When and How Did Evangelicals Become Zionists?: Thomas R. Getman

Delivered to The Israel Lobby and American Policy 2018 conference March 2, 2018 at the National Press Club

The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference was solely sponsored by the American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). This is a rush transcript.

Dale Sprusansky: Our next speaker is discussing the topic of Christian Zionism. For those of you who don’t know, Christian Zionism is the belief that the establishment of the modern state of Israel in the Holy Land is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and thus deserves unrelenting support from Christians. When President Donald Trump announced in December his intention to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, many attributed his decision to the power of Christian Zionists, who are a key Trump constituency and have a powerful and devoted member in Vice President Mike Pence. But just how powerful the Christian Zionists are is up for debate, and we will address that today.

There are also theological questions about Christian Zionism and the extent to which it is a legitimate interpretation of scripture and the extent to which it is heretical. I like that word. Finally, questions as to how it started, where is it going, and who is challenging the evangelical community. 

To discuss this today, we have Thomas Getman. He is a partner in a private consulting group that specializes in international, United Nations, and nongovernmental organization affairs. He got his start in South Africa, in fighting for justice there, and later discovered the Palestine issue. He has worked primarily, as many of you know, for World Vision, where he worked continuously for Palestinian issues in the West Bank and Gaza.

With that, I would like to introduce him to discuss Christian Zionism.

Thomas Getman: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks to the wonderful organization of our sponsoring groups and for your being here to discuss these important issues with us.

As the resident theologian today, I must tell you that, particularly this morning, I was reminded that we operate within a very secular climate – but we also operate in an aura of the creation ordinances. And sometimes that’s forgotten. I cut my eyeteeth on human rights in the Middle East because the likes of [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu and [Rev. Allan] Boesak and [Rev.] Beyers Naudé and people like that said to me, if I really wanted to prove my bona fides in terms of human rights, I should turn my eyes to the Palestinians. I really am grateful for that, because I was, truth be told, a complicit evangelical Zionist – like the polling data today showed – but unwittingly. I didn’t even know what it meant.

But living and working in the Middle East for 5 years to begin with, and now 20 years all told, we see that there is a breaking forth of history that is beyond our usual comprehension of things. It’s good to be reminded, as we seek…

Read more