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The Fervent Embrace

Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel

Caitlin Carenen

Publication Year: 2012

When Israel declared its independence in 1948, Harry Truman issued a memo recognizing the Israeli government within eleven minutes. Today, the U.S. and Israel continue on as partners in an at times controversial alliance—an alliance, many argue, that is powerfully influenced by the Christian Right. In The Fervent Embrace, Caitlin Carenen chronicles the American Christian relationship with Israel, tracing first mainline Protestant and then evangelical support for Zionism.

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, American liberal Protestants argued that America had a moral humanitarian duty to support Israel. Christian anti-Semitism had helped bring about the Holocaust, they declared, and so Christians must help make amends. Moreover, a stable and democratic Israel would no doubt make the Middle East a safer place for future American interests. Carenen argues that it was this mainline Protestant position that laid the foundation for the current evangelical Protestant support for Israel, which is based primarily on theological grounds.

Drawing on previously unexplored archival material from the Central Zionist Archives in Israel, this volume tells the full story of the American Christian-Israel relationship, bringing the various “players”—American liberal Protestants, American Evangelicals, American Jews, and Israelis—together into one historical narrative.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

I have finished this book indebted to many people and organizations that have assisted me along the way. First, I thank the History Department, the Institute for Jewish Studies, and the Graduate School...

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pp. xi-xvi

Eleven minutes after Israel declared its independence on 14 May 1948, the United States granted it de facto recognition. President Harry Truman’s memo was short and to the point...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xviii

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1. American Protestants and Jewish Persecution, 1933–1937

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pp. 1-16

Jews should celebrate the birth of Christ—what is good for the Christian, after all, is good for the Jew. At the end of the 1930s the Christmas edition of the most important Protestant journal...

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2. American Protestants Respond to Zionism and the Jewish Genocide in Europe, 1938–1948

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pp. 17-58

In 1945, as violence mounted in the Middle East and Truman considered the fate of Palestine, members of the State Department’s Near East Division sent him a secret memo warning him of the influence...

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3. The Challenges of Statehood, 1948–1953

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pp. 59-92

Israel’s establishment excited Americans. Israelis’ creation of their independent state in May 1948 was met with a generally positive reaction in the United States. In public opinion assessments...

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4. Political and Theological Dissent, 1953–1967

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pp. 93-132

Karl Baehr, chairman of the American Christian Palestine Committee, was worried. Upon receiving notification that the pastor of the National Presbyterian Church of Washington, D.C., Edward L. R. Elson, planned to tour the Middle East, including Israel, Baehr contacted...

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5. The Tide Turns, 1967–1973

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pp. 133-160

The outbreak of war in the Middle East in the early morning hours of 5 June 1967 surprised no one. The sweeping Israeli victory in six days, however, did. By 8 June Israel had taken control of the entire...

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6. A New U.S.–Israeli Alliance, 1973–1979

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pp. 161-188

Speaking before the New York Board of Rabbis while on the campaign trail, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter assured his audience of his concrete commitment to Israel...

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7. The Political and Religious Landscape Shifts, 1980–2008

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pp. 189-212

“To stand against Israel is to stand against God,” declared Jerry Falwell in his 1980 missive, Listen America.1 Falwell’s explosion on the political scene with the formation of the religious political activist group, the Moral Majority, signaled a dramatic shift in the relationship...


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pp. 213-244

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 245-252


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pp. 253-264

About the Author

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p. 265-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780814708378
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814741047
Print-ISBN-10: 0814741045

Publication Year: 2012