Book Review: Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom: The Future of Religion in American Diplomacy by Shaun A. Casey

[1] Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom: The Future of Religion in American Diplomacy is an argument for the importance of religious competency in foreign policy. Author Shaun Casey, a religious scholar, was the founding director of the US State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the Obama Administration. This book serves as part memoir, and part policy prescription for engaging religion in diplomatic endeavors.

[2] Arguing that diplomacy ought to include all factors of a culture: social, political, religious, economic, etc. Casey briefly cites the literature revealing the varying views of scholars and practitioners on global affairs. He notes that only one fully acknowledges the role religion plays in the wider global narrative. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s The Mighty and the Almighty emphasized that religion plays a crucial role in successful diplomatic endeavors.[1] However, it was not until John Kerry’s tenure as Secretary of State, that the role of religion formally expanded within the State Department. Kerry knew the complexity of the religious enterprise and sought to integrate experts on religion into the foreign service. Kerry had seen from his time as Senator and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that religion had been largely ignored in the foreign policy arena.[2] Additional challenges were posed by myopic attention to religion freedom and a failure to attend to the complexities of Islam.[3]

[3] Kerry called on Shaun Casey to set up and lead the Office of Religion and Global Affairs in 2013.[4] Bureaucracy and government red tape were not the only obstacles facing the new Office. [5] Policy differences also became a problem, especially when dealing with the CVE (countering violent extremism) initiative which expanded upon already existing war doctrines from the Bush era.[6] Over time, CVE evolved to include conversations with local leaders, especially indigenous Islamic leaders who were vocal critics of CVE as “bad U.S. foreign policy.”[7]

[4] One of the biggest challenges the Office of Religion and Global Affairs faced was negotiating between three separate groups who shared a similar vision for fighting climate change. These groups included: religiously affiliated actors (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelical Environmental Network); secular environmental organizations (Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council); and the climate policy shops dispersed around the executive branch.[8] The conversations born out of this relationship between the disparate actors proved beneficial in selling the Paris Agreement and engaging in wider education on what exactly was in the agreement.

[5] In his final chapter, Casey discusses his book title’s “devil” as the multiple forces both within and outside the United States that maligned the positions and enterprises of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs, contributing to maintenance of myopic views of religion, and Islam in particular.[9] Casey’s view on religion as soft diplomatic power reinforces the need for the diplomatic corps to articulate a nuanced view of religion when engaging with their host nations.

[6] Casey laments the subsequent dissolution of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs.  Neither the Biden nor Trump administrations have resumed operations of the Office. The Biden Administration has re-organized some of the offices that were initially housed within Religion and Global Affairs, and they have been shifted to other parts of the State Department.[10]

[7] This book provides a lens into the workings of the US Department of State and its limited approach to religious affairs. It concludes that the Office of Religion and Global Affairs filled a dangerous vacuum in the world of global diplomacy, and that the work of such an Office is needed today as religious matters permeate questions of human rights, development, climate change, migration and conflict.

[8] This book is ideal for pastors, professors and lay people who are interested in looking at U.S. foreign policy through a theological and practical lens. While Casey’s writing style contains some technical language he does a good job of tying his thoughts together into a compelling narrative. May our world learn to live in peace.


[1] Ibid, 14-15.

[2] Shawn Casey, Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom: The Future of Religion in American Diplomacy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans’ Publishing Co., 2023), 2.

[3] Casey, Chasing the Devil at Foggy Bottom, 17-30.

[4] Ibid, 57.

[5]I bid, 84-88.

[6] Ibid, 83-95.

[7] Ibid, 87.

[8] Ibid, 104-117.

[9] Ibid, 222-224.

[10] Ibid, 226.

Thomas Johnston

Thomas Johnston is a first-year Intern Pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church, Richland Hills, Texas. He is also finishing his Master of Divinity degree at Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University. Johnston serves as a steering committee member for Lutherans Alliance for Faith, Science, and Technology, and frequent book reviewer for Currents in Theology and Mission.