Pastor Hagee and Israel

This post is primarily for Random, with whom I’ve had a back-and-forth on this topic.

In my view, Pastor John Hagee’s theology is anti-Israel. Random responded with puzzlement, pointing out (accurately) that Pastor Hagee has significant support among Jews.

Before I turn my attention to Pastor Hagee specifically, here’s a bit of background.

The relationship between evangelical Christians and Jews is conflicted. Evangelical Christians (especially the subgroup which emphasizes end-times doctrines) are huge supporters of the state of Israel. They provide a large amount of both political and financial support.

On the other hand, evangelical Christians generally think Jews are unsaved unless and until they convert to Christ. Some expect the Jews to convert en masse at the time of Christ’s return.

There is also some history of arguing that the Jews brought their historical difficulties on themselves by rejecting the Messiah when he appeared to them. Indeed, the New Testament itself places most of the blame for Christ’s crucifixion on the Jewish leaders.1

The New Testament depicts the Roman destruction of Jerusalem as the immediate consequence of Israel’s rejection of Christ.

This political / financial / theological stew generates considerable ambivalence toward evangelical Christians among Jews, whether they reside in the USA or in Israel.

As for Pastor Hagee:  Ben Smith offered a brief exposé this week. The bottom line is, Pastor Hagee fits precisely within the scenario I have outlined:

When Sen. John McCain was forced to distance himself from Pastor John Hagee earlier this year, he denounced the pastor’s attacks on Catholicism. But asked why he wouldn’t “repudiate” Hagee’s endorsement of him, McCain found something to praise.

“I’m grateful for his commitment to the support of the state of Israel, and I’m very grateful for many of his commitments around the world, including to the independence and freedom of the state of Israel,” he told CNN’s Campbell Brown on April 29.

Hagee’s commitment to Israel, however, is itself controversial:  It’s rooted in the belief that the Jewish state will be the site — soon — of Armageddon.

Hagee, who leads the Evangelical group Christians United for Israel, is a proponent of U.S. aid and support for Israel, and he is a major ally of Israeli conservatives who reject any “land for peace” formula in dealing with the Palestinians. But Hagee is viewed with distrust by some Jews and Israelis because his brand of Christian Zionism closely links support for Israel to the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. …

Using geographical calculations based on the Book of Revelation, he writes that Israel will be covered in “a sea of human blood” in the final battle.

The Jews, however, will survive the battle, Hagee says, long enough to have “the opportunity to receive Messiah, who is a rabbi known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth.”

Hence my assertion that Pastor Hagee is, at bottom, no friend of Israel. And Jews know it, however much they may appreciate the political support of Hagee and his constituents. Smith quotes Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism:

“Christian Zionists, and especially Christians United for Israel, do not offer unconditional support for the Jewish state. They offer support for a particular religious vision, particular Israeli leaders, and particular political factions, all of which reflect their own prophecy-driven view of the Middle East,” Yoffie said in an April speech, calling Hagee and his group “extremists.”

Yoffie thinks that Hagee “is not the kind of friend that Israel needs,” a spokesman, Donald Cohen-Cutler, said yesterday.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1The obvious alternative to the New Testament account is that the Romans were solely responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Jews could not lawfully execute anyone. And it is significant that Jesus was crucified alongside insurrectionists — not “robbers”, the conventional interpretation — with the (mocking) label “King of the Jews” posted above his head. The implication is, the Romans decided to crucify Jesus because they feared that he, too, was an insurrectionist. His popular following could have led to a revolt against Roman rule, as happened with other messianic claimants in that era.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. scott gray
    May 19, 2008 @ 13:30:30

    q–

    hagee wants what israel wants so that israel will be blown to smithereens in the armageddon…

    with friends like that, who needs palestinians?

    scott

    Reply

  2. JewishAtheist
    May 19, 2008 @ 13:53:30

    The segment of Jews who support people like Hagee make up a small but very vocal minority of American Jews, who claim to speak for Jews and for Israel but represent neither. I just posted about how they and the American right in general will do things like call those who support a positions supported by the majority of Israelis (for example, the peace process in the 90s, or talking with Hamas) “anti-Israel.”

    Reply

  3. random
    May 19, 2008 @ 19:07:52

    Sorry for being slow to respond tot his, especially as it was addressed to me, but I’ve been on a training course (Intellectual Property Rights – about as much fun as it sounds). Anyway…

    “On the other hand, evangelical Christians generally think Jews are unsaved unless and until they convert to Christ.”

    This isn’t just evangelicals – it’s absolutely standard theology amongst every variety of Christianity I can think of. Jews aren’t being singled out BTW, this applies equally to all non-Christians.

    “Hagee’s commitment to Israel, however, is itself controversial: It’s rooted in the belief that the Jewish state will be the site — soon — of Armageddon.”

    I can’t say I’m surprised that Hagee is a loopy end-timer with an excessively literal view of the book of Revelations. This only makes him a biblical literalist however, not an anti-semite. Take the statement above for example – the problem with implying that someone who believes that Armageedon will take place in Israel is an anti-semite is straightforward. Namely, Armageddon is not a metaphor, it’s a real place (I know, I’ve been there) and it is indeed in israel. Is geography anti-semitic now?

    (Agree with your footnote bTW – I’ve no doubt the Temple hierarchy wanted Jesus out of the way, but the Romans killed him, and did it for their own reasons.)

