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The surprising tale of the first American Protestant missionaries to proselytize in the Muslim world
In American Apostles, the Bancroft Prize–winning historian Christine Leigh Heyrman chronicles the first fateful collision between American missionaries and the diverse religious cultures of the Levant. Pliny Fisk, Levi Parsons, Jonas King: though virtually unknown today, these three young New Englanders commanded attention across the United States two hundred years ago. Steeped in the biblical prophecies of evangelical Protestantism, these boys became the founding members of the Palestine mission and ventured to Ottoman Turkey, Egypt, and Syria, where they sought to expose the falsity of Muhammad’s creed and to restore these bastions of Islam to true Christianity.
The missionaries thrilled Americans with tales of crossing the Sinai on camel, sailing up the Nile, and exploring Jerusalem, but their journals tell a different story, revealing that their missions did not go according to plan. Instead of converting the Middle East, the members of the Palestine mission themselves experienced spiritual challenges; some of the missionaries developed a cosmopolitan curiosity about Islam while others devised images of Muslims that would fuel the first wave of Islamophobia in the United States. American Apostles brings to life evangelicals’ first encounters with the Middle East. The mission promised Americans a more accurate understanding of Islam, but it bolstered a more militant Christianity.