Donald E. Wagner. Dying in the Land of Promise: Palestine and Palestinian Christianity from Pentecost to 2000.
Donald E. Wagner. Dying in the Land of Promise: Palestine and Palestinian Christianity from Pentecost to 2000. London, U.K.: Melisende, 2003. 307 pages. $21.95.
In the midst of the current Western obsession with Muslims and Islam, a book draws our attention to the travails of a Christian community deeply entwined with the fate of the most beleaguered Muslim community in the world, namely that of the Palestinians. Donald Wagner chose to study the life and fate of the Palestinian Christians, however, not as an anecdote of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, but as a living community facing the challenges of ethno-nationalism, religious revival, and most importantly, betrayal by sister Western churches. The combined effect of these forces which superficially resulted in emigration from the Holy Land, also produced more serious challenges to Western Christendom and to the disunited local churches ministering to the Palestinians. This book, additionally, is written as a refutation of a stinging statement by Teddy Kollek, a past Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, to the effect that Christianity developed and spread far away from the Holy Land. Citing the establishment of the early Church in Antioch, and later in other corners of the far-flung Byzantine/Roman world, Kollek wanted us to accept the historical annihilation of Palestine's indigenous Christians. Wagner demonstrates through his superb historical research into the survival of this community both Kollek's erroneous assumption and the regional impact of the Christian community's decline. He also shows that no other Christian group shares the Palestinians' distinct connection of people to land, a connection that is being violently revoked in the very land of the Bible. Historically, the challenges to Palestinian Christians emanated from its Jewish and Muslim neighbors. Those challenges were not only doctrinal, but also political. As Wagner demonstrates, however, in modern times Palestinian Christians are facing the prospect of physical separation from the land of the Bible through a powerful combination of ancient and modern enemies, a separation which has grave implications for the survival of the Holy Land itself.
Through this historical inquiry, Wagner finds that most of the time Christians were treated with tolerance by their Muslim overlords. Examples of this Muslim ecumenism, which is mandated by the Muslim faith, abound. For instance, not only was Caliph Omar's pact with Bishop Sophronius...
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