Renewed Controversy Over Hagee's Sermons
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Nov 01, 2009 at 11:48:10 PM EST
Hagee's controversial sermons are again an issue in the aftermath of Elie Wiesel's appearance at Hagee's church.  This was further escalated after Max Blumenthal commented on Hagee at the recent J Street conference.  I attended the conference and was present when Blumenthal spoke at a blogger's session, which was not part of the official programming.  Ron Kampeas, writing at JTA, as well as others, appear to be confused about the sermon and publicity that led to rejection of Hagee's endorsement by John McCain. The assumption that there were two different sermons, given on different dates, allowed Hagee to avoid more controversy about his less than totally truthful apology to ADL's Abraham Foxman.  There are equally important issues about this and other Hagee sermons that are worth revisiting, including the incomplete coverage of Hagee's anti-Catholic conspiracy theories. Hagee's "Mystery Babylon" conspiracy theory targets Catholics but, coincidentally, is a conspiracy theory that is also used by white supremacist to target Jews.

First, the sermon quote widely publicized during the presidential elections was from a 2005 sermon.

Bruce Wilson's May 2008 video clip, repeated and quoted in media around the nation, was from a Hagee sermon series titled Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis, delivered by Hagee in 2005.  The quote was taken from the third sermon in the series, titled "Battle for Jerusalem" at about 35 minutes into the sermon.  At about 25 minutes into the sermon Hagee warns of atomic suitcase bombs in American cities, each of which he says would be like twelve Katrinas, referring to the 2005 hurricane.  He refers to both hurricanes Katrina and Rita again at about 43:50.  More details on how the confusion on the date occurred can be found following the main body of this article for those who are interested.

Hagee's Anti-Catholic Narrative

The publicity about Hagee's 2005 sermon was unfortunately limited to the short quote and failed to address the larger issue of Hagee's many conspiracy theory narratives. Coverage of Hagee's anti-Catholic sermons also failed to address this issue.  This was compounded by the willingness of two prominent Catholic leaders to publicly reconcile with Hagee.  This should also be of concern to Jewish leaders since the "Mystery Babylon" conspiracy theory that Hagee uses against the Roman Catholic Church is a conspiracy theory also commonly used by white supremacist against Jews.  

After Hagee endorsed John McCain, footage emerged from Kenneth Copeland's "Believer's Voice of Victory" show.  Hagee is standing in front of one of his colorful graphics of the end times, pointing to the  "Whore of Babylon," and implying it represents the Roman Catholic Church.  The publicity which followed was centered on the role of the church in the Holocaust, with some questioning whether Hagee believes that the Roman Catholic Church is the apostate church of the end times.  Hagee's conspiracy theory goes much further.  

Hagee's four sermon set "Prophecy for the 21st Century" includes the sermon "Mystery Babylon, The Great Mother of Harlots."  This is some of Hagee's most blatant anti-Catholic material in which he clearly claims that "Romanism" is the apostate church, a world-wide religious system that is rejected by God and will be destroyed in the end times. He states that God will allow the anti-Christ to destroy Romanism and the city of Rome, and claims that the destruction of Rome by fire is prophesied in Revelation 18. (Hagee also uses the term "Queen of Heaven" to reference the church, a term which is currently used by other independent charismatic leaders to reference the demon that supposedly prevents Roman Catholics and Muslims from converting to evangelical Christianity.  I wrote about C. Peter Wagner's book Confronting the Queen of Heaven in my article Killing Mother Theresa With Their Prayers.)

Toward the end of his Mystery Babylon sermon Hagee adds that the "Whore of Babylon" or apostate church of the end times "is not limited to the Roman church" and that there will be apostates throughout other churches.  He defines these doomed apostates as those who believe in the use of intermediaries (priests), sacraments, ritual and repetition (liturgy), belief in purgatory, belief in works as opposed to grace, and other features Hagee claims are part of the demonic and false religion of Semiramis.  While he was adding insult to injury, he would later use this broadening of the apostate church to claim that he was not referring to Roman Catholicism.

Hagee's sermon bears striking similarities to the anti-Catholic narrative of Alexander Hislop, author of The Two Babylons, or The Papal Worship, a virulent anti-Catholic conspiracy theory first published as a pamphlet in 1853.  Hislop claimed in his narrative that Roman Catholicism is the demonic worship developed by Semiramis, supposedly the consort of the Babylonian king Nimrod, and passed down to modern times through the church. He claims that Protestantism is the only true religion. Despite the fact that the book has been thoroughly debunked, it has served as a basis for conspiracies for generations of Protestant fundamentalists.  Our research team has the 1959 edition with an overleaf written by Donald Grey Barnhouse. (Barnhouse was the long term pastor and mentor of C. Everett Koop, the former Surgeon General and coauthor with Francis Schaeffer of Whatever Happened to the Human Race.)

