Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of Christian Zionism

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Most observers explain evangelical Christians' bedrock support for Israel as stemming from the apocalyptic belief that the Jews must return to the Holy Land as a precondition for the second coming of Christ. But the real reasons, argues Stephen Spector, are far more complicated. In Evangelicals and Israel, Spector delves deeply into the Christian Zionist movement, mining information from original interviews, web sites, publications, news reports, survey research, worship services, and interfaith conferences, to provide a surprising look at the sources of evangelical support for Israel.

Israel is God's prophetic clock for many evangelicals - irrefutable proof that prophecy is true and coming to pass in our lifetime. But Spector goes beyond end-times theology to find a complex set of motivations behind Israel-evangelical relations. These include the promise of God's blessing for those who bless the Jews; gratitude to Jews for establishing the foundations of Christianity; remorse for the Church's past anti-Semitism; fear that God will judge the nations based on how they treated the Jewish people; and reliance on Israel as the West's firewall against Islamist terrorism. Spector explores many Christian Zionists' hostility toward Islam, but also uncovers an unexpected pragmatism and flexiblility concerning Israel's possession of the entire Holy Land.

For evangelicals, politics frequently mixes with faith. Yet Spector argues that evangelical beliefs - though often portrayed as unifying and rigid - are in reality various and even contradictory. Spector uses George W. Bush's beliefs about the Bible as a sounding board for these issues and explores the evangelical influence on his Middle East policies. Evangelicals and Israel corrects much of the speculation about Bush's personal faith and about evangelicalism's impact on American-Middle East relations, and provides the fullest and most nuanced account to date of the motives and theology behind Christian Zionism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Stephen Spector's Evangelicals and Israel is a significant accomplishment that advances our understanding of an important subject. Subtle, balanced and thoughtful, this book is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the relationship between American politics and our Middle Eastern policies today."
—Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World

"Spector, no stranger to scripture, sheds light on the variety of true believers who inhabit the world of Christian Zionism. Without polemic or caricature, he deploys his own Biblical expertise, scholarship, and journalistic skills to investigate a complex, multi-layered, and sometimes paradoxical community in which theology and politics mix with a passionate belief in Israel's prophetic mission. Whether you agree or disagree, no one seriously interested in the fate of the Jewish homeland can afford to ignore his close reading and rich analysis."
—Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and author of The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control

"For this definitive work on Christian Zionism and how evangelicalism shapes American foreign policy, Stephen Spector moves beyond assumptions or anecdotes. Instead, he bases his conclusions on extensive research, including interviews conducted directly with leaders - both inside and outside the evangelical world - who have influenced attitudes regarding the Middle East and policy toward Israel in recent decades. The results capture the variety and complexity of Christian Zionists' motives and convictions regarding not only Israel and the Jewish community, but also Muslims and the Arab world. He examines the intersection of politics and theology in a narrative that is both nuanced and compelling."
—D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite

"From his intensive researches, Stephen Spector shows that Evangelical attitudes are very nuanced, varied and individual, even among traditional conservatives. ...Those interested in the role of lobbies, whether they are Jewish or Evangelical, had better read the book."—Times Literary Supplement

"An excellent analysis of evangelical support for Zion. . . [an] accessible and lively narrative."—Christian Century

Publishers Weekly

Spector, a professor of English at Stony Brook University and a Jew, argues that evangelical Christian support for Israel is a good thing for Jews. To make this argument, in light of considerable distrust of evangelicals by American Jews and others, he offers impressively thorough research. Evangelicals' motives are complex, and include identification with Israel as an ally against terrorism as well as biblically-based conviction that God truly has favored Israel. His counterintuitive argument is likely to be questioned by those skeptical of his tendency to take statements at their face value: in analyzing, for example, whether George W. Bush's Mideast policy is affected by Christian Zionism, he credits sources supportive of Bush who tell him no, it's not. While some may find him naive, the depth of his work provides credibility for his view. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195368024
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/9/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Spector is Professor of English at Stony Brook University. He is the author of Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews.

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Table of Contents

1 "We Are with the Jewish People" 1

2 Promise and Prophecy, Love and Remorse: The Bases of Evangelical Support for Israel 23

3 The Evangelical Mosaic 36

4 The Arab and Muslim Enemy 50

5 The War with Islam as a Faith 76

6 Criticisms of Christian Zionism 111

7 "It's My Land and Keep Your Hands Off of It," 141

8 God's Timetable 158

9 Prophecy, Policy, and the Unfolding of God's Plan 186

10 Christian Zionists, Bush, and the Al-Aqsa Intifada 212

11 Evangelicals and the Dynamics of George W. Bush's Middle East Policy 234

Notes 255

Selected Bibliography 311

Index 325

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