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.
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.
"This concise and well-organized study offers readers an excellent summary of American popular attitudes toward Islam from the eighteenth century onward."--Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs
"Kidd's is a sympathetic and well-informed voice of sanity and Christian equanimity in the midst of this turmoil. His closing appeals to reason, civility, and charitable discourse could provide a better setting, I believe, for a fruitful mission to Islam. Otherwise, one fears what level of catastrophe may be required to discredit Dispensationalist craziness."--Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Orthodoxy Today
"Offers an informative tonic that might move Christians in the U.S. beyond deeply embedded suspicions and into more hospitable encounters with Muslims at home and abroad."--Anne Blue Wills, Christian Century
"A key strength of American Christians and Islam is that it surveys a spectrum of American Christian and evangelical thought vis-à-vis Muslims across three centuries, and does so in a manner that is very clear, so that even a reader new to the subject could appreciate it. Assigned in a class on Middle Eastern or Islamic studies, this book would be guaranteed to stimulate lively debate."--Heather J. Sharkey, Contemporary Islam
"As Islam continues its slow be steady growth in America, evangelicals of whatever strip would be wise to consult American Christians and Islam, particularly as they continue to seek ways to approach Islam with sobriety and faithfulness."--Adam S. Francisco, Modern Reformation
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
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