Hagee's tells a very similar narrative of this "Mystery Babylon" religion of Nimrod and Semiramis, which is neither biblical nor historic.  Mystery Babylon is a term from Revelation but Semiramis is not mentioned in the Bible, and there is only a brief reference to Nimrod in Genesis 10.  Hagee's detailed version of this conspiracy theory is clearly aimed at Roman Catholicism and includes comments about the persecution of Jews by those he claims are followers of the demonic Babylonian religion.

Ironically, this same "Mystery Babylon" narrative was adopted and altered by overt anti-Semites in the early 20th century to apply to Jews.  This version of the "Mystery Babylon" conspiracy theory is still found in the Christian Identity theology of several white supremacist groups as well as some fundamentalists, who have a long history of embracing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  The anti-Semitic narratives of the early twentieth century were merged with Hislop's narrative of Babylon and in this version of the narrative it is Jews that have perpetuated the Mystery Babylon cult and possess super-human knowledge provided by this secret religion.

Michael Barkun describes in his book Religion and the Racist Right, that a combination of a number of religious and secular conspiracy theories, including Hislop's Mystery Babylon, emerged as a narrative in which Jews are claimed to be heirs of the devil, the origin of human evil, and God's adversaries on the earth. This allows for a simplistic view in which everything evil in the world, both past and present, comes from a single source.  In a succinct summary of the dangers of this merged religious and secular anti-Semitic conspiracy narrative, Barkun states,  "If that source is destroyed, the world will be perfected and the millennium will begin."

Catholic leaders William Donohue and Deal Hudson eventually accepted Hagee's apologies after a meeting with Hagee was arranged through Ralph Reed, who is also credited with convincing Abraham Foxman to make peace with Robertson and other Christian Zionists in the mid 1990s.  Deal also wrote about another meeting with Hagee and reported that Hagee explained to him that Catholics are taken away in the Rapture, and therefore Hagee could not possibly have accused Roman Catholicism of being the "Whore of Babylon."  Deal quotes Hagee in his article as saying,

"Since both Catholics and Protestants are taken up to Heaven, how could the 'Great Whore' be the Catholic Church? The apostate church is left on earth during the seven years of tribulation -- that is the 'Great Whore.'"
Hagee also essentially argued that the fact he has contributed money to Catholic charitable causes makes him immune from the charge of anti-Catholicism.

Despite their responsibilities to their respective communities, these Catholic leaders, like many Jewish leaders, apparently chose to take John Hagee at his word, instead of accessing his readily available and marketed sermons for themselves.  If they had, they would have found narratives in stark contrast to the explanations provided by Hagee.

In addition to the venom and prophesied destruction of Rome and Romanism in Hagee's Mystery Babylon sermon, they could have looked at Hagee's movie, `Vanished in the Twinkling of an Eye."  This "left behind" style movie presented by John Hagee Ministries prominently features Hagee as the narrator who is delivering a warning to those who have been left behind with the anti-Christ after the Rapture.  The movie leaves no doubt that it is Jews and Catholics who remain behind are tricked into support for the anti-Christ, portrayed as the President of the European Union.  The movie includes an interview with a priest (wearing cassock) and a rabbi (wrapped in a tallit) who have met with the anti-Christ and explain why he is the true messiah of Israel and the world.  The priest describes those who have disappeared  as the "haters of peace and unity."  The movie also features a series of scenes which have an eerie resemblance to Kristallnacht, with houses of worship burning including one labeled Berlin.  However, these are churches being burned in Hagee's reverse image of the Holocaust where Jews (and Catholics) are the perpetrators in league with the antiChrist.

In light of his other conspiracy theories, Hagee's discredited claim that Hitler was partially Jewish, and Hagee's description of a race of "half-breed Jews of history" that have persecuted the real Jews throughout history, become very problematic. See point #4 in Ten Top Reasons Christian Zionism Impairs Israel's Interests.  Those who defend Hagee as claiming that "all Israel will be saved" should recognize that the meaning of "Israel" is not always what one thinks in Christian Zionist lingo.  In this same chapter, titled "Who is a Jew," Hagee clarifies that "Israel is a matter of election rather than birth" and that "divine election applies exclusively to some of the Jewish people."

