Hagee, Rodriguez Embrace Signals Massive New Alignments On Christian Right
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 08:16:01 PM EST
As JTA News has just reported, John Hagee's Christians United For Israel (CUFI), which represents many millions of American Christian Zionist evangelicals, has formed an official alliance with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, led by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. In May 2008, video first posted on this website publicized a controversial late 2005 sermon in which John Hagee declared, "then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter." As Hagee voiced those words, he pantomimed a Nazi aiming a rifle at Jews. Controversy over the statement led presidential candidate John McCain to renounce Hagee's political endorsement. Recently John Hagee has launched a campaign to rehabilitate his public image.

The NHCLC, which claims to represent over five million Hispanic charismatic Catholics and ten million Hispanic evangelicals, has since 2003 had a partnership with the National Association of Evangelicals, which has claimed to represent almost thirty million evangelical Christians. There is considerable membership overlap among these respective spheres of leadership and so the recent alliances are far from surprising. What is curious, however, is the fact that while some consider Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee to be an extremist and part of an old-guard, dwindling cadre of fundamentalist leaders, Samuel Rodriguez has been identified by some in mainstream media as one of a group of alleged "new evangelical" moderates.

Sammy Rodriguez has in recent years shared a podium with the late Senator Ted Kennedy and also has advised a Democratic "Third Way" effort that claims to chart a moderate course in the "culture wars." But in other venues Rodriguez has inveighed against "radical Muslims. Radical homosexuals. Radical abortionists" and "sissy Christians, Oprah Winfrey Christians."

Are alleged differences between Hagee and Rodriguez substantial, or are they merely stylistic ? And, what does the rapid growth in ties between these clearly hard right but also for the most part ethnically inclusive organizations portend for American politics ? As I have described, this is the rise of a new Rainbow Right.

To further complicate matters, Samuel Rodriguez has recently joined C. Peter Wagner's International Coalition of Apostles. As I wrote on November 8th, 2009,

The International Coalition of Apostles was formed in 2000 and represents probably the biggest religious constituency that most Americans have never heard of.... the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is now the ICA's highest profile apostle; it should be national news. Rodriguez has prayed together with Barack Obama and shared a podium with the late Ted Kennedy. Dubbed the Hispanic Karl Rove, Rodriguez  played a significant role in helping craft the Third Way's "Come Let Us Reason Together" governing agenda and has publicly declared his intent of fusing together the message of Billy Graham with the message of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A gifted public speaker and preacher, Sammy Rodriguez can pass as pseudo-moderate as necessary, and has been interviewed by Bill Moyers and Beliefnet editor Steve Waldman but can also be found, in church, inveighing against "radical Muslims. Radical homosexuals. Radical abortionists" and  "sissy Christians, Oprah Winfrey Christians."

Stylistically, Rodriguez might seem to have little in common with Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee but in fact the two appear so ideologically and theologically in sync that Hagee's former youth minister Warren Beemer, who at Hagee's 50th Anniversary of being in the ministry vowed to send an army of Cornerstone Church youth into San Antonio to claim the city for Christ, now heads the international youth ministry of Rodriguez' Third Day Believers Network ( 3DBN ).

I've previously covered Samuel Rodriguez in 'Hispanic Karl Rove' Helps Shape 'Third Way' Democratic Party Platform and Proposition 8 : A Proving Ground For The New 'Rainbow' Right. Here are some more Talk To Action stories which involve Rodriguez.

[below: video featuring audio track from 2006 sermon by Rev. Samuel Rodriguez]

National Association of Evangelicals, which now claims to represent over thirty million evangelical Christians.

I think this claim is false.  A quick google search of the NAE website <http://www.nae.net> with the search term "30 million" leads to a few hits, most of which when clicked lead to 404 errors, meaning they are not currently featured on the website.  The only one that is current is an endorsement from evangelical pastor Joel Hunter.

Additionally, in her book The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, religion reporter Christine Wicker attempted to track down the source of the claim that the National Association of Evangelicals had 30 million members, but could not substantiate it with any reputable sources or hard numbers.

In the chapter entitled, "One Out of Four Americans?" she writes (page 26):

When I called NAE president Leith Anderson in August 2007 for a final comment, he said the 30 million figure should not be on the Web site, and most references to it do appear to be gone now.  He usually says the NEA represents millions of evangelicals or forty-five thousand churches.  The organization's last official count, judging by its Web site, was in 1990.  It showed 4.5 million members.  Where did the 30 million figure come from?  No one seems to know.

Wicker, C. (2008) The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. New York: HarperOne

However, the "About Us" portion of the NAE website feature does feature NAE president Leith Anderson stating, "The association is anchored in over 40 denominations with about 45,000 churches. However, the broader NAE constituency includes organizations, local churches and individuals numbering in the tens of millions."  What exactly Anderson means by the "broader NAE constituency" (i.e. which affiliated organizations is he talking about, and what does he mean by local churches and individuals who are not in the NAE proper, but in the "broader NAE constituency?") is not explained with any precision, unfortunately.

"I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair" - JFK, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
by hardindr on Fri Nov 13, 2009 at 05:46:43 AM EST

"has claimed to represent almost thirty million..." :

If you search on "NAE" and "27 million" you'll find that the NAE seems to have been putting out a figure, as early as 2001 (LA Times article), of 27 million.

Is it true ? That's very hard to say.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Nov 13, 2009 at 06:55:32 AM EST

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