The Pastor that Said God Sent Hitler to Hunt the Jews is on the comeback trail
Hagee in The Jewish Daily Forward
A recent coup in that regard was a Hagee-authored opinion piece published in the May 12 edition of The Jewish Daily Forward, featured on the front page of the publication's website. Titled "Why Christian Zionists Really Support Israel," the pastor began by pointing out that May 23 has been set aside "as the second annual Christians United for Israel Sunday" and that "pastors, ministers and priests at more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states and over 50 foreign countries will dedicate their Sunday services to teaching the importance of Christian support for Israel."
Hagee acknowledged that "Given the history of Christian antisemitism," he is "not at all surprised that many in the Jewish community are skeptical of Christian support for Israel. Some worry that our efforts are motivated by a desire to convert Jews. Others posit that our Zionism is tied to an effort to speed the second coming of Jesus. Both of these allegations are flat wrong. All we ask of our Jewish friends is that they get to know us before they judge us harshly on the basis of myths such as these."
He went on to deny claims by critics "that Christian Zionists will use our influence to stand in the way of efforts to advance a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Almost immediately, Rachel Tabachnick, an independent researcher who specializes in End Times narratives, and Bruce Wilson, the co-founder of the religious blog Talk2Action and the person responsible for surfacing Hagee's Hitler as hunter of Jews tape during the 2008 presidential campaign were on the case. In a series of responses in the comments section, Tabachnick and Wilson posted a series of quotes from Hagee that directly contradicted his assertions. "Hagee's public relations team know very well the impact that quotes from Hagee raving about the end times would have in the Jewish community, and they are doing everything they can to paint him as something entirely different than what he is," Tabachnick told me in an e-mail.
Bring on the P.R. guys
In a previous piece written for Zeek -- an online publication of The Daily Forward -- titled "Saving Jews from John Hagee," Tabachnick reported that both David Brog, the Jewish executive director of CUFI, and Hagee spokesperson Ari Morgenstern "have attacked J Street for referencing Hagee's controversial `Hitler as hunter' sermon quote which resulted in John McCain's rejection of Hagee's political endorsement in 2008."
Tabachnick, who has written a number of well-researched articles about Hagee and Christian Zionism for Zeek, and the Talk2Action blog, also pointed out that Morgenstern has incorrectly "compared Hagee's sermon to the `teachings of noted Jewish theologians Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal and Eim Habanim Semaichah who put forth this interpretation as a part of their efforts to understand how a loving God could have allowed the Holocaust.'"
According to his bio posted at 30 Point Strategies, Morgenstern, a Senior Associate, holds a B.A. from the University of Alabama and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Georgia State University. He "has worked with all levels of the media, in both the domestic and international arenas," beginning "his career serving as the Press Officer for the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C., where he facilitated the formulation and implementation of that nation's proactive and crisis communications strategy." He also worked "as the Public Relations and Communications Specialist for Ford & Harrison LLP, a national labor and employment law firm."
Tabachnick pointed out that the End Times plays a significant role in all of Hagee's activities: "Hagee's books and sermon clearly sketch out the prophetic timeline that he believes will be fulfilled in this generation -- what he describes as the terminal generation. The ingathering of Jews in Israel is considered a prerequisite to the 1000-year reign of Jesus in the end times. Christian Zionists view themselves as `fishers' who must befriend and persuade Jews to move to Israel before the `time of the hunters.' Hunters are those who will violently force the remaining Jews around the world to leave their respective nations and flee to Israel."
She also told me through a series of e-mails, that after Zeek had published a number of her articles on "the dangers of partnering with Christian Zionists who have an underlying agenda of both advancing the hands of the prophetic clock and using their access to proselytize Jews, she was told `to temporarily quit writing about Christian Zionism.'"
"Morgenstern has gone a long way in rehabilitating Hagee in the mainstream and Jewish press," Tabachnick said. "Over the last few months a number of very misleading articles lauding the work of John Hagee have been placed in press around the country. And I've watched as media outlets that write negatively about Hagee are somehow convinced to print responses by Morgenstern. His claims can easily be countered with Hagee's own sermons and media. For example, after writing about Hagee's anti-Catholicism, Andrew Sullivan later posted a full page letter on his blog from Morgenstern, in which he claimed that Hagee could not possibly be comparing the Catholic Church to an entity in Revelation since it does not come into being until the End of Days."
(In Sullivan's original post on his Atlantic magazine blog, he characterized Hagee as "an anti-Catholic fundamentalist bigot." He also mentioned the appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Pastor John Hagee in Jerusalem at Hagee's "Night to Honor Israel" shortly before vice-president Joe Biden's recent disastrous visit to Israel.)
