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Artillery of Heaven American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East


Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East, by Ussama Makdisi, is reviewed.

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									                                                                                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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