"More desired than our owne salvation" : the roots of American Christian affinity for the State of Israel.
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Smith, Robert O. (Robert Owen), 1974-
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This dissertation seeks to show that popular American affinity for the State of Israel draws from the taproot of apocalyptic hope informing American identity and national vocation from the revolutionary era to the present. The English Protestant tradition of Judeo-centric prophecy interpretation informing these American adaptations of apocalyptic hope was first developed in the early Elizabethan period and refined through the first half of the seventeenth century. Brought to North America by English colonists with Puritan commitments, the tradition provided a foundational framework for American self-understanding. Given this Judeo-centric tradition's direct contribution to American popular Christianity and civil religion—through varying degrees of national-covenantalism, premillennial dispensationalism and cultural fundamentalism—claims that American popular affinity for the State of Israel is generated primarily by external manipulations or lobbies strain the bounds of credulity. Grounded, in part, in the Protestant historiography developed by Lutheran and Calvinist reformers, this English Protestant tradition of Judeo-centric prophecy interpretation was from its inception a political theology. The tradition openly constructed friends (Jews) as well as enemies (Muslims and Roman Catholics), while cultivating an occidentocentric discourse that discounted Eastern Christians. The tradition's most visible and direct impulses are manifested in Christian Zionism, understood as political action, informed by specifically Christian commitments, to promote or preserve Jewish control over the geographic area now containing Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The conviction that Jews had a central role to play in God's end-times drama led English and Anglo-American interpreters to construct Jews as allies while constructing Catholics and Muslims as Antichrist. Despite the banishment of Jews from England, Judeo-centric content became common within English Protestant articulations of apocalyptic hope. These hermeneutics, adapted by English colonists, were transposed into the apocalyptic foundations of American national identity and vocation. This historical trajectory, rather than the premillennial dispensationalism of John Nelson Darby, best explains the foundations of American popular affinity for the State of Israel and the characteristics of contemporary American Christian Zionism.