SOCIAL SCIENCES

American Apostles:

American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam. Hill & Wang: Farrar. Sept. 2015. 352p. notes. index. ISBN 9780809023981. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780809023998. HIST
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In 1819, Pliny Fisk and Levi Parsons, members of a conservative Protestant sect known as New Divinity, left New England for the Ottoman Empire on the first American mission to the Middle East. Later, they were joined by fellow evangelist and New Englander, Jonas King. Heyrman (history, Univ. of Delaware; Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt) tells their engaging story. Traveling to cities such as Smyrna, Alexandria, and Damascus, all three men kept meticulous written records for the benefit of interested readers back home. Convinced they were living in a new "apostolic age," the evangelists believed that the demise of Islam was imminent and that the Middle East was ripe for conversion to their version of the gospel. The reality proved far different as residents showed no interest in conversion. Furthermore, the missionaries discovered that Muslim men were devoutly devoted to their religion, more so than Christian men were to theirs, a circumstance they found deeply troubling. As a result of their failures, Heyrman argues, the missionaries developed a more masculine and confrontational version of Protestantism (especially through the writings of King) that still exerts a broad influence on the United States today.
VERDICT Heyrman is a skilled writer; her descriptions are compelling, thought-provoking, and often humorous. Highly recommended for those interested in American history and religious history.
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