American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism

American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism

by Thomas S. Kidd

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In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many of America's Christian evangelicals have denounced Islam as a "demonic" and inherently violent religion, provoking frustration among other Christian conservatives who wish to present a more appealing message to the world's Muslims. Yet as Thomas Kidd reveals in this sobering book, the conflicted views expressed by today's evangelicals have deep roots in American history.

Tracing Islam's role in the popular imagination of American Christians from the colonial period to today, Kidd demonstrates that Protestant evangelicals have viewed Islam as a global threat--while also actively seeking to convert Muslims to the Christian faith--since the nation's founding. He shows how accounts of "Mahometan" despotism and lurid stories of European enslavement by Barbary pirates fueled early evangelicals' fears concerning Islam, and describes the growing conservatism of American missions to Muslim lands up through the post-World War II era. Kidd exposes American Christians' anxieties about an internal Islamic threat from groups like the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and America's immigrant Muslim population today, and he demonstrates why Islam has become central to evangelical "end-times" narratives. Pointing to many evangelicals' unwillingness to acknowledge Islam's theological commonalities with Christianity and their continued portrayal of Islam as an "evil" and false religion, Kidd explains why Christians themselves are ironically to blame for the failure of evangelism in the Muslim world.

American Christians and Islam is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the causes of the mounting tensions between Christians and Muslims today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691162300
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 12/01/2013
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Thomas Kidd is associate professor of history at Baylor University and resident scholar at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. He is the author of The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America and The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xix

CHAPTER 1: Early American Christians and Islam 1

CHAPTER 2: The Barbary Wars, the Last Days, and Islam in Early National America 19

CHAPTER 3: Foreign Missions to Muslims in Nineteenth-Century America 37

CHAPTER 4: Samuel Zwemer,World War I, and "The Evangelization of the Moslem World

in This Generation" 58

CHAPTER 5: The New Missionary Overture to Muslims and the Arab-Israeli Crisis 75

CHAPTER 6: Christians Respond to Muslims in Modern America 96

CHAPTER 7: Maturing Evangelical Missions and War in the Middle East 120

CHAPTER 8: American Christians and Islam After September 11, 2001 144

Epilogue 165

Notes 171

Index 195

What People are Saying About This

Frank Lambert

American Christians and Islam gives historical perspective on a timely topic. Kidd provides a thorough examination of the prism through which American evangelicals have viewed Islam, a prism consisting of fears, challenges, and opportunities. He offers an important chapter in the story of American attitudes toward Muslims. This book fills a gap in the scholarship of American religious culture.
Frank Lambert, author of "Religion in American Politics"


Before Thomas Kidd's magisterial work, American Christians and Islam, no scholar had traced the long and convoluted history of Muslim-Christian exchange in the American experience from colonial beginnings to the present. Kidd brings a deep understanding of both traditions to his analysis and brilliantly demonstrates how so many contemporary American denunciations of Islam—especially evangelical denunciations—have a rich history that goes all the way back to the Age of Exploration and the first English settlements.
Harry S. Stout, Yale University


A significant contribution to the field. There have been plenty of books on Western views of Islam, but none has focused exclusively or comprehensively on American Christian attitudes over such a long period. The scope and targeting of this book make it unique and pathbreaking.
Gerald R. McDermott, Roanoke College


Though its emergence as one of the central concerns of our time took the secular-minded by surprise, the friction between Christianity and Islam—the world's two largest and most energetically missionary faiths—is nothing new in American history. As Thomas Kidd shows in this thoughtful and highly accessible account, the conflict runs like a thread through the American past. Knowing that history will provide us with valuable insights about the road ahead—and about ourselves.
Wilfred M. McClay, University of Tennessee


American Christians and Islam combines a timely subject, stylistic directness, and a broad scope to create an effective and useful historical survey of evangelical attitudes about Islam that is accessible to a wide audience. Kidd provides succinct readings and elucidates important patterns and shifts that offer readers a revealing overview of the engagements of U.S. evangelical culture with the Islamic world.
Timothy W. Marr, author of "The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism"

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