Evangelizing Arabs: Baptists and Muslims in Lebanon, 1895-2011
Trexler, Melanie Elizabeth
This dissertation utilizes ethnographic and archival research to examine the history of the encounter between the Lebanese Baptist community and the Near East Baptist Mission of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from 1895 to 2011. It analyzes the tenuous relationship between Southern Baptist missionaries and the Lebanese Baptist community from 1900 to1999; Baptist-Muslim relations during this time period; and the impact of geopolitical events on American mission work in Lebanon. This study argues that the post-1948 geopolitical situation empowered the Lebanese Baptist community to assert its autonomy from U.S. Southern Baptists. These same political circumstances simultaneously perpetuated an attitude of American exceptionalism that shaped Southern Baptists' interactions with Lebanese Baptists and destabilized SBC mission work in Lebanon.This study also investigates U.S. and Lebanese Baptists' perceptions of and engagement with Muslims. It contends that from 1923 to 1987 the SBC missionaries tried to evangelize Muslims, and they adopted a strategy of presence and dialogue in 1969 to accomplish this goal. However, Lebanese Baptists resisted this approach because it made the Baptists potential targets of anti-American sentiment. Only after American missionaries evacuated Lebanon in 1987 did Lebanese Baptists shift their focus toward interacting with Muslims. The study concludes by examining the current activities of Lebanese Baptists and highlights the ways this community is appropriating a particular mission of presence and dialogue to improve Muslim-Christian relations in Lebanon
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