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Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East, by Ussama Makdisi, is reviewed.
Book Reviews Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East By Ussama Makdisi Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008, 262 pp., ISBN 9780801446214. In this remarkable book, Ussama Mak- ligious agenda, not seeking conversion of disi offers a marvelously subtle analysis of others or trying to end coexistence. American missionary work in nineteenth- To Makdisi, the American Board of century Syria, and just as importantly, the Commissioners for Foreign Missions Syrian Maronite reaction to the missionar- (ABCFM), the chief American mission- ies’ overtures. Although much of the work ary society of the nineteenth century, was on American missions has focused primar- “indelibly stamped by the template of the ily on the missionaries, Makdisi meticu- Puritan experience with the Indians” (52). lously reconstructs the cultural collision Makdisi may overstate the actual connec- that transpired in Syria, and shows how the tions between Puritan missions to Native collision perplexed and transformed the Americans and the ABCFM’s global efforts, religious assumptions of both sides. This as it is not clear to what extent the ABCFM book is now the field’s best micro-history of missionaries consciously felt they were the early Protestant missionary encounter. completing the unfinished business of Pu- Makdisi begins by elaborating the ritan evangelism of Indians. Nevertheless, starkly different religious worlds of New Anglo-American Puritanism certainly had England’s Puritan settlers and Mount a genealogical connection to the ABCFM Lebanon’s Maronite community, as seen missionaries, as did the “disinterested be- primarily through the roughly contempo- nevolence” of the New Divinity theologians rary writings of Cotton Mather of Boston, of the late eighteenth century. Christian Massachusetts, and Istifan Duwayhi, pa- benevolence required that the missionar- triarch of the Maronite Church in the late ies take the gospel to the heathen and to seventeenth century. Mather’s Puritanism unconverted, nominal Christians wherever was millennialist, expecting that religious they could be found. Doing so would fulfill adversaries and the “heathen” would be de-
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