This book has been a long time coming. As anyone who has undertaken such an endeavor will know well, writing a book can at times be a pretty frustrating and isolating experience. Although the act of writing is often fairly solitary, the ideas, theories, methods, and final product itself—much like the truth claims made by the subjects of this book—hardly spring forth in isolation of the social environment in which they are formed, and it would be remiss of me not to thank and acknowledge those individuals whose friendship and intellectual stimulation has sustained and influenced me throughout this project.
While it is difficult to know exactly where to start, any good origin story needs to start somewhere, so I will begin this one by thanking my former tutor and now good friend Daniel Dowling. As an undergraduate I distinctly recall an off-hand comment he made about evangelicals, nuclear war and other salacious topics in a course on religion and violence that initially piqued my interest in Christian Zionism. While my thinking on the subject has expanded since then, without Dan’s short quip I may not have been introduced to the topic at all.
This book originated as a PhD thesis, which I began in late 2009 at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. When I started at Macquarie I was fortunate enough to share an office with Matthew Chrulew, Banu Senay, Deborah Bird Rose, Kylie Miskovski, Laavanya Kathiravelu, Sudheesh Bhasi, Kristine Aquino, and many others who provided helpful and encouraging professional and personal advice as I navigated a PhD and a new country.
Brent Nongbri and Cavan Concannon, who came to Macquarie as postdoctoral research fellows during my first year there, were also positive influences on my scholarship. They, along with Jack Tsonsis, Jaap Timmer, Deborah van Heekeren, Christina Petterson, and the other regular members of our fortnightly reading group on theory and method in the academic study of religion provided plenty of stimulating and thoughtful conversations that improved and sharpened my thinking in important ways.
In addition to always encouraging me in my endeavors, my parents also provided me with extended accommodation on my research trips to the US. Their willingness to have their grown son hanging around their respective homes for weeks on end not only provided me with extended time to write up my research notes and work on chapters and articles, it also enabled me to see them far more often than I ordinarily would, and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.
Much of the initial writing of this book was done in Sydney, and special thanks is owed to Jimmy and Brad at Tripod Café who were kind enough to let me sit upstairs and write for hours at a time while ordering the occasional coffee. During my time in Sydney, and later in Newcastle, I also benefitted from having some of the best friends and flatmates one could ask for, especially Toby Burvill, Torunn Higgins, Matt and Hadas Luciano, Rose Kang, Alicia Wenman, Missy Howe, Will Noble, Cam Foster, Mary Jane Cuyler, and Troy Saxby. Not only did they provide extraordinary friendship during my PhD and post-PhD years, they were also refreshingly uninterested in my research (apart from encouraging me and hoping that it was going well), ensuring (for the most part) that I didn’t become too consumed by the whole process.
Thanks are also due to Michael Symons and Ann Beaglehole for always encouraging me to seek out the next press when my proposals were knocked back, Warren Goldstein for his interest in the project and helpful editing of the manuscript, James Crossley and Sean McCloud for outing themselves after anonymous peer-review so that I could thank them properly, Melinda Johnston for her expert copyediting, and my wonderful partner Louise Rutledge for simply being wonderful.
Lastly, special thanks has to be reserved for my supervisor, mentor, and friend, Marion Maddox, whose influence presides over much of this book in numerous ways. As an undergraduate in Wellington, New Zealand, Marion’s work inspired me to continue toward a degree in religious studies after I contemplated giving up. Through her work, Marion not only encouraged me to think about the world in ways I had not considered before, she also showed me that there were ways to study religion other than learning about different beliefs and traditions. More importantly, by encouraging me to make the move across the Tasman to Sydney and undertake a PhD, she gave me the confidence to do something I would have otherwise thought was beyond my ability, and without that encouragement this book would have never been written.