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 ).