    “The segment of Jews who support people like Hagee make up a small but very vocal minority of American Jews, who claim to speak for Jews and for Israel but represent neither. ”

    JA, Hagee has met every Israeli Prime Minister since Menahem Begin. That’s Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Are they a small but vocal minority who represent neither Jews nor Israel?

    Reply

  4. Stephen
    May 19, 2008 @ 21:20:53

    • Random:
    Re your last question, I’ll just repeat that Israel takes political and financial support where it can get it. This doesn’t mean that they feel warm and fuzzy toward people like Hagee.

    This isn’t just evangelicals – it’s absolutely standard theology amongst every variety of Christianity I can think of.

    Historically, that has been the case. But the “liberal” denominations, for some decades now, have been disinclined to evangelize Jews. Instead, they embrace the common ground between Christianity and Judaism and seek ecumenical dialogue. I’m sure that includes the liberal branch of the Church of England. Also much of the Roman Catholic Church.

    • Scott:
    with friends like that, who needs palestinians?

    lol

    Reply

  5. Bill
    May 20, 2008 @ 02:17:17

    Whatever Hagee’s actions are and regardless if he greets every Isreali Prime Minister with affection, he is anti-semetic.

    The dispensationalism asserted by his type, treat Jews with a warped sympathy. They seem to think that Jews are God’s chosen people but they missed the Messiah, and it will take a great war to bring them back into the fold.

    Personally this has got to be the most arrogant thing I have heard of.

    Random you have some reading to do on evangelical fundamentalists. Evangelicals like Hagee might act as your friends but ask them if they are your equals and you will get another answer you might not like. Thinking of Jews as unique apart from all other nations, whether it is in a benevolent way or not instills this separate but equal notion. Two chosen races, but ask Hagee which will rule in his idea of heaven and you will be in for a surprise. The liberals that Stephen talks about generally accept that heaven if such a place exists as we envision it will be populated with more than Evangelical protestants.

    Reply

  6. Random
    May 20, 2008 @ 12:13:49

    “I’ll just repeat that Israel takes political and financial support where it can get it. This doesn’t mean that they feel warm and fuzzy toward people like Hagee.”

    It also doesn’t mean they dislike him and are cunningly hiding it because they think he’s useful. I suspect part of the problem here is that I (and I suspect this is an ignorance you share) don’t know enough Jews or enough about mainstream Jewish opinion to be able to say for sure just how opinions like Hagee’s are regarded – are they seen as highly offensive, or just wildly eccentric? Speaking for my own acquaintances (though as I said I really ccan’t claim any expertise) it tends toards the latter when people think about it at all, a bit like how Christians feel about some of the odder Muslim ideas of the nature of Jesus.

    “But the “liberal” denominations, for some decades now, have been disinclined to evangelize Jews. ”

    In my experience, the liberal denominations are disinclined to evangelise *anyone* – they seem to think it’s impolite, or somesuch.

    “I’m sure that includes the liberal branch of the Church of England. Also much of the Roman Catholic Church.”

    The liberal wing of the church of England includes people who have been known to describe the resurrection as a “conjuring trick with bones” (that was a former Bishop of Durham BTW, shortly after he was enthroned the cathedral the ceremony took place in was struck by lightning. More conservative members of the church suggested it was the Almighty expressing his displeasure, they weren’t joking) – it seems to me that when you get that liberal you stop being Christian.

    As for Rome, I wouldn’t be so sure. There was a minor controversy recently when the Pope re-authorsed the pre Vatican II Latin Mass, complete with the traditional prayer for the conversion of the Jews, but it was only a minor protest and was easily seen off.

    Bill – obviously you have a deep and profound insight into Hagee’s soul. I’ll bow to your superior wisdom.

    Reply

  7. Stephen
    May 20, 2008 @ 20:37:42

    I suspect part of the problem here is that I (and I suspect this is an ignorance you share) don’t know enough Jews or enough about mainstream Jewish opinion to be able to say for sure just how opinions like Hagee’s are regarded – are they seen as highly offensive, or just wildly eccentric?

    I wouldn’t want to feign any expertise here, but I have long been interested in the relationship between Jews and Christians. The Jews that I know via the blogosphere are very sensitive to Christian evangelism which is, after all, a direct threat to their identity. (Christians need to begin by understanding that point: believing in Jesus won’t make Jews better Jews, but non-Jews — that’s how Jews see it.)

    If Jews believed in hell, they would reserve the lowest level of hell for the (turncoat) Jews For Jesus, and their ilk. (Chosen People Ministries is another example that I’m aware of.)

    I can also tell you that there are plenty of books written by prominent Jews describing the Church’s role in the spread of antisemitism. The Church’s teachings are seen as creating the conditions for antisemitism to flourish. This certainly includes the Holocaust: Protestant German theologians of that era shared in the general antisemitism of their time and place. (With some notable exceptions, including Niemöller and Bonhoeffer.)

    All this to say that I do know something about this subject. I’m not merely speculating that Jews are sensitive about the kind of teachings propogated by Pastor Hagee.

    But I don’t want to beat this topic to death. I merely throw it out there for you and other non-Jewish readers to consider. I’m in that liberal Christian camp which is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, which had such tragic consequences. And (more positively) to contribute to a rapprochement between Jews and Christians, to the (limited) extent that such a thing is possible.

    Reply

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