Spiritualizing Politics without Politicizing Religion: The Example of Sargent Shriver

The clash of religion and politics has been a steady source of polarization in North America. In order to think wisely and constructively about the spiritual dimension of our political life, there is need for an approach that can both maintain the diversity of belief and foster values founded on the principles of religion. In Spiritualizing Politics without Politicizing Religion, James R. Price and Kenneth R. Melchin provide a possible framework, approaching issues in politics via a profile of Sargent Shriver (1915-2011), an American diplomat, politician, and a driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps. Focusing on the speeches Shriver delivered in the course of his work to advance civil rights and build world peace, Price and Melchin highlight the spiritual component of his efforts to improve institutional structures and solve social problems. They contextualize Shriver’s approach by contrasting it with contemporary, landmark decisions of the U.S Supreme Court on the role of religion in politics. In doing so, Spiritualizing Politics without Politicizing Religion explains that navigating the relationship of religion and politics requires attending to both the religious diversity that politics must guard and the religious involvements that politics needs to do its work.

About the Author

Jamie is the Founding Director of the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute (SSPI). He is the author of several works about Sargent Shriver, including "The Call: The Spiritual Realism of Sargent Shriver" and "Spiritualizing Politics without Politicizing Religion: The Example of Sargent Shriver".

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The Call: The Spiritual Realism of Sargent Shriver

The Call explores the role of the spirit in the life and work of one of the most accomplished American peacebuilders of the 20th century, Sargent Shriver (1915–2011). 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 leading with particular religious doctrines or traditions. Price defines The Call as a “true conversation that never happened”, a dialogue between Price’s reconstructed figure of Sargent Shriver and an inquisitive imagined friend, Didymus. The book unfolds as an interview in which Didymus explores the role of the spirit in Shriver’s efforts to build peace. The book’s title, The Call, alludes to the pivotal moment in which Shriver received the phone call from his brother-in-law, the newly-inaugurated President John F. Kennedy, asking him to be Director of the as-yet-nonexistent Peace Corps. Informed by Shriver’s hundreds of speeches, philosophers, and theologians who inspired Shriver, and real-life conversations between Shriver and the author, the book is an intimate, unique, often funny exchange about the inner workings of a mind always questioning the relationship between spirit and social action. A must-read for aspiring leaders, innovators, and peacebuilders seeking to redress contemporary challenges to human dignity and security, The Call invites readers to navigate conflict and nurture human connection with creativity and compassion.


Scott Stossel’s exhaustively researched, authorized biography depicts Shriver’s connection to the historical events of the last century—the Great Depression, World War II, JFK’s assassination, the Cold War, and many more. Sarge gives us a complete account of Shriver’s life, as well as thoughtful commentary on the Kennedy family, the Peace Corps, and United States and world history.

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