MORE DESIRED THAN OUR OWNE SALVATION: THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN ZIONISM
Robert 0. Smith
Foreword by Martin E. Marty
Oxford University Press
2013, $29.95, pp. 273
WE live in a well-manicured suburban neighborhood where the sound of lawnmowers fills the air on Sunday afternoons, not the cries of street corner evangelists or religiously inspired doomsayers. (In these bucolic precincts, doomsday is more commonly associated with apocalyptic debates over the annual mill-rate increase.) However, as I settled into a chair on our porch one recent Sunday to read the final 60 pages of Robert Smith's fascinating, if often arcane, More Desired than Our Ovme Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism, I noticed a group of smartly dressed African-American adults walking down our street with Bibles in hand and children in tow. Moments later the doorbell rang: Biblical prophecy was indeed knocking (inconveniently as always) in the form of a visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Truth about this troubled world and the fate of mankind, the pamphlet they left assured us, can only be found in one book: The Bible.
Jehovah's Witnesses, regarded as an idiosyncratic sect by most other Christian groups, are millenarians who read the Bible literally, and believe that we are currently living in the End Times as described in the New Testament's Book of Revelation. Christian millenarians differ, often in bewildering ways, on exactly how the End Times will play out. Many believe Christ will return to earth and rule for 1,000 years before finally confronting and vanquishing the Devil's henchman, the Antichrist. Others believe Christ will return at the end of that 1,000-year period of righteousness. Suffice it to say, tens of millions of evangelical and fundamentalist American Christians identify themselves as believers in this sort of biblical prophecy Christian Zionists see, in the 1948 re-establishment of the State of Israel and in Israel's 1967 triumph in the Six-Day War, sure signs that the apocalyptic battle between Satan and Christ is drawing near or has already begun. These groups, as Robert 0. Smith notes in More Desired Than Our Ozone Salvation, identify passionately with the besieged Jewish state for reasons both eschatological and nativistic. They are uncompromising supporters of the U.S.-Israel alliance, many opposing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Texas televangelist John Hagee, the founder of Christians United...