John Hagee was born in 1940, in Baytown, Texas, and came from a long line of Anabaptist Mennonite pastors. Considered part of the Radical Reformation, Anabaptists preached of charismatic manifestations, such as dancing, falling under the power of the Holy Spirit, "prophetic processions" and speaking in tongues. Some, "excited by mass hysteria, experienced healings, glossolalia, contortions and other manifestations of a camp-meeting revivals.
As a boy, Hagee travelled with his family in a mobile home as the Hagee Family Singers. His father would preach revivals all over Texas, while John, his older brother Bill, and parents provided the music. As a young man of 18, he addressed a congregation at his father’s Houston church in 1958.
Prophesy factored heavily into the family's belief system, with Israel and the Israelites playing a prominent role. In 1948, when Israel became a state, the Sr. Hagee saw it as a fulfilment of destiny. But what they probably didn't realize at the time, was how much Christians were suffering in the area.
Donald Neff, former Israel Bureau Chief for Time Magazine, writes:
John Hagee married his first wife Martha in 1960, with whom he had two children. But he became involved with a young woman, and divorced his wife in 1975. He and the young woman were married six months later.
Desecration of Christian property and churches—arson, window breaking, burning of the New Testament—had long marred relations between the two communities. A small but fanatical group of Jews wanted no Christians, whom they considered fallen Jews, in Israel. This virulent strain of prejudice had been present since before the Jewish state was founded.
For instance, after the capture by Jewish forces of Jaffa on May 13, 1948, two days before Israel’s birth, there was desecration of Christian churches. Father Deleque, a Catholic priest, reported: “Jewish soldiers broke down the doors of my church and robbed many precious and sacred objects. Then they threw the statues of Christ down into a nearby garden.” He added that Jewish leaders had reassured that religious buildings would be respected, “but their deeds do not correspond to their
On May 31, 1948, a group of Christian leaders comprising the Christian Union of Palestine publicly complained that Jewish forces had used 10 Christian churches and humanitarian institutions in Jerusalem as military bases and otherwise desecrated them. They added that a total of 14 churches had suffered shell damage, which killed three priests and made casualties of more than 100 women and children.
The group’s statement said Arab forces had abided by their promise to respect Christian institutions, but that the Jews had forcefully occupied Christian structures and been indiscriminate in shelling churches. It said, among other charges, that “many children were killed or wounded” by Jewish shells on the Convent of Orthodox Copts on May 19, 23 and 24; that eight refugees were killed and about 120 wounded at the Orthodox Armenian Convent at some unstated date; and that Father Pierre Somi, secretary to the Bishop, had been killed and two wounded at the Orthodox Syrian Church of St. Mark on May 16. (1)
The Liberty Flame reported in May 1994 that during the time when Hagee was serving the Charismatic congregation at Trinity Church (1976) in San Antonio, he divorced his wife, resigned and married a young woman in the congregation, Diana Castro. Custody of Hagee’s two children by his ex-wife, Martha, went to her. In a letter to the church, Hagee admitted immorality, which later became part of the court records in the custody battle. Martha later also remarried and started another family. Not surprisingly, there is a hiatus from 1976 to 1987 left out of Hagee’s web site biography. (2)Things were changing for Israel as well, after the 1967 war, where they captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Things were not much better for Christians though, at the hands of some of the Israeli:
And they would later enact laws to take the persecution of Christians even further:
Churches were again desecrated during the 1967 war when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, completing the occupation of all of Palestine. On July 21, 1967, the Reverend James L. Kelso, a former moderator of the United Presbyterian Church and long-time resident in Palestine, complained of extensive damage to churches adding: “So significant was this third Jewish war against the Arabs that one of the finest missionaries of the Near East called it ‘perhaps the most serious setback that Christendom has had since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.’”
Kelso continued: “How did Israel respect church property in the fighting...? They shot up the Episcopal Cathedral [in Jerusalem], just as they had done in 1948. They smashed down the Episcopal school for boys...The Israelis wrecked and looted the YMCA...They wrecked the big Lutheran hospital...The Lutheran center for cripples also suffered...”
