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.