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For Zion's Sake

For Zion's Sake: The Judeo-Christian Tradition in American Culture

Fuad Sha’ban
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    For Zion's Sake
    Book Description:

    This book explores the role of religion, especially religious extremism, in American culture. In particular, it examines the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition, its impact on America's self-image, and the way it has influenced America's attitude to the Arab World. The Christian Right has become a very powerful force in American politics. Its basic belief in Christian Zionism has resulted in a steadfast commitment to the establishment of the state of Israel and to its aggressive expansion, and has made Zionism a central part of government policy, for both Republicans and Democrats. Fuad Sha'ban shows how this is not a new phenomenon: what he terms the 'Vision of Zion' in American life has its roots in literature, the arts and internal politics from colonial times until today. Looking in detail at a wealth of resources, including religious and literary texts, as well as official political statements, he pieces together a subtle account of how America's Puritan roots have fostered a specifically religious political culture that encourages hatred and suspicion of the Muslim World in domestic and foreign policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-471-6
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Foreword (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Ralph Braibanti

    This study by Professor Fuad Sha’ban is weighted with a special relevance and urgency by the congruence of several events occurring during the last few decades. One of these events, found in the United States, has antecedents which can be traced as far back as the founding of Plymouth Colony. I refer to contemporary millenarianism, which has become enmeshed in the web of a Christian quest for Zion, thereby contorting our perception of Islamic and Arab affairs. This phenomenon has been explored and popularized by the late Professor Edward Said’sOrientalism. In the present work by Professor Sha’ban it is...

  5. Introductory Essay (pp. 1-10)
    Louis J. Budd

    “A Threnody” came from George T. Lanigan (1845–1886), a “literary comedian” who, as one way of earning his keep, wrote poems for the Sunday edition of theNew York World.¹ Other newspapers across the country applauded it; an anthologist reprinted it later in the same year (and it still appears in several collections of light verse). Eugene Field, a well-remembered newspaper poet and humorist, would complain during the presidential election of 1884:

    When the writer has written with all of his might Of Blaine and of Cleveland a column or more, And the editor happens along in the night...

  6. Introduction (pp. 11-18)
    Fuad Sha’ban

    The profundity, as well as the breadth, of the American emotional and intellectual attachment to an Oriental perspective during the four centuries of the European presence in North America, is greater than commonly supposed. This attachment, which is still the basis for America’s involvement in the Orient, was in the making from the founding of the colony at Plymouth; it became a mature constituency by the end of the Civil War. And although the establishment of the American Oriental Society in 1842 marked the beginning of a more active stage in the development of American’s involvement in the affairs of...

  7. Part I: In the Beginning
    • 1 Christopher Columbus and the Quest for Zion (pp. 21-26)

      Christopher Columbus, “Admiral of the Ocean Sea,” has been traditionally portrayed—especially in popular works—as an adventurer who sought by exploring undiscovered regions of the world to obtain power, fortune and fame. Like his contemporaries, Columbus believed that there was in the Orient a “Great Khan” whose country held the prospect of inexhaustible gold and riches for whoever arrived there first.

      He insisted that if he sailed west across the Atlantic, he would eventually reach the Orient by circumnavigating the earth. Columbus spent several years trying, without success, to convince the kings and princes of Europe of the possibility...

  8. Part II: Zion in America
    • 2 A Place for My People: The Pilgrims in the New World (pp. 29-42)

      Puritan beliefs and the Puritan way of life have had a continuous and lasting influence on prevailing American religious, as well as secular, tendencies and in the shaping of American history. This influence can be seen in the evolution of the American governmental system, in social behavior and habits, in the various religious movements such as the Great Awakenings and the Revivals, in the missionary tendencies of the American nation, and in the sociopolitical attitudes of Americans toward the “others,”—Muslems and Arabs in particular. The influence of Puritanism on the development of American thinking is best described by the...

    • 3 The Star in the West: The United States as the Light of the World (pp. 43-56)

      The vision of the Puritan ideologues did not end with the establishment of the independent political state. In fact, in spite of the political atmosphere which characterized the polemics of the Revolution and Independence, many of the basic premises of the early American religious communities continued to inform the idiom and thinking of these two periods. The most obvious among these early premises are: the belief in the unfolding of divine will in the establishment of the United States of America; the covenantal nature of the new American system and the blend of religious and sociopolitical principles in this “ideal...

