More Desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism

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9780199993246: More Desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism

Millions of American Christians see U.S. support for the State of Israel as a God-ordained responsibility. American sympathies for the State of Israel are consistently and often substantially higher than for Arab states or Palestinians. More Desired than Our Owne Salvation is a compelling historical look at how this consensus came to be.

In 2006, John Hagee founded Christians United for Israel. Several high-level policymakers, both Christians and Jews, rushed to endorse the effort. Soon, however, questions arose about anti-Catholic and anti-Islamic ideas contained in Hagee's preaching and writing. More Desired than Our Owne Salvation shows that these ideas draw from a long heritage of Anglo-American Protestant culture. Contemporary Christian Zionism may say more about American culture than most Americans care to admit.

The roots of Christian Zionism in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant interpretations of scripture and history formed not only Anglo-American theology but the foundations of American culture itself. Black Protestant views show, for instance, how Christian Zionism is connected intimately with racial identity and American exceptionalism, not just Christian beliefs. Martin Luther and John Calvin's identification of the Pope and the Turk as the two heads of the Antichrist echoes in our world today.

Robert O. Smith has identified an English Protestant tradition of Judeo-centric prophecy interpretation that shaped Puritan commitment. In New England, this tradition informed the foundations of American identity. From the Cartwright Petition in 1649 to the Blackstone Memorial in 1891 to the work of John Hagee today, Christian Zionism has prepared the ground for Christians in the U.S. to see the modern State of Israel as a prophetic counterpart, a modern nation-state whose preservation "may be more desired then our owne salvation."

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About the Author:

Robert O. Smith is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America currently serving as Academic Director for the University of Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway. With Dr. Muna Mushahwar, he serves as co-moderator of the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches. He received his Ph.D. in Religion, Politics & Society from Baylor University (Waco, Texas). With Charles Lutz, he is author of Christians and a Land Called Holy: How We Can Foster Justice, Peace, and Hope (Fortress, 2006). With Göran Gunner, he is co-editor of Comprehending Christian Zionism: Perspectives in Comparison (Fortress, 2006).


"[An] enlightening book...a detailed and sophisticated examination of the historical roots of Christian Zionism that gets us past an obsession with dispensational premillennialism."--Church History

"Smith offers a new interpretation of the origins of the close U.S.-Israeli alliance by carefully and thoroughly focusing on the theological innovations from the Protestant Reformation through the current American political climate."--American Historical Review

"More Desired Than Our Owne Salvation provides an interesting addition to, and another historical angle on, some early expressions of what remains the ongoing American fascination with and affinity for the State of Israel."--Politics & Religion

"A provocative and accessible work of historical excavation...this book is a valuable reminder of the larger context out of which contemporary born-again Protestants operate--often neglected by their scholarly interlocutors."--Journal of American History

"...Fascinating..." --Moment

"This is a highly informed, well-documented, and intelligent critique of the historical roots and political significance of Christian Zionism. The author is a first-rate expert, who has come up with the most comprehensive exploration of the topic to date, including brilliant analysis of the studies on Christian Zionism that emerged in the last decades. I strongly recommend it." --Yaakov Ariel, author of Evangelizing the Chosen People

"Robert Smith has ably traced one source of conservative Protestant Zionism to the sense of national exceptionalism that goes way back in American history. The links he finds between the biblical literalism and fixation on prophecy of the early Puritans and the same characteristics among those who today support Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy make for a thought-provoking historical lineage as well as a telling commentary on current events." --Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

From the Foreword by Martin E. Marty
"Smith could have been satirical and even cynical when dealing with some of these movements. He had a higher purpose than merely entertaining or appealing to readers who might find it easy to be condescending towards Puritans, dispensationalists, and Christian Zionists. Instead, he mirrors Spinoza who, when that philosopher set out to deal with human complexities, wrote that he came not to laugh or to cry or to denounce, but to understand. Smith's is an elegant essay in understanding, well grounded in historical sources and showing alertness to contemporary matters of great moment."

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