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Why Do We Fawn Over John Hagee?

Of politics, bedfellows and such: The dustup over evangelical Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement of Senator John McCain would not have attracted the attention it did had it not come in the wake of the Tim Russert-provoked controversy regarding Senator Barack Obama, the pastor of his church and Louis Farrakhan.

In the aftermath of the revelation of the Hagee endorsement, much attention has understandably been focused on McCain’s reaction and on the distinction between an unsolicited and unwelcome endorsement (Farrakhan) and an endorsement that was actively solicited and only partially rebuffed (Hagee).

My concern here is with Hagee and those who have endorsed him, but I pause to note that the Hagee-McCain association antedates Hagee’s formal endorsement last week. In fact, in South Carolina back in September, Hagee was invited to introduce McCain at a pre-primary rally titled “No Surrender”; his full-throated introduction was until recently featured on McCain’s campaign Web site.

McCain’s immediate response, later partially modified, to the Hagee endorsement was all smiles: “I’m very proud to have Pastor Hagee’s support.” (Just imagine that Obama had invited Farrakhan for a joint appearance and had spoken of his pride in obtaining Farrakhan’s endorsement.)

Just who is Hagee? Well, here in abbreviated form, are some of his characteristically outlandish opinions:

On Hurricane Katrina: “All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that… I believe that Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”

On the Catholic Church: “Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.”

On Muslims: Asked whether he believes that Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews, Hagee replied, “Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly.”

On women: “Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

On the Antichrist: “He’s going to make a seven-year treaty with Israel and set up his image to be worshiped in Israel. And that is where I’m convinced that a Jewish person who understands who he is shoots him, because the Bible says he’s wounded in the head and recovers wondrously, emulating the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At this point in time when he comes back to life he has the personality of a Hitler. He now pursues the Jewish people. The Jewish people then go to Petra, which is a place in Jordan that is a natural fortress. And that God is going to provide for them there protection from him. And as he gets ready to pursue him, the Bible says that he, the Antichrist, hears tidings from the east that disturb him. The tidings from the east is that… the Chinese army is marching up the Euphrates River, 200 million of them, and they’re moving toward the battle of Armageddon, because they want the oil that will make them a superpower.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: “When the Annapolis Conference was being planned and the topic of dividing Jerusalem came up, one man asked me, ‘Where do you stand on this based on the Bible?’ I responded that ‘the plan of the Antichrist is to divide Jerusalem.’ If America puts pressure on Israel to divide Jerusalem we are following the blueprint of the Prince of Darkness. Amos 3:2 states that any nation that divides the Land of Israel will come under the severe judgment of God.”

Two years ago, this pastor to a church of more than 16,000 members created an organization called Christians United for Israel. In a book-length apologia for Hagee, the Jewish director of CUFI, David Brog, argues that Hagee’s love of the Jews is independent of his interpretation of the Jewish role in the run-up to Christ’s second coming. Hagee’s Judeophilia does, indeed, seem utterly sincere, not less sincere than his rejection of the theory of evolution.

And like orphans parched for love, we run to drink Hagee’s Kool-Aid. So he is invited to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and is greeted there with rapturous applause. He is given the “Humanitarian of the Year” award by the San Antonio B’nai B’rith Council. He is honored with the Zionist Organization of America’s “Israel Award.” In the two years since its birth, CUFI has sponsored 75 times, in cities all across America, a “Night to Honor Israel,” most if not all including participation by local rabbis and Jewish federation executives.

“I have absolutely no reservation about working with John Hagee,” Houston-area Jewish federation CEO Lee Wunsch told the Jerusalem Post. And Senator Joe Lieberman has compared Hagee to Moses and to Joshua.

It’s all quite pathetic. One does not want to spit on a hand extended in love, even the hand of someone like Hagee. But surely one is not required to clasp such a hand to one’s bosom.

And it may yet prove pernicious, too, because Hagee and CUFI will do their best to block any effort by the United States to press Israel to work toward a two-state solution. We can’t “denounce and reject,” but we are not required to fawn and encourage.

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