virtually unique; most studies of the Vietnam War era focus on the activists rather than on the silent majority. "Studying [the inactivists] provides a window on the real American majority that stories of the militant and the pacifist minorities tend to overlook," wrote Martin E. Marty in a review for Church History. "The story of a group described as ‘adrift’ cannot be as enthralling as are stories of storms, shipwrecks, and sinkings. Focusing on those adrift, however, is what realistic historical accounts also should do. Much of history is made up of inertia, and Lutherans were often, so far as the public eye is concerned, inert."

Settje's study emphasizes the fact that Lutherans were, by and large, middle-of-the-road type people. Few if any sympathized with external Communist ideology, no matter what range of the political spectrum they identified with. Lutherans were, however, greatly divided on the question of the prevalence of domestic espionage and sympathy for political left-wing activity. Conservative Lutherans saw any attempt to liberalize church ideology as a Communist-backed assault on American virtue, and they strongly resisted these perceived threats. The divisions this split caused in the church, however, also emphasized theological differences between diverse communities within the denomination. Including important and politically sensitive concepts like the ordination of women, the emergence of activist fundamentalism, the acceptance (or rejection) of biblical criticism, and cooperation between different denominations and religions, these differences could be just as important to congregations as the role of the United States in the Vietnam War and the country's stance against international Communism. Lutherans and the Longest War, Whitt concluded, "is an excellent contribution to the genre of denominational studies and a useful starting point for exploring broader issues of religious assent, ambivalence, and dissent during the Cold War."



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 2007, W.T. Lindley, review of Lutherans and the Longest War: Adrift on a Sea of Doubt about the Cold and Vietnam Wars, 1964-1975, p. 692.

Church History, December 1, 2007, Martin E. Marty, review of Lutherans and the Longest War, p. 877.

Journal of American History, March 1, 2008, Perry Bush, review of Lutherans and the Longest War, p. 1321.

Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2007, review of Lutherans and the Longest War.


Concordia University Chicago Web site, (July 17, 2008), author faculty profile.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (July 17, 2008), Jacqueline Whitt, review of Lutherans and the Longest War.