At the time the editorial below appeared,I was the editor of the Century. This was the week's lead editorial. In 1977, I had been editor for five years, a position I held until 1999.
President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated in January, 1977. Menachem Begin was head of the Likud Party, which won a majority in the Knesset elections held on May 17, 1977.
Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in June, 1977.
At the time this editorial appeared, the new American President had come to the United Nations to meet with the new Israeli Prime Minister.I was at the meeting in an editorial capacity.
The picture was presented to me by the Israeli Counsel's office. It shows this American editor waiting his turn to interview the Prime Minister.
I am reprinting this editorial 35 years after it first appeared. It was published under the title, "Israel and the Evangelicals." As you read this essay from 1977, remember, this editor had made two earlier trips to the region (I would, in time, make 20 trips there).
Since my first trip in 1973, I was aware that Menachem Begin represented the extreme right-wing political perspective in Israel. Liberal Israeli Jews assured me the election of Begin was an unfortunate break in the Labor Party control of Israeli politics.
This too, they were certain, would pass.
The editorial appears exactly as written in 1977. It is my hope that readers will return to 1977, when a liberal ecumenical publication editor still believed that Prime Ministers of Israel meant what they said when they said it.
"Israel and the Evangelicals.
By James M. Wall, Christian Century magazine (November 23, 1977)
A recent full-page advertisement appearing in major US newspapers argues for support of the State of Israel and voices concern over "the recent direction of American foreign policy" in the Middle East.
The signers of the statement "are particularly troubled by the erosion of American governmental support for Israel evident" in the U.S. decision to include the USSR in planning for the Geneva talks.
Israel has many supporters in this country, and ads of this sort are frequently carried in major newspapers. But this one is different. It comes from persons describing themselves as "evangelical Christians," including W. A. Criswell (picture below), pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas; entertainer Pat Boone; Harold Lindsell, present editor of Christianity Today; Kenneth Kantzer, editor-elect of that journal; Hudson Armerding, a past president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Arnold Olson, coordinator and president emeritus of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
This overt evangelical support for Israel aligns a branch of American Protestantism that traditionally has frowned upon religious involvement in political matters with the traditionally liberal U.S. Jewish community.