An American Evangelical Christian Man’s Awakening to Palestine [Book Review]
“This is all we ask. Go back and tell the truth.”
The author of this memoir, Rev. Don Wagner, is a longtime friend. Back in the day, Rev. Wagner was based in Chicago, Illinois and I was in Youngstown, Ohio. We both were engaged in the same struggle for Palestine. Subsequently, when I relocated to Palestine, I would speak to the various eyewitness delegations he led to the Holy Land, or what he prefers to call the “unholy land” — which, he writes, “serves as a place of injustice that awaits the arc of the moral universe bending to usher in justice, peace, and reconciliation.”
In the mid 1980’s, as a student and campus activist with the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) at Youngstown State University, I remember being thrilled when Rev. Don Wagner accepted our invitation to be a guest speaker on campus. He was one of the first non-Palestinians whose knowledge of Palestine increased my own. I was intrigued by this American who was not only impressively well-informed but who was also, and more importantly, courageous enough to speak out on Palestine before it was kosher to do so on US campuses. His informed advocacy and its impact on me helped motivate me to become better informed myself about Palestine’s struggle so that I could educate others effectively.
In October 2013, still going strong, Rev. Wagner invited me to Chicago to speak at a conference of the Friends of Sabeel and the Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy (36-minute video here). Although we eventually crossed paths on both sides of the Atlantic, until now I had never heard his own story in detail. I am delighted that he has written this memoir to share his “transformation from an apathetic, conservative evangelical Christian to someone with a progressive political and religious consciousness.”
Little had I known earlier of his long and painful quest to emerge from his comfort zone concerning Palestine. The Evangelical Christian community and beyond have much to learn from Rev. Wagner’s account of his journey.
Donald E. Wagner received a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary. He was Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies…