Christian Zionists Fighting to Win Support of American Jews
For more on CUFI's campaign to control their image in the press, including at Zeek and the Jewish Daily Forward, see articles by Richard Silverstein at Tikkun Olam and Bill Berkowitz at Talk2action.
My Zeek article is the first in a series that I will be posting here at Talk2action.org and elsewhere, countering the talking points which are being used to promote the partnership between Jewish leaders and Christian Zionist activists including CUFI.
Their talking points are:
I will be countering each of these claims in articles over the next few weeks. The current ZEEK article is a response to talking point number one.
CUFI's spokesperson has argued that Hagee's history of teaching and preaching end times prophecy has nothing to do with his CUFI activism and should not concern Jews. It does not matter if Hagee teaches that the world as we know it is coming to an end, that the apocalyptic wars are about to start, and that the reign of the anti-Christ and his one-world government is imminent. Because Hagee is a dispensationalist, teaching a pre-Tribulation rapture, he supposedly can do nothing to affect the outcome. He is, apparently, simply announcing what will come to pass.
Two competing points are being marketed here.
First, Hagee has clearly lobbied for wars and other political actions in support of advancing the prophetic timeline. If he truly believes that the timeline is fixed and can not be impacted by humans, why do this? To give just one example from many, the back cover of the cassette case for his 2003 Iraq the Final War sermon series, in which he lobbies for the war, states boldly,
"The war between American (sic) and Iraq is the gateway to the apocalypse."
This three-part sermons series is an eye-opener and should be mandatory listening for anyone who plans to partner with Hagee.
When the invasion of Iraq failed to bring about the intended results, Hagee immediately began lobbying for a preemptive strike on Iran, which he continued in his most recent book Can America Survive: Ten Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation.
Dispensationalism and Activism
The argument that Hagee, and Christian Zionists in general, are such dispensational purists that they could not possibly believe they can alter the future is seriously flawed.
The wave of dispensational prophecy books that have flooded the market from Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth to the Left Behind series, taught a semblance of the dispensational timeline to millions or readers, along with the fears of the imminent anti-Christ and biases inherent to these books. However there is no reason to believe these books, many filled with portrayals of end times warriors fighting the anti-Christ after the rapture, would have created millions of dispensationalist purists who don't believe they can impact the future. Many Americans now get their religious indoctrination in the free market, far outside the control any traditional authorities or theologians.
At the seminary level dispensationalism has been in decline for many years, including at the bastions of fundamentalism. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice founded the Pre-Trib Research Center, now housed at Liberty University, after bringing together a group of prophecy scholars in 1994 because of the decline in teaching dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism in its purist form does conflict with activism and therefore conflicts with the Religious Right agenda. (Ask any Reconstructionist.) One could argue that the birth of the modern Christian Right essentially insured the dramatic decline of dispensationalism. Scholars at the Pre-Trib Center write papers to made a case that dispensationalism can provide a foundation for activism. Thomas Ice begins a paper by stating,
"Traditional dispensationalism has the reputation of lack of interest in social and political involvement. This may or may not be a fair perception. I think it has largely been true with some notable exceptions."
Ice list his exceptions as Jerry Falwell, Tim and Beverly LaHaye, and Francis Schaeffer, all major leaders of the modern Christian Right who have shepherded fundamentalist belief from passive to activist. The only clear purpose that dispensationalism continues to serve politically for the Religious Right is in the area of Christian Zionism and the attempt to realign American Jews with the Right.
Dispensationalim and Pentecostalism
The belief that humans can not move the hands of the prophetic clock may be inherent to dispensationalism but then, so is cessationism inherent to dispensationalism. (Cessationist is the belief that supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased at the close of New Testament times. This is in direct conflict with the core foundation of Pentecostalism.) Nevertheless much of the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream still embraced the dispensational timeline while retaining their belief in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Hagee is from an Assemblies of God background and is an independent charismatic, as are many CUFI directors and host churches.
As numerous Pentecostal scholars have written, these conflicts did not stop charismatics from embracing the dispensational timeline even though there were aspects of this worldview that conflicted sharply with their own history and beliefs.
For instance, Margaret Poloma's study "Charisma and Structure in the Assemblies of God" includes some of the many quotes on the conflict between dispensationalism and Pentecostalism.
The dispensationalist perspective, popularized in the notes of the Scofield Bible and permeating sectors of Evangelical Christianity, has been used to disparage Pentecostalism as at best delusional and at worst, heretical. As Blumhofer has noted:
The following is from "E.W. Kenyon and Dispensationalism" by Geir Lie published at PCTII (Pentecostal- Charismatic Theological Inquiry International):
Central to Darby's dispensationalism was his emphasis on the ruined state of the church and his conviction that God did not even want the church restored according to a New Testament pattern. Such a pessimistic view of the destiny of the end time church runs counter to Pentecostalism's (successor of the Holiness movement) Latter Rain motif where Christ is indeed expected to return for a triumphant ecclesia.
Tony Richie, Society of Pentecostal Studies liason to the National Council of Churches for Christ, quotes Vinson Synan in his paper"Is Pentecostalism Dispensationalist?"
"Yet Pentecostal writers using dispensationalist paradigms have not usually done so uncritically or unequivocally, and the movement's recent scholars increasingly show still less dependency on dispensationalism. `Continuing Pentecostal attraction to dispensationalism becomes even more puzzling in light of explicit and even acidic rejection of Pentecostals by dispensationalist fundamentalists.'"Much of the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream embraced the dispensational timeline, but with some variations, including the insertion of a revival prior to the end times. Others rebelled against the restraints and taught that they would raise a generation of holy warriors with supernatural God-given powers who would be victorious in the end times, like the Latter Rain Movement of the late 1940s and 50s and the Kansas City Prophets in the 1980s and 90s.
Christian Reconstructionist Gary North has been using these arguments for years to try to influence charismatics to reject the pre-Tribulation rapture. He has referred to the many Christian Right leaders who held on to their dispensational beliefs and simultaneously became involved in political activism as "operational post-millennialists."
It does seem illogical to teach that the rapture is imminent while mobilizing for long term political activism, something akin to a political party straying far from its stated platform.
Growth of Pentecostal/Charismatic Stream
CUFI represents a trend that can be seen throughout the Religious Right, the rise in both religious and political prominence of charismatics.
As the charismatic stream has become more prominent, they are able to chart their own path, separate from the constraints of traditional fundamentalists. Some Christian Zionists leaders are active in movements that have rejected the pre-Trib rapture altogether, embracing a mid-Trib or post-Trib stance, teaching that these believers will still be on earth during the Great Tribulation and the rule of the anti-Christ. (Some of the defenders of the Jewish/Christian Zionist partnership equate dispensationalism with premillennialism in their arguments, with no acknowledgement that the former is only a subset of the latter.)
Talk2action.org has featured numerous articles about the New Apostolic Reformation or "apostolic and prophetic" wave that is sweeping the independent charismatic world. Several CUFI directors, including Stephen Strang and Robert Stearns, are leaders in this movement founded in the belief that humans can, and must, work to hasten the Millennium.
Stearns works closely with Mike Bickle and Lou Engle, who are training an army of young warriors for their role in the end times. Strang is publisher of Charisma magazine which regularly promotes the support of Messianic communities in Israel for the purpose of advancing the prophetic clock. Link to the video of Lou Engle's "The Call" Jerusalem in 2008 which in less than three minutes provides a picture of the unanticipated consequences and challenges of the Christian Zionist partnership for Jewish Israelis. The video includes Mike Bickle, and Lou Engle. Stearns was on stage but not visible in this particular clip.
The rapid growth of independent charismatic churches and parachurch ministries has also meant that they have a great deal of freedom in determining their theological beliefs, and no particular need to be theological purists. They are not answering to a pope or ecclesiastical hierarchy. The structures of these churches as promoted by C. Peter Wagner and Rick Warren, have shifted from democratically run evangelical congregations to absolute authority of the "apostle" or senior pastor. As Wagner has written,
"The traditional concept is that the congregation owns the church and that they hire the pastor to do their ministry for them. New apostolic churches, like Rick Warren's, turn this around 180 degrees..."Many of these ministries are being passed down as religious empires from father to son, with no checks or balances on their teachings.
If Hagee wishes to preach about New World Order conspiracy theories from the pulpit, filled with rants against the Illuminati and the Rothschilds, he is free to do so.
For all of these reasons, it is problematic, to say the least, to argue that Hagee is somehow bound to a purist interpretation of dispensationalism. His life's work conflicts with this conclusion, and I would argue that it is deceptive to make this claim to the Jewish community.
Christian Zionist Motivations
But perhaps arguing Hagee's personal motivations is a red herring. What about the people who follow Hagee's media and that of other Christian Zionists, the people who are currently financing Christian Zionist activism with many millions of dollars? When Hagee solicits money through his John Hagee Ministries with advertisements headlined "I WANT TO BE A PART OF FULFILLMENT OF PROHECY," what do those donors think that means? How do they view his repeated warnings that those who "divide the land" will be subject to God's revenge?
In a related talking point, the propaganda directed toward enticing Jews into embracing Christian Zionists claims that CUFI can be a partner in the peace process and will not be an obstacle in the pursuit of a two state resolution in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In his book, released June 29, 2010, Hagee states that we are the terminal generation, indicating that he believes the end times as described in his book are imminent. Hagee writes,
"Why is this divine covenant for a specific land to the Jewish people so crucial in the twenty-first century? It's urgent because World War III is about to begin over the failure of humanity to recognize Israel's historic right to the land."
The transcript of the video clip below is indicative of what Hagee teaches about peace negotiations and the attempts for a two-state resolution.
"To give up more land for peace, Joel 3:2, says any nation that tries to get Israel to divide my land, I will bring it into judgement, I want those of you in the State Department and in Washington to hear this. If America does not stop pressuring Israel to give up land I believe that God will bring this nation into judgement because I believe what this book says. And if God brings this nation into judgement he will very likely release the terrorist that you've already let here through the ridiculous immigration policy that you refuse to stop and this nation is going to go through a blood bath that you have permitted because of what you have done."
CUFI is not a partner for peace, certainly not a peace in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians can coexist in the earthly realm.
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