I first heard about the letter of the evangelical leaders through an e-mail from Professor Ron Sider, who used to teach at Messiah College, where I graduated. It was a gift from heaven after so many bad statements by evangelicals justifying killings, occupation, and the pillage of our land using so-called biblical interpretations. I tried to get the letter to as many media outlets as I know, especially some of the major newspapers and satellite TV stations like al Jazzera and Al Arrabiyeh. I wanted people in our part of the world to know that there are other Christian evangelicals from America who think and speak differently than the Pat Robertsons, Jerry Fallwells and other Christian Zionists.
The same day, my family and I were invited to the home of the pastor of the local Christian Alliance Church in Amman. Reverend Yousef Hashweh and his wife are long-time friends of my parents and my wife’s family. My father-in-law was an Alliance pastor in Jerusalem between 1957 and 1975. They had invited us for a good-bye dinner as we were about to travel to the U.S. I have been asked to teach a course at Princeton University on the topic of new media in the Arab world.
When I told them about the letter and that one of the signatories was the president of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, they rushed to their computer and made a print out of the letter. They were checking to be sure that Gary M. Benedict, president of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, had in fact signed a letter calling for a Palestinian state.
We spent the evening trading stories of the many false predictions (spoken as if they were true prophecies) made by Christian evangelicals about our part over the years. I told them my favorite story of seeing Pat Robertson in 1982 opening his Bible while speaking on the 700 Club, stating that the invasion of Israel to Lebanon was specifically detailed in the Old Testament and that PLO leader Yasser Arafat was none other than the anti-Christ. And then 12 years later the same Pat Robertson was taking a photo opportunity with none other than the former anti-Christ, Yasser Arafat, at his Gaza residency as Robertson was giving a donation of milk for Palestinian children.
The letter of the 34 evangelical leaders certainly was a pleasant surprise to many of us Christians in the Middle East who were beginning to doubt our own understanding of our faith in light of so many televangelists throwing themselves blindly behind the Israeli military. Hopefully these voices of sanity will continue and we will hear the true voice of an evangelical community who believes in justice and human rights. Liberty and freedom apply both to the spiritual as well as to the worldly needs of humankind. The sooner the evangelicals of the world embrace that, the sooner this will be a better world for all of us.
Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University and the founder of the Arab world’s first internet radio station, ammannet. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.