Evangelicals Do Good Work!
Dexter Van Zile
Once, as a young boy, when I was riding in the car with my mother, we passed an Evangelical Church on the highway in Massachusetts. I pointed to the church, which I knew absolutely nothing about, and said, “Those folks are crazy.”
My mother, a dyed-in-the-wool Congregationalist, whose ancestors went back to the Mayflower, looked at me sharply and said, “They do good work.” She was mad at my bigotry toward those folks who went to church every Sunday and did what they could to be a blessing to the people in their lives.
I have no idea where I got the idea, but I used to think Evangelical Protestants were crazy people who wanted to start World War III. But as the years have progressed and I’ve gotten a little bit less stupid, my opinion of Evangelicals has changed substantially.
My education began when a group of Evangelically-minded Presbyterians prayed over me in a village in the middle of the Congo after I had just recovered from a particularly bad bout of malaria during my time in the Peace Corps.
I felt like a fraud letting them lay hands on me, but at the same time, I knew I couldn’t say no to their offer to pray over me. I got malaria again, a couple of times, but their love and concern for me in my time of suffering was profoundly moving. I was there to help them, but they helped me!
These days, I am a Roman Catholic and despite the problems my church is going through, I love my church. And oddly enough, one of the things that bothers me the most these days, is the terrible things people have said about Evangelical Protestants — Christian Zionists especially. They’ve been portrayed as crazy people who want to bring about Armageddon.
It’s an insult, a slur on the good name of people who want to be a blessing to Israel and the Jewish people, who want to stand with them during their time of trial.
These days I have a script I will use when I’m confronted by someone who has bigoted beliefs about the Evangelical community in the U.S. It goes like this:
Me: “Have Christian Zionists engaged in suicide bombings?”
Bigot: “Well, no… but ….”
Me: “Have Christian Zionists gone into villages in Africa to murder people of other faiths?”
Bigot: “No, but, but….”
Me: “Have the Christian Zionists or Evangelicals that you fear so much engaged in honor killings? Have they thrown gays and lesbians off of roof tops?”
Bigot: “No, but….”
Me: “Have Christian Zionists posted videos of them beheading anyone lately?”
Bigot: “No, but but but but…”
Me: “Then what are you afraid of, really? You have been spending too much time listening to public radio.”
I wrote this script in my head not merely as a rebuke to that snarky teenager riding in the car with his mother all those years ago, but in response to a profoundly misleading podcast series produced by the GroundTruth Project, a non-profit affiliated with WGBH, a public broadcasting station located in Boston.
The series, titled “End of Days,” and produced by Charles Sennott, GTP’s founder and executive director, reduces Christian Zionism to a singular belief and desire to bring about Armageddon.
The underlying premise of the series is that Christian Zionists (or more generally Evangelical Protestants in the U.S.) have derailed the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians by convincing President Donald Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
There’s a number of problems with this story, the most obvious being the fact that the Palestinians themselves have been declaring the peace process dead since it began in the 1990s. Not to mention that history demonstrates it is the Palestinians who have said no to numerous peace offers over the years.
Moreover, it’s not Christian Zionists or Evangelical Protestants who have been blowing themselves up or stabbing people in the Old City of Jerusalem.
I got so disgusted with the GroundTruth Project podcast series that I wrote an article about it, which can be seen here. This article is one of the most important pieces I’ve written since my time at CAMERA.
The fact is, Evangelical Protestants in the U.S. have been at the forefront of defending religious freedom for a long time. They supported Christians suffering under communist rule during the Cold War and they are now some of the most vocal defenders of religious freedom today.
And they are ardent defenders of the Jewish State as it stands firm against religious intolerance in an otherwise religiously intolerant region.
In other words, my mother was right.
Evangelicals do good work.