Goldman, “God’s Country”

15764Here is an interesting-looking book arguing that the contemporary US-Israel alliance has less to do with recent phenomena and more to do with the historical identification Americans have had with Biblical Israel. The identification dates to the English Reformation. The Puritans brought with them a strong sense of commonality with the Israel of the Old Testament–consider all those Old-Testament names they gave their children–and that sense of identity has continued in American Protestantism, and therefore American culture more generally, ever since. In this way, contemporary Evangelicals really are the heirs of Cotton Mather.

The book is God’s Country: Christian Zionism in America (University of Pennylvania Press), by Samuel Goldman, a political scientist at George Washington University. The publisher’s description follows:

The United States is Israel’s closest ally in the world. The fact is undeniable, and undeniably controversial, not least because it so often inspires conspiracy theorizing among those who refuse to believe that the special relationship serves America’s strategic interests or places the United States on the morally correct side of Israel’s enduring conflict with the Palestinians. Some point to the nefarious influence of a powerful “Israel lobby” within the halls of Congress. Others detect the hand of evangelical Protestants who fervently support Israel for their own theological reasons. The underlying assumption of all such accounts is that America’s support for Israel must flow from a mixture of collusion, manipulation, and ideologically driven foolishness.

Samuel Goldman proposes another explanation. The political culture of the United States, he argues, has been marked from the very beginning by a Christian theology that views the American nation as deeply implicated in the historical fate of biblical Israel. God’s Country is the first book to tell the complete story of Christian Zionism in American political and religious thought from the Puritans to 9/11. It identifies three sources of American Christian support for a Jewish state: covenant, or the idea of an ongoing relationship between God and the Jewish people; prophecy, or biblical predictions of return to The Promised Land; and cultural affinity, based on shared values and similar institutions. Combining original research with insights from the work of historians of American religion, Goldman crafts a provocative narrative that chronicles Americans’ attachment to the State of Israel.