    • 4 The Great Seal of the United States of America (pp. 57-60)

      The National Seal of the United States of America—together with the American Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights—has occupied a prominent place in American official as well as public thinking. The National Seal is especially important for the present study because it is one of the earliest expressions of national pride and because of the symbols that it derives from the Judeo-Christian heritage. The Great Seal, as adopted by an Act of Congress on June 20, 1782, features on its two sides the following:

      That the Device for an Armorial Achievement and Reverse of...

    • 5 The Vision of Zion: The American Myth of the City on a Hill (pp. 61-100)

      John Pierpont recounts in his long poem, “Airs of Palestine,” a dreamlike epic journey in the style of classical poetry. But instead of looking to Parnassus or Olympus for inspiration, the poet invokes a different muse:

      No, no—a lonelier, lovelier path be mine:

      Greece and her charms I leave, for Palestine.

      I love to walk on Jordan’s banks of palm;

      I love to wet my foot in Hermon’s dews;

      I love the promptings of Isaiah’s muse:

      In Carmel’s holy grots, I’ll court repose, And deck my mossy couch, with Sharon’s deathless rose.¹

      Pierpont’s progress takes him on an...

    • 6 Zion and the African-American Experience (pp. 101-116)

      It is singularly ironic that as the Puritan immigrants compared their journey from England to the New World with that of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, the Africans enslaved in America sought solace in the same biblical symbolism. The slaves, who were abducted and forcefully removed to a life of exile from their home to bondage in a strange land, found some hope of freedom that could only be provided by the “Promised Land” of the Scriptures.

      The slave community formed its own biblical discourse of freedom out of their white masters’ religious imagery of “home,” the “Land of...

  9. Part III: The Promised Land
    • 7 American Travelers in the Orient: The Quest for Zion (pp. 119-148)

      On May 4, 1840, the correspondent of theNew York Heraldreported from Alexandria that the number of American visitors to Egypt and the Holy Land was noticeably increasing. Observing that he had seen Americans in Alexandria during that year more than he could “ever recollect to have heard of before,” he added that “upwards of twenty are now on their way to Mount Sinai, Petra, and Jerusalem.” In fact, the Herald correspondent decided that, “should the Turco-Egyptian question be amicably settled, it is likely we shall have more visitors to Egypt next year than we have had this.”¹


  10. Part IV: Religion in America
    • 8 The Judeo-Christian Tradition: Prelude (pp. 151-160)

      On the domestic political, social and religious levels and in the foreign policy regarding the Arab–Israeli conflict, it can be said that the modern period in American history sums up the entire course taken by the Judeo-Christian tradition in American history. The impact of the Judeo-Christian set of beliefs has appeared in many public and private activities and policies. This can best be illustrated by a few public events which have taken place in recent years.

      On January 25, 2001, the Inauguration ceremony of George W. Bush was held in front of the Capitol, and on the next day...

    • 9 The Role of Religion in American Life (pp. 161-191)

      Religion has played an important role in American life. As has been demonstrated, the early Puritan settlements considered religion a basic part of their experiment. During the American Revolution and early Independence, the Founding Fathers frequently expressed in statements, speeches and actions a mixture of patriotic and religious feelings; and when the American nation faced the most dangerous period in its history with the war between the North and the South, both sides quoted religious texts to justify their respective positions. In both camps, churchmen were busy preaching to the soldiers, consoling the wounded and praying over the dead. The...

    • 10 America and the Millennial Fever (pp. 192-211)

      When Saint Augustine wrote his great book,The City Of God(AD 426), he referred to a pure spiritual state into which the church community entered. This symbolic interpretation, however, was discarded by the majority of Christian Europe in favor of a literal interpretation. Pope Urban II’s call for a campaign to “regain” the Holy Land was supported with the claim that this was “the will of God.” In fact, from the tenth century on, literal interpretations of the prophetic sacred texts invested the elements of historical determinism with goals more relevant to political geography and socio-economic considerations. As early...

  11. Notes (pp. 212-228)
  12. Bibliography (pp. 229-234)
  13. Index (pp. 235-254)