Nancy Nolan, wife of a physician at the American University Hospital in Beirut, who was in Jerusalem during and after the fighting, charged that “while the Israeli authorities proclaim to the world that all religions will be respected and protected, and post notices identifying the Holy Places, Israeli soldiers and youths are throwing stink bombs in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
“The Church of St. Anne, who crypt marks the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, has been severely damaged and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem also was damaged. The wanton killing of the Warden of the Garden Tomb followed by the shooting into the tomb itself, in an attempt to kill the warden’s wife, was another instance that we knew first-hand which illustrated the utter disregard shown by the occupation forces toward the Holy Places and the religious sensibilities of the people in Jordan and in the rest of the world.”
“The desecration of churches...includes smoking in the churches, littering the churches, taking dogs inside and entering in inappropriate manner of dress. Behavior such as this cannot be construed other than as a direct insult to the whole Christian world.” (1)
And it was into this political climate that Hagee brought his new bride:
On Dec. 29, 1977, Christians in Israel and the occupied territories protested a new law passed by the Israeli parliament making it illegal for missionaries to proselytize Jews. Protestant churches charged that the law had been “hastily pushed through parliament during the Christmas period when Christians were busily engaged in preparing for and celebrating their major festival.” The law made missionaries liable to five years’ imprisonment for attempting to persuade people to change their religion, and three years’ imprisonment for any Jew who converted. The United Christian Council complained that the law could be “misused in restricting religious freedom in Israel.”
Nonetheless, it came into force on April 1, 1978, prohibiting the offering of “material inducement” for a person to change his religion. A material inducement could be something as minor as the giving of a Bible. Although the Likud government of Menachem Begin assured the Christian community that the law applied equally to all religions and did not specifically mention Christians, the United Christian Council of Israel charged that it was biased and aimed specifically at Christians since only Christians openly proselytized. Council representatives also cited anti-Christian speeches made in the parliament during debate on the law. Parliament member Binyamin Halevy had called missionaries “a cancer in the body of the nation.”
The next year Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, considered a political moderate, issued a religious ruling that copies of the New Testament should be torn out of any edition of a Bible owned by a Jew. Israeli scholar Yehoshafat Harkabi wrote that he was disturbed by “these manifestations of hostility-the designation of Christians as idolaters, the demand to invoke the ‘resident alien’ ordinances, and the burning of the New Testament.” Observed Harkabi: “Outside of the Land of Israel Jews never dared behave in this fashion. Has independence made the Jews take leave of their senses?”
With his reputation badly damaged by the divorce and apparent infidelity, he found solace — and a new career niche — in the Holy Land. In 1978, he and Diana (then pregnant with Matthew) made a trip to Israel, and came back committed Zionists. In 1981, when Israeli air strikes destroyed Iraq’s prized nuclear reactor, Hagee felt the need to defend Israel against the harsh criticisms of the international media.
Hagee says his support for Israel stems from a heartfelt conviction that Jews have an unshakable biblical claim on Israel, but skeptics counter that his end-times theology, largely derived from the menacing imagery of the Book of Revelation, depends upon a prophesied invasion of Israel by Russia and Iran. If Israel brokered a two-state solution in the region and achieved a lasting peace with its neighbors, Hagee’s end-times checklist would be disrupted. Consider this passage from his best-known book, Jerusalem Countdown: “[God] has dragged these anti-Semitic nations to the nations of Israel to crush them so that the Jews of Israel will confess that He is the Lord. America and Europe will not save Israel — God will!” (2)
1. Christians Discriminated Against by Israel, By Donald Neff, Former Israel Bureau Chief for Time Magazine, Excerpted from Fifty Years of Israel
2. THE OTHER GOSPEL OF JOHN HAGEE: CHRISTIAN ZIONISM AND ETHNIC SALVATION, by G. Richard Fisher, 1999