Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures
by Melanie E. Trexler
In 1893, Said Jureidini, an Arabic-speaking Christian from the Ottoman Empire, experienced an evangelical conversion while attending the Chicago World’s Fair. Two years later he founded the first Baptist church in modern-day Lebanon. For financial support, he aligned his fledgling church with American Landmark Baptists and, later, Southern Baptists. By doing so, Jureidini linked the fate of Baptists in Lebanon with those in the United States.
In Evangelizing Lebanon, Melanie E. Trexler explores the complex, reflexive relationship between Baptist missionaries from the States and Baptists in Lebanon. Trexler pays close attention to the contexts surrounding the relationships, the consequences, and the theologies inherent to missionary praxis, carefully profiling the perspectives of both the missionaries and the Lebanese Baptists.
Trexler thus discovers a fraught mutuality at work. U.S. missionaries presented new models of church planting, evangelism, and educational opportunities that empowered the Lebanese Baptists to accomplish personal and communal goals. In turn, Lebanese Baptists prompted missionaries to rethink their ideas about mission, Muslim-Christian relations, and even American foreign policy in the region.
But Trexler also reveals how missionaries’ efforts to evangelize Muslims came to threaten the very security of the Lebanese Baptists. Trexler shows how Baptist missionary theology and praxis in Lebanon had more to do with bolstering an insular Baptist identity in the U.S. than it did with engaging in interfaith relationships with Lebanese Muslims. Ironically, American Baptists’ efforts to help ultimately spun out of control and led to unintended consequences. Trexler’s study of Baptists in Lebanon serves as a warning for missional identity everywhere, Baptist or not: missionary insistence on a narrow and politically useful definition of what it means to be Christian can both aid and undermine, build and destabilize.
For more information regarding Evangelizing Lebanon, visit the book’s page on MUSE.
A Pursued Justice: Black Preaching from the Great Migration to Civil Rights
by Kenyatta R. Gilbert
The narrative of Civil Rights often begins with the prophetic figure of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. City squares became a church, the body politic a congregation, and sermons a jeremiad of social change—or so the story goes. In A Pursued Justice, Kenyatta Gilbert instead traces the roots of King’s call for justice to African American prophetic preaching that arose in an earlier moment of American history.
In the wake of a failed Reconstruction period, widespread agricultural depression, and the rise of Jim Crow laws, and triggered by America’s entry into World War I, a flood of southern Blacks moved from the South to the urban centers of the North. This Great Migration transformed northern Black churches and produced a new mode of preaching—prophetic Black preaching—which sought to address this brand new context.
Black clerics such as Baptist pastor Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr., A.M.E. Bishop Reverdy Cassius Ransom, and A.M.E. Zion pastor Reverend Florence Spearing Randolph rose up within these congregations. From their pulpits, these pastors “spoke truth to power” for hope across racial, ethnic, and class lines both within their congregations and between the Black community and the wider culture.
A Pursued Justice profiles these three ecclesiastically inventive clerics of the first half of the twentieth century whose strident voices gave birth to a distinctive form of prophetic preaching. Their radical sermonic response to injustice and suffering, both in and out of the Black church, not only captured the imaginations of participants in the largest internal mass migration in American history but also inspired the homiletical vision of Martin Luther King Jr. and subsequent generations of preachers of revolutionary hope and holy disobedience.
For more information regarding A Pursued Justice, visit the book’s page on MUSE.