The Tragedy of John Hagee's Christian Zionism
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 29, 2008 at 08:09:14 PM EST
[Purveyors of the Perverse Paradox]

John Hagee is the perfect example of the tragedy of today's apocalyptic Christian Zionism.  How is it possible that the most vehemently pro-Israel of Americans can hold such Judeophobic beliefs and spread them around the world?   This is what I call the "Perverse Paradox" and Hagee is currently one of its best known worldwide purveyors.  Behind the big Israeli flags and the protestations of great love for Jews, the foundation of this dispensationalist belief system is its total obsession with answering the problem of the Jewish rejection of Jesus.  This obsession is pursued to the point of exclusion of other Christian doctrine. In dispensationalist theology, an elaborately detailed and futuristic prophecy timeline solves the problem as Judaism is ultimately defeated and humbled in a final bloody Holocaust, with only a repentant converted Jewish population being spared.  A version of this narrative is the basis for sermons, movies, and literally millions of books sold in the last decade.

Historically philo-semitism has been a term to describe those groups that were tolerant of their Jewish population for whatever reason, whether that tolerance was based on acceptance or something less benign. However, apocalyptic philo-Semitism is not acceptance or even tolerance of the humanity of Jews or Israel; it is the other edge of the sword of anti-Semitism.  Both anti-Semites and apocalyptic philo-Semites are obsessed with Jews and Judaism, and consumed with the imagined role that Jews play in world events. Both view Jews as supernatural in their abilities to alter the course of the world and both stereotype Jews in a way that suits their own goals but has little to do with Jewish reality.  The difference is that dispensationalists see a possibility for eventual redemption if Jews will only fulfill their assigned role in the end-times drama, and they are driven by the belief that their generation is the one to finally bring about this miraculous transformation of Judaism.

One cannot blame previous generations of Jews for choosing apocalyptic philo-Semitism over overt anti-Semitism.  Often in history there were no other choices for survival.  But the great tragedy of the current relationship between some Jewish leaders and apocalyptic Christian Zionism is that there was another choice.  Jews have been accepted in American society as something other than a supernatural pawn for many years.  It is the humanity of American Jews which is being stripped away every time a Jewish leader stands on stage with an apocalyptic televangelist.

Likewise, Israel's humanity is being stripped from her.  Historically, Jewish Zionism aimed to humanize Jews in the eyes of the rest of the world.  One of the goals of giving Jews a homeland was the removal of the supernatural mantle and associated horrors that had been repeatedly placed upon Jews and Judaism for hundreds of years.  Hagee and others have spent the last three decades reversing this process by turning the clock back to a time when Jews were seen as nonhuman players whose actions, or refusal to act, manipulate the course of the rest of the world.  A flesh and blood state of Israel was supposed to help free Judaism from this mantle, but apocalyptic Christian Zionism, in partnership with small groups of extremist Jews, have worked to make Israel the modern precedent for apocalyptic based policy.  Hagee, and other dispensationalists, are televised worldwide and have become the new face of Zionism that the world sees, even though many Jews and Israelis may not know who they are. Turn on a television in a hotel room in Europe, Asia, or Africa and you will likely find Hagee or another apocalyptic televangelist describing a required nuclear war with Russia and the Arab world that will result in a greater Israel that spreads to the Euphrates. This widely publicized vision for Israel is alienating anyone who disagrees with foreign policy based on supernatural biblical interpretation.

The sad truth is that Hagee and his followers probably really do believe that they have a great love for the Jewish people and Israel.  Many of their followers are well intentioned, but are being taught that there is nothing offensive in this view of Jews. Certainly there are areas where Jews and Christians must agree to disagree about religious differences.  But dispensationalists have been openly embraced by a few Jewish leaders who have refused to either see or challenge their apocalyptic messages before joining forces with them, thus giving them the ultimate validation.  

Through the efforts of Hagee and other Christian Zionists the world has been flooded with a wave of books, sermons, television shows, movies, and children's activities filled with Jewish portrayals that hold striking similarities to old conspiracy theories.  This has created a revival of the view of Jews as the force that controls the destiny of a hapless Gentile world.

A significant portion of a young generation worldwide has been bombarded in recent years with this portrayal of Jews as the great supernatural force on which the rest of the world is being blessed or cursed.  We have silently let it happen.  Much of this generation will turn away from literal apocalyptic beliefs now that the apocalyptic frenzy of the millennium has come and gone.  But these young people will likely forever harbor residual ideas from the supernatural objectification of Jews that they have been fed by Hagee and other dispensationalists.  The zeal for Israel will be gone and only the Judeophobia will remain.  The Jewish community needs to understand this.

Excellent post, thoughtful analysis. It seems to me that Hagee's Christianity has three central messages: for most of the world it's "receive Christ"; if you're Jewish it's "move to Israel"; and if you're Palestinian it's "go to hell", or at least, "get lost". I'm no purveyor of evangelical theology, but it seems to me that this is intellectually incoherent as well as distasteful.

by Richard Bartholomew on Fri May 30, 2008 at 03:20:23 AM EST

Excellent, well written analysis of Christian Zionist beliefs, and the threat they pose. The description of the obsession with Judaism and its supposed mystical powers that is shared by philo-semitic Christian Zionists and more overt anti-antisemitism was enlightening.

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