“premillennialism,” whose rise had paralleled the fundamentalist movement in U.s. evangelicalism in the nineteenth century. hence the new american attitude toward the near east, which began to prevail in the interwar period, and its new protagonists combined such disparate elements as humanitari- anism, realpolitik, and, with a new kind of mission, premillennialism. This form of millennialism anticipates inevitable global catastrophes, a climax to the “reign of darkness”—not its imminent end, as did the postmillennialism of the early nineteenth century. after World War ii, the United states, now a superpower, turned back in a new way to its initial concept of israel “restored to palestine”; at the same time, it entered a fascinating and ambivalent inter- action of political globalism, evangelical mission, and biblicist ideology.
Nearest East uses american, near eastern, and other primary sources. Telling an intimate faith story, including its contexts, the book traces near- ly two centuries of history to the eve of today’s topical debates. it sketches elements of diplomatic history but studies primarily what went on in the minds of those involved: what motivated, what was believed, prayed for, and dreamed. This includes by-products of the millennialist current, for exam- ple, successful literature, and their socioreligious and political impact in the United states. The book’s leitmotifs are the near east–centered millennialist mission and its persistence, changes, traumas, and vital hopes. For mission- ary insiders, the intimate move toward the near east was manifest destiny from the beginning, more manifest than was the american move toward the West Coast. Outsiders may be struck by the persistence of this mission- ary challenge throughout two centuries. This book considers the move to and interaction with the near east as constitutive of the United states, a country built up by Bible believers from the Old World of whom the most serious never considered america to be the fulfillment of history and biblical prophecy.
“america” is a european project. europeans in quest for a future beyond the Old World—in particular, persecuted protestants—drove it, since eu- rope had become an uncertain, divided, peaceless place of religious wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. even after the establishment of the United states in the late eighteenth century, america remained an open, unfinished project whose entrepreneurial spirit, energy, and peculiar sense of urgency, including protestant mission and secular globalism, have shaped the modern world. For many, this proved to be an empowering encoun- ter; for others, a disconcerting one. This is particularly true of sunni islam, which reigned politically and symbolically in the Ottoman world. Because of “Barbary” (north african) piracy against american ships, muslim and Ot- toman muslim rule had made a bad impression on the young United states.11