PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE-Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East

By Sharkey, Heather J. | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE-Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East


Sharkey, Heather J., The Middle East Journal


Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion: Two Thousand Years of Christian Missions in the Middle East, by Eleanor H. Tejirian and Reeva Spector Simon. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 296 pages. $35. Reviewed by Heather J. Sharkey

Compared to their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, Christian missionaries in the modern Middle East affected relatively few formal conversions. Nevertheless, in the past 15 years, scholars have begun to appreciate how missionaries in the Middle East exerted far-reaching cultural, political, and economic influences on the region, through schools, hospitals, and other institutions. Scholars have also begun to appreciate how missionaries variously strengthened, mediated, and deflected forms of European and American imperialism, while forging long-distance connections between the Middle East and their home countries.

In Conflict, Conquest, and Conversion, Eleanor H. Tejirian and Reeva Spector Simon recount the history of Christian missions in the Middle East in light of this burgeoning scholarship. Noting that most works on missionaries have focused on particular countries, missions, or periods, Tejirian and Simon aim to survey "the entire landscape of Western missionaries - Roman Catholic as well as Protestant, European as well as American, their impact on the region, and the effect of their activity on other aspects of Western involvement in the Middle East" (p. ix). They do so in a dense and fast-paced chronicle of missionary history.

The authors begin their survey with the career of Jesus and his disciples, and end around 1920. They cover the history of early Christianity, the Crusades, the Protestant Reformation, and Catholic Counter-Reformation, before surveying the activities of both Catholic and Protestant missionaries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. American Protestant missionaries feature as the most dynamic characters in their narrative - the most pedagogically innovative, the most diverse, and also, in many ways, the quirkiest.

The vast temporal scope of this book makes it possible for the authors to trace continuities and recurring themes in this history of Christian missions. …

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