When I saw the headline on WorldNetDaily last week, “Ed McAteer, supporter of Israel, dies at 78,” I thought: That’s just how he would want to be remembered.
Ed McAteer, supporter of Israel.
I don’t believe I have ever met a more fervent and zealous friend of Israel than Ed McAteer – and that includes all of my Jewish acquaintances.
Without question, McAteer had many accomplishments to his name.
He was one of the most successful toothpaste salesmen in the world, before he decided to devote his life to his faith and to the politics his Christian beliefs shaped.
McAteer is best known, perhaps, as the founder and president of the Religious Roundtable. But, among his friends, he is better known as a champion of the Jewish state.
“When Jerusalem’s mayor, Ehud Olmert, remarked some years ago that Ed McAteer ‘should be America’s ambassador to Israel,’ he was right on the mark,” said Herb Zweibon, president of Americans for a Safe Israel.
In fact, I know first hand that when Olmert made that suggestion to McAteer that his response was: “There’s no job on Earth, including president of the United States, that I would like more.”
Adrian Rogers, McAteer’s longtime pastor at the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, said in a statement to Baptist Press: “Ed McAteer was one of the most remarkable men that I have ever met. A man is known by what he loves. Ed McAteer loved his Lord, loved his wife and family, loved his nation and loved the nation Israel. His enthusiasm, zeal and convictions were contagious. We are going to miss him, but his influence will go on and on until it touches the shore of eternity.”
McAteer also played a significant role in rallying evangelical support to Ronald Reagan in 1980. He helped Jerry Falwell found the Moral Majority and remained a key figure in what became known as the Religious Right.
He had a spirit of optimism that was contagious.
A few years ago, McAteer called me to tell me he had been invited to brief President Bush on the Middle East and asked if I would join him.
I told him I was skeptical that Bush would listen to me. All of his actions and his appointments suggested he did not understand the complexities of the region, one I had studied and covered as a journalist for more than 20 years. But McAteer insisted that I fly across the country to join him in explaining the realities of Middle East politics to the president.
When I got to Washington, McAteer told me sheepishly that we would not be meeting with Bush, after all, but he was confident we’d see Secretary of State Colin Powell. A few hours later, Powell was off the table, but Condoleezza Rice was a likely audience.
When we finally got to the White House, we were meeting Bush’s liaison to the evangelical community who whispered that he, too, was a “Zionist.”
After Reagan left office, McAteer never again got the respect he deserved from Republicans – not from the first President Bush, whom he helped elect, and not from the second President Bush whom he helped to elect.
But Ed McAteer was never discouraged.
He was always a man on a mission. He believed sincerely he was doing God’s work in the time he had on this mortal plane, and I believe he was right about that.
I will miss Ed McAteer – who always greeted me with a joke and verse of Scripture. And he always made others feel like they were the most important people on the planet.