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The Fervent Embrace

The Fervent Embrace: Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel

Caitlin Carenen
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Fervent Embrace
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0837-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (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: “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.” Truman’s concise memo belied the drama behind its creation. Despite enormous pressure from Truman’s State Department and members of his cabinet to withhold recognition, the president quickly offered it....

  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. 1 American Protestants and Jewish Persecution, 1933–1937
    (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 in the United States, theChristian Century,issued this stern directive. Jews, the editors argued, should celebrate the birth of Christ as a goodwill gesture to Christianity’s universalism and American culture. “If the religion of Judaism is good for the Jews,” it insisted, “it is also good for gentiles. If it is not good for gentiles, it is not the best religion for Jews.”¹ Religious...

  7. 2 American Protestants Respond to Zionism and the Jewish Genocide in Europe, 1938–1948
    (pp. 17-48)

    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 on Congress of a pro-Zionist Christian organization, the American Christian Palestine Committee. Made up of Christian politicians, clergy, and laity convinced by humanitarian impulses and Christian guilt to support the establishment of Israel, they had, a Near East Affairs (NEA) staffer warned Truman, “written all the members of Congress, asking them to write to you urging that now the war in Europe is over, steps be...

  8. CASE STUDY 1 The Myth of Christian Intervention, Christian Guilt, and the Martin Niemöller Controversy
    (pp. 49-58)

    As American Protestants wrestled with the guilt of Christian responsibility for the Jewish genocide in Europe, the controversy surrounding the invitation from the Federal Council of Churches, in 1947, to German pastor Martin Niemöller to speak in the United States as a “hero” of Christian resistance to the Nazis illustrated the church’s difficulty in coming to terms with historic Christian antisemitism. The Niemöller controversy highlighted both the individual’s action (and inaction) and revealed the guilty conscience of Christendom in the face of the reality of the Holocaust. Niemöller was a singular example of Christian resistance to the Nazis, and hope...

  9. 3 The Challenges of Statehood, 1948–1953
    (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 conducted by the State Department leading up to, and after, the Israeli Declaration of Independence, more than 90 percent of “public comment mail” sent to the State Department concerned Palestine. The Department noted that most of the mail came from “organized pressure” groups in “areas of crucial importance in American politics.”¹ Although noting that most of the organizations were Jewish, the Department repeatedly pointed out the influence of one non-Jewish group—the...

  10. 4 Political and Theological Dissent, 1953–1967
    (pp. 93-126)

    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 Alisa Klausner Ber of the Israeli Foreign Office to request that the government take note of the visit. Pro-Israel Protestants viewed Elson as hostile to Israel’s interests and worried about the implications of his visit to his very famous parishioners. “It is extremely important,” he wrote, “that he [Elson] be given the ‘VIP’ treatment, realizing full well that he is not...

  11. CASE STUDY 2 “Of course, down in Virginia, you do have to worry about Southern Baptists”: Samuel Newman, American Protestants, and the Post–World War II Jewish-Christian Dialogue
    (pp. 127-132)

    The demand for theological reevaluations stemmed not only from Protestantism itself, but in one remarkable example came from a single Holocaust survivor, now an American, who was offended by the Southern Baptist Conventions’ pamphlet “Winning the Jew” which asserted that Jews who did not convert to Christianity “are lost without hope.” Samuel Newman, a physician from Danville, Virginia, launched an extraordinary twelve-year letter writing campaign to hundreds of Protestant leaders around the country calling for “theological integrity and sophistication.” He wrote to more than one hundred “outstanding spokesmen of Christian denominations,” including a wide variety of theologians, seminarians, and editors...

  12. 5 The Tide Turns, 1967–1973
    (pp. 133-154)

    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 Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. As a rabbi blew the shofar to a crowd of emotional Israeli soldiers and civilians, American evangelical and fundamentalist prophecy watchdogs rejoiced as well. The end times had begun. Writing for theMoody MonthlyJohn F. Walvoord, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary, could barely contain his excitement: “This return constitutes a preparation...

  13. CASE STUDY 3 The Individual and the U.S.–Israeli Alliance: Ursula Niebuhr, the Jerusalem Committee, and Christians Concerned for Israel
    (pp. 155-160)

    Although the American Christian Palestine Committee had disbanded by 1967, liberal Protestants who had actively pursued a strong U.S. – Israeli alliance continued to participate in new interfaith organizations and engaged in continuing efforts to strengthen the relationship. Israeli appreciation for these efforts resulted in governmental recognition of the role American Protestants played in creating a “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. Among those recognized for their efforts, Reinhold Niebuhr had long been considered one of Israel’s most ardent and influential supporters in the United States. In appreciation for his efforts on behalf of Israel, Hebrew and the israel...

  14. 6 A New U.S.–Israeli Alliance, 1973–1979
    (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. For Carter, American support for Israel could not be extricated from biblical faith. He explained: “I have a feeling of being at home when I go to Israel. I have a feeling, coincidentally, that the foundation of the nation of Israel in 1948 is a fulfillment of biblical prophecies.” Confidently Carter concluded his remarks by noting that the majority of Americans agreed with his position on Israel. “It’s not just that I’m a candidate...

  15. 7 The Political and Religious Landscape Shifts, 1980–2008
    (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 between religion and politics in America. The cultural and political relevance of liberal mainline Protestants dissipated in the 1980s, the result of a trend begun in the previous decade. It was replaced by the growing numbers and power of a new political player—American evangelicalism. Falwell’s declaration about God and Israel represented a new strain of religious...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 213-246)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 247-254)
  18. Index
    (pp. 255-264)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 265-265)