Note that Hagee's sermons such as the "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis" series are advertised and marketed by John Hagee Ministries. The videos in  "Prophecy for the 21st Century"  begin with an advertisement for Hagee's sermon series "Iraq, the Final War," marketed at that time with a supplementary video and sold for $49.99.  Hagee's recent interview with Elie Wiesel is already being marketed in CD format along with other titles including "The Mystery of the Prayer Shawl."  These products are sold online at both Hagee's own store and though sites such as Faith Centered Resources. The packaged Wiesel interview DVD is currently sold at that site for $7.00.

Hagee's Hitler as Hunter Sermon

The sermon was much more problematic than the single quote that was widely publicized as has been pointed out in previous articles.  Most journalists failed to include Hagee's words immediately following the Hitler as hunter comment that, "they [the Jews] are physically alive but they're not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come spiritually alive..."  Hagee, like many other Christian Zionists, teaches a generations-old narrative in which wars and apocalyptic events must occur in order to bring a "remnant" of Jews to repentance of the error of Judaism before the 1000 year reign of Christ can take place.

After born again Christians are safely raptured away, the horrors begin. He tells his audience near the end of this sermon that "you could get raptured out of this building before I finish preaching. We are that close..."  He had also made similar comments prior to the Iraq war, indicating that the war would bring about the events of the end times.  When that did not happen he started lobbying for war with Iran.  Hagee teaches that after the imminent Rapture, Russia and Islamic nations will attack Israel in a brutal and bloody war and that following this conflagration Jews will repent of their rebellion against God.   On other occasions he has described the repentance and mourning of this remnant of Jews for the one "whom they have pierced."

Hagee's books, sermons, and videos are widely available and represent an incredible collection of hate mongering and conspiracy theories that not long ago were primarily limited to the extreme right of American society.  Christian Zionists such as Pat Robertson and John Hagee have played a significant role in the reemergence and legitimizing of these narratives.  The alarming quotes that emerge from the world of Christian Zionism should not be viewed simply as stray expressions of anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic sentiment, as they are frequently segments of well developed conspiracy theories, many dating to the early twentieth century and earlier.  Their statements should be viewed in the context of the historical dangers presented by these toxic narratives.

A few hours of Hagee's sermons should send off warning bells to any Jewish or Catholic leader as well as the vast majority of Protestants.  It is time that those defending Hagee take a closer look at what they are legitimizing.

For more information see these previous articles and links:

Hitler as hunter quote from Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis

Ten Top Reasons Why Christian Zionism Impairs Israel's Interest

Source Quotes from John Hagee's books and Sermons  Note that these are quotes from sources other than the sermon Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis.

Following are the details on the confusion about the date of John Hagee's sermon.

Bruce Wilson created his video that was widely publicized in May 2008 using the audio from the 2005 sermon and a transcript of the quotes. At that time our research team did not have the sermon in video format, and we did not know the exact date of the sermon.  We have a policy of erring on the side of caution with the dates for unlabeled media, recognizing that more recent media is generally taken more seriously, and had tagged the quote as "at least late 1990s" based on dated content. (Note that we have both listened to hundreds of hours of Hagee and other Christian Zionist while driving, working on the computer, etc., and do not catch all the details of every sermon we hear.  Nor do we know which excerpts that we have pulled will be considered significant to the general public.  I had personally thought Hagee's German, gay, Jewish anti-Christ quote would have more impact and spent hours on extensive transcripts of that material.)

The widespread publicity took place immediately after Wilson provided his video to Countdown with Keith Olbermann, along with information on the continued marketing of the sermon by John Hagee Ministries. Although Olbermann stated that the sermon was from 2006, the accompanying video still said late 1990s and it was published in various venues over the next few days as being from the 1990s, late 1990s, and 1999.  Immediately after the initial media attention to the video we realized that this was the same sermon which referenced Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but were too late to impact the media frenzy.

As far as we know, only the 2005 sermon quote  was used throughout the flurry of publicity but unfortunately much of the press latched onto 1999 as the date for the sermon excerpt.  With this uncertainty about the exact date Hagee initially claimed the sermon was decades old. In his apology to ADL's Abraham Foxman, Hagee referred to the quote as being from a 1999 sermon.  It is true that Hagee frequently reuses material and may have given a similar sermon in 1999, but the quotes published nationally and internationally were taken directly from the 2005 sermon.

Later our research team acquired a copy of the "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis" DVD set.  The opening screen on the DVD of No. 3 has two dates, shown as "9-29-2005" and "Thu10/06/2005."  

For those who are planning to watch Hagee's sermons, in addition to "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis," available sermons that I would also recommend include "Iraq, the Final War," and "Prophecy for the 21st Century."  Recommended books to start include Day of Deception, Beginning of the End, Final Dawn Over Jerusalem, and Jerusalem Countdown.


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