What Trump’s Evangelical Advisers Took From Their Listening Tour In Egypt

Image: A. Larry Ross
US evangelicals meet with Egypt’s president.

Egyptian Protestants appreciate listening tour by US counterparts.

Jim Garlow walked cautiously through the cavernous halls of Egypt’s Ministry of Islamic Endowments. He prayed: Why am I here, God? What do you want me to see?

The pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego was part of a 12-member delegation of American evangelicals. Their mission: To offer friendship to the president of Egypt.

But as largely a Who’s Who of Christian Zionists and otherwise pro-Israel pastors and ministry leaders, the mission could easily go awry in a majority-Muslim nation where even the Coptic Orthodox Church still officially bans pilgrimage to neighboring Jerusalem.

Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem, is a lifelong friend of Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu. Mario Bramnick, senior pastor of New Wine Ministries Church in Florida, is president of the Latino Coalition for Israel. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, leads tours to Israel. They were assembled by Joel Rosenberg, a Jewish Christian with dual US and Israeli citizenship and author of the fictional The Last Jihad series.

But Rosenberg had recently made a new friend, giving him confidence that this visit might be God’s will.

Last year in March, he spent five days in Jordan as a guest of King Abdullah, who had just read his book. Intrigued after noticing himself as a named character in Rosenberg’s latest series on the ISIS threat, the Muslim ruler wanted to know more. (Rosenberg assured Abdullah that his character didn’t die in the series, which the king went on to finish reading.)

Not long thereafter, God placed on Rosenberg’s heart a different Middle East leader: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt.

Invited as 1 of 60 Middle East experts to a forum held during Sisi’s state visit to President Donald Trump in April, Rosenberg walked up and boldly introduced himself.

“I’m Jewish,” he told CT. “I’ve got some chutzpah.”

Rosenberg thanked Sisi for rescuing Egypt and its Christians from the Muslim Brotherhood. He commended the president for reaching out to Jews and to Roman Catholics.

“But there is one group I don’t see: evangelicals,” he told Sisi. “It’s not your fault; probably we haven’t asked. But would you like us to bring a delegation of leaders to come and visit you?”

Seven months later, Garlow was in Cairo.

“Each step of the way I learned so much,” he said. “There were insights I had never known.”

Rosenberg wanted the delegation to listen, and not just push an agenda.

Offering something tangible to Sisi, 6 of the 12 delegation members were informal or frequent evangelical advisors to Trump’s White House. And they took what they saw to heart.

Mukhtar Gomaa, Egypt’s minister of Islamic Endowments, spoke with conviction, attendees recalled. “If Egypt is to move forward, the Muslim Brotherhood must be rejected,” he told the group. He then distributed a booklet prepared by the ministry to show how Islam must defend churches.

Garlow expressed astonishment at how comfortable these Muslim leaders were with evangelicals, especially Sisi. It recalled his earlier surprise, when he first met Trump.

Garlow was greatly encouraged to see the Egyptians speaking so forcefully against terrorism. But Egypt also touched him at a deeper level.

“We drove past the pyramids and saw miles of high-rises, home to 22 million people,” he said. “My heart was broken for the city, and I need to shed some tears.”

Johnnie Moore, co-chairman of Trump’s unofficial faith advisory board, described similar emotion in Sisi.

“His heart looked broken. He had to tell the story about rebuilding the churches destroyed by the Brotherhood,” Moore said.

“But he was also like a lion with his mane out, vowing it would never happen again.”

The evangelical delegation also heard what many were eager to hear.

“There is a coalescing between us and Egypt in religious freedom, combating radicalism, and the relationship with Israel,” said Bramnick. “To us, these are very important.”

Rosenberg emphasized the delegation was a personal initiative of all involved. There was no official link to Trump or the US government.

“Meeting with this delegation is not an endorsement of us or our views, but an opportunity for [Sisi] to advocate Egyptian interests to an important American constituency,” said Rosenberg. “To be effective in Washington, he needs buy-in and trust from pro-Israel people.”

But with the Americans the whole time was a somewhat nervous Egyptian.

“When I heard the key organizer lives in Israel,” Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told a subsequent meeting of influential colleagues, “I was shaking a lot.”

But Zaki checked with friends, and queried Rosenberg’s dispensationalism and prophetic theology. Differences exist, but he was satisfied.

“I was blessed by these meetings,” said Zaki, “and I never saw the president so open and comfortable.” Scheduled for one hour, the conversation with Sisi stretched to nearly three.

Egypt has maintained a peace treaty with Israel since 1979, but there is much support for the Palestinian cause. The delegation also visited Jihan Sadat, the widow of President Anwar al-Sadat. He paid for the treaty with his life, assassinated six months later.

Putting Zaki at ease was Rosenberg’s somewhat unusual commitment.

“It bothers me that too many US evangelicals are either-or toward Israel and the Arab world,” Rosenberg told CT. “They are good people, but sometimes they don’t realize you can love both without violation of your core convictions.

“It hurts God’s heart if we show such disdain to one side or the other.”

It also assured Zaki that the delegation was coming to listen, and wanted to help Egypt.

“If I don’t help advance the interests of Egyptian evangelicals, I won’t consider the trip a success,” said Rosenberg. “We come and we go, but this is their country.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today – Jayson Casper