Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel

Mark Edwards

In case you haven't come across it yet, Caitlin Carenen's The Fervent Embrace: Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel (NYU Press, 2012) is well worth checking out.  Carenen dispenses with the notion that premillennial Protestants have always enjoyed a "special relationship" with Israel.  Rather, it was liberal and mainline churches who first helped secure American support for Jewish statehood.  Not surprisingly, Carenen's work has been receiving alot of attention, including at First Things and Christianity Today.  I recently presented on an panel with Caitlin at the AHA, which was reviewed by Ray Haberski over at USIH.  I was instantly envious of the clarity and rigor of her research.  Not only is this a myth-shattering work, it's also an example of writing religion and politics at its finest.  Carenen's work will be a great classroom resource; at least I know I will be assigning it in several of my courses.

After the break, you can read the glowing review of the book from the October 2012 issue of Choice.

Carenen (history, Eastern Connecticut State Univ.) has written an indispensable account of the struggles within US Protestantism regarding the religious and political implications of Israel. The author appears to have read all the essential primary and secondary sources necessary to describe the splits that occurred within the Protestant mainline churches as well as in the Evangelical and Fundamentalist communities over support for Israel, as exemplified by the mainline American Christian Palestine Committee (pro-Israel) and the American Friends of the Middle East, who were concerned with the deleterious effect support for Israel had on the US position in the Arab world during the Cold War. For reasons having to do with biblical prophecy, many Evangelicals and Fundamentalist Christians not only gave their support to Israel but also developed an increasingly close relationship with the Israeli government. However, there were exceptions. Carenen relates that Bob Jones II, for example, president of Bob Jones University, lamented the US-Israeli alliance as antithetical to true US interests in the Middle East and insisted that "Israel as it now exists is not the Messianic state from which blessings shall flow out to the whole world during the reign of ... Jesus Christ."

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries. -- J. Fischel, emeritus, Messiah College


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