"Morgenstern's illogical argument masks the fact that along with portraying the future destruction of Rome and `Romanism,' Hagee portrays the Catholic Church as being the `apostate church' since the time of Constantine and attacks many practices of the Catholic church as inherited from the demonic religion of `Mystery Babylon,'" Tabachnick noted.
Tabachnick noted that Morgenstern also had comments added to a Washington Post Faith blog "in which he claimed that Hagee's `Hitler as hunter quote' was no different than some rabbinical discourse on the Holocaust. It's hard to for me to imagine," Tabachnick added, "that there are many rabbis who could possibly come to that conclusion if they watched this sermon, delivered by Hagee in front of a huge graphic of the end times.
Hagee as Christian Zionist icon
In the annals of Christian Zionism, Hagee is an icon. He has managed to forge an extraordinary relationship with a number of U.S. and Israeli leaders and politicians. His organization's philanthropic endeavors are near legendary, having given away more than $50 million to Israeli charities. His "Night to Honor Israel" events raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for Israeli charities, while his annual Christians United for Israel summer conferences have drawn a host of well-known politicians, including such featured speakers as U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In February 2006, Hagee told the Jerusalem Post that CUFI should be thought of as "a Christian version of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)," the powerful pro-Israel lobby.
Hagee is well-paid for his efforts, earning, by some estimates, more than a million dollars a year.
Nevertheless, he remains a controversial figure.
Bryan Schwartzman, staff writer for the Jewish Exponent, a weekly based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, discussed Hagee -- who he characterized as "something of a political and social lightning rod" -- in a piece he wrote prior to a late-April "Night to Honor Israel" scheduled for Lansdale. Pa. titled "What to Make of Evangelical 'Love-Fests'?" Schwartzman's article pointed out that "While ... Hagee and his organization, Christians United for Israel ... have been no strangers to national controversy, the local event apparently hasn't ruffled many feathers.... [as a] number of rabbis and Jewish communal officials are expected to attend."
David Brog, CUFI's executive director and a former chief of staff for then-Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, said of the local event: "Really, it's an evening to honor not just the Israel in the Middle East, but it's also an evening to honor the Israel in our neighborhoods, the Jewish community -- something that Christians have not traditionally done over the centuries."
Schwartzman, however, pointed out that "there's been plenty of controversy surrounding CUFI, including a 2008 statement by the leader of Reform Judaism urging Jews to stay away from any of its events, partly because he viewed CUFI's positions on Israel as too hawkish." He also noted the rift between CUFI and J Street, a relatively new and liberal group lobbying that according to its website "believe[s] that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel's survival as the national home of the Jewish people and as a vibrant democracy."
According to Schwartzman, Brog claimed that "CUFI supports the positions of the government of Israel, and denied that it opposes the peace process or any Israeli policies. He said that CUFI has criticized the Obama government for pressuring Jerusalem to make concessions.... [and] that accusations that Hagee is anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim are off the mark."
John Hagee (left) met with Israeli President Shimon Peres during the evangelical Christian pastor's recent trip to Israel.
On May 23, a "Night to Honor Israel" is scheduled for Sacramento, California. A recent Sacramento Press story by Fredric Hayward -- titled "A New Era is Born" -- didn't bother to deal with any of the controversies.
Hayward's piece pretty much read like a Team Hagee press release, revolving around the conceit that Sacramento had become "an epicenter for a new millennium," and focusing on Randy Neal and Victor Styrsky, two religious leaders who "didn't know each other" ten years ago, but are now united in their great respect for the Jewish people.
Neal, who resides in San Antonio, is CUFI's Western Regional Coordinator, and the Sacramento-based Styrsky is the group's Eastern States Director and the author of the book Honest to God: Christian Zionists Confront 10 Questions Jews Need Answered.
Although Hayward's piece touted Hagee's good works, a spirited discussion in the "Conversation" section following the article expanded the discussion.
In late June, Hagee has another book coming out. This one is titled, ominously enough, Can America Survive?: Ten Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation (Howard Books, June 29, 2010), and according to the "Product Description" posted at Amazon.com, the book concludes with a spellbinding description of Armageddon -- the Mother of All Battles -- and the ultimate return of the Messiah, which will bring peace on earth and leave Jerusalem as the epicenter of planet earth."
Christians United for Israel's next Washington Summit is scheduled for July 20-22, 2010.
The Pastor that Said God Sent Hitler to Hunt the Jews is on the comeback trail | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
The Pastor that Said God Sent Hitler to Hunt the Jews is on the comeback trail | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)