By now, Pastor John Hagee has been revealed as a theological boor and John McCain has deftly, if belatedly, stepped away from the Hagee embrace he had earlier so assiduously sought and so gratefully welcomed.
“Boor” is a rough word, I know. So let Hagee speak for himself: “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day. How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for His chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings He had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of antisemitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come…. it rises from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people.”
What led to the McCain crisis was the discovery by Bruce Wilson and Talk to Action of a recording of a Hagee sermon from the late 1990s in which the pastor claims that the Holocaust was prophesied in the Bible:
How will God bring the Jews back to Israel? “The answer is given in Jeremiah 16, verse 15 and following. God says in Jeremiah 16: ‘Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers’ — that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — ‘Behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters.’ The fishers were the Zionists, men like Theodore Herzl who called for the Jews of Europe and the world to come to Palestine and establish the Jewish state. The Jews were encouraged to escape while there was still time.”
And the hunters? “A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and forces you. Hitler was a hunter. That will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended: I didn’t write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, ‘My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the Land of Israel.’”
So this self-proclaimed philosemite believes we brought all the centuries of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust, on ourselves. Or he believes that God created Hitler to inflict divine punishment upon us. That was the occasion for McCain’s “I am shocked, shocked” repudiation of Hagee’s endorsement.
End of story? Hardly. What happens to Hagee now?
Christians United for Israel, an organization founded by Hagee, is planning to hold its third annual “Washington-Israel Summit” toward the end of July. Among the currently scheduled speakers are not only Hagee and Gary Bauer, but also Daniel Pipes, former senator Rick Santorum, Charles Jacobs of the David Project, Dennis Prager, William Kristol, Senator Joe Lieberman and Sallai Meridor, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
How many of these will now, in light of the new information about Hagee’s beliefs, cancel out? Or will they twist and turn to rationalize their continuing support for this false witness?
And: What if anything will the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where Hagee was just last year a featured speaker at its annual Washington conference, say about the pastor? Talk about rapture: The assembled Aipac delegates last year responded to Hagee’s provocative rhetoric with nine standing ovations, as if they’d been on the brink of starvation until he tossed them his red meat.
My favorite? Hagee: “It is 1938. Iran is Germany. And Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler.” Audience: Standing ovation. “It is 1938” as an applause line? Go figure.
And: For 26 years now, Hagee has been sponsoring, in cities across the country, an event entitled “A Night to Stand for Israel.” Between January 8, 2007, and May 15, 2008, there have been 39 such evenings, typically attended by more than 1,000 Evangelical Christians and almost always a few Jewish jingoes, usually including the local federation executive and a nonplussed rabbi.
Think of it: Phoenix and Philadelphia, Madison and Miami and Minneapolis, Toronto and Tulsa, Anchorage, Des Moines and Charlotte and 29 more. And at every one, a check handed over from Christians United for Israel to the local Jewish federation for one form or another of welfare work in Israel. What more than we now have before us is required in order for us to refuse this walk-on part in another’s noxious melodrama?
“Jewish jingoes?” you might ask. Jingo, according to the American Heritage Dictionary: “One who vociferously supports one’s country, especially one who supports a belligerent foreign policy.”
Hagee, at the opening Christians United for Israel conference in 2006: “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation… and [the] Second Coming of Christ.”
For that matter, when will Israel stop rolling out the red carpet for Hagee and his followers? Other pastors have resigned their ministries in disgrace over lesser offenses — say, for example, for engaging the services of a male prostitute. Yet here is Hagee, busy making cheap whores out of as many Jews as he can snare — after all, we need all the friends we can get, right? — and so far, at least, only John McCain has pushed him away.
McCain’s Hagee problem has been resolved, even if there’s a sour aftertaste. Our Hagee problem has yet to be addressed, let alone resolved. For in addition to, and perhaps even prior to, “standing for Israel,” there is also, or ought to be, something called self-respect.
Oh yes: And when will his followers abandon him?