"How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for his chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings he had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come." John Hagee (1)
If anything defines the hypocrisy and viciousness of the Religious Right, it's their disdain for Jimmy Carter. Himself an evangelist, and one of the most caring people on the planet, he is treated by them as though he's the devil himself.
And why? Because he promotes peace in the Middle East.
At one of John Hagee's “Nights to Honor Israel”, the "evangelical" crowd get whipped into a frenzy:
They get even more stirred up when keynote speaker Michael Oren, an author and senior fellow at the Shalem center in Jerusalem, calls Jimmy Carter’s 2006 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, a “reprehensible” work, and the mere mention of Carter’s name earns a chorus of boos so hostile they would probably frighten a Philadelphia hockey fan. (2)Jimmy Carter, for heaven sake, the creator of Habitat for Humanity. Is Christianity ever taking a nose dive.
So how did this happen? Rabbi Caryn Broitman explains:
And one of the evangelical leaders to visit Israel in the 1970's was Pastor John Hagee, recently divorced and remarried to the woman with whom he'd had an affair.
The beginning of this evangelical-Jewish alliance around Israel goes back to the aftermath of the Six Day War but intensified in the late 1970’s. At that time, two concurrent political developments were taking place in Israel and in the United States: the election of Menachem Begin and the rise of Likud party in Israel; and the rise of the Moral Majority and the religious right in the United States. The Likud party is a secular party, but it emphasizes Jewish rights over the whole of the Biblical land of Israel including the West Bank.
Begin made an alliance with the nationalist religious movements of Israel such as Gush Emunim to promote the religious settlement movement on the West Bank. President Jimmy Carter, however, was pressuring Begin to negotiate with Palestinians based on a principle of land for Peace. Begin needed American allies to counter this pressure and who better than Christians who believe, as Pastor Hagee says, that Israel is the only country established by God himself and that “any nation that forces Israel to divide up their land will experience the judgment of God.” It was a match made in heaven.
When Menachem Begin became Prime Minister, he made it a point to cultivate relationships with the American religious right. He became good friends with Jerry Falwell, inviting him and hundreds of other evangelical pastors for trips to Israel at the expense of the Israeli government. Falwell responded with endorsements of the Likud Party’s strategy of building Israeli Settlements throughout the West Bank. Begin’s government later gave Falwell his own jet to make his travels to Israel easier.
Falwell and other leaders of the religious right, including Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, and Oral Roberts came through when they were needed by Likud politicians to lobby for their policies. In 1998 when Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came on a state visit to the United States, his first stop was to see leaders of the religious right, such as Ralph Reed director of the Christian Coalition. “We have no greater friends and allies,” he said to them, than the people sitting in this room.”
Netanyahu’s statement may be startling to some, but it does make sense if one’s priority for Israel is to hold on to all the biblical land. They were Netanyahu’s best friends, better friends than President Clinton from that perspective, with whom he was meeting the next day and who was pressuring Netanyahu as well as the Palestinians to meaningfully negotiate. For the Likud party and their supporters, this was a smart political alliance.
Liberal objections about the real motives of these Evangelicals were not persuasive. True, these Christian right leaders believed the real significance of the State of Israel was its role in the apocalyptic end-times scenario, which they believed would culminate in the wiping out of most Jews and the conversion of the remaining few. This is deeply problematic and offensive for us as Jews. One could argue, however, that we don’t believe in these visions of the end time anyway, so what do they matter? If we agree on what should happen in this world, why not agree to disagree on what happens in the next. (3)
The Likud Party* has been returned to power with Benjamin Netanyahu once more at the helm. And he has also fostered a relationship with the Religious Right, though it is no longer just with the Americans. He also now has the support of Canada's Religious Right and it's extension: The Harper government. When Israeli seized a Turkish ship in international waters last month, killing nine peace activists, we were one of the few countries not to speak out against this criminal act:
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.
Although he initially received little support from Jewish leaders (who looked at him “like he had a contagious rash,” according to Hagee) aside from Aryeh Scheinberg, a local Orthodox rabbi, Hagee inaugurated his “Night to Honor Israel,” meant to be a fundraiser for Jewish and pro-Israel causes, and a festive show of solidarity from Christians to the nation of Israel.
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)
While governments around the world denounced the Israeli attack and Turkey decried it as an act of "state terrorism," Prime Minister Stephen Harper cheerfully followed through with a planned meeting the next day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.During the 2008 presidential race, Hagee threw his support behind John McCain, but the entire thing blew up in McCain's face, as the real John Hagee was exposed.
Appearing with Netanyahu, Harper merely expressed regret about the loss of life and the fact that it interfered with Netanyahu's visit to Canada: "I'm sorry this has coloured this [visit]," said Harper, "but delighted you were able to join me at least last night and today, and we've had some important talks, so welcome to Canada." (4)
I think that John McCain is a decent guy and may have been able to steer the Republicans back from the depths of hell, but between Sarah Palin and John Hagee, not to mention the legacy of George Bush, he didn't stand a chance.
Hagee endorsed Republican Senator John McCain for president over a more obvious choice, Southern evangelical Mike Huckabee. McCain had courted Hagee for months, and stood by the San Antonio pastor’s side while saying that he was “very honored” by the endorsement.
Over the next three months, McCain found himself continually having to defend Hagee’s endless backlog of inflammatory pronouncements: that the Catholic Church is the “great whore” of scripture, that New Orleans brought the devastation of Katrina on itself by sinfully planning a gay-pride parade, that all Muslims want to destroy Christianity, that God will punish the United States if our political leaders urge Israel to give up some of its land (“This nation is going to go through a bloodbath because of what you’ve done.”), and that God sent Hitler to help drive the Jews to the promised land. Finally, after the slow drip of McCain repudiating Hagee statements one by one, on May 22, he rejected the pastor’s support, leading a bitter Hagee to announce that he would never again endorse a political candidate. (2)
So what does this have to with us, besides the fact that we're the only nation supporting piracy and murder? Hagee is losing credibility in the United States (though not with his flock), while his Canadian business partner, Charles McVety is gaining power in Canada.
Not only is McVety a long time friend of Jim Flaherty's, but he also has a close relationship with Stockwell Day and Jason Kenney, and according to McVety himself, can get Stephen Harper on the phone anytime he wishes. Hagee rents office space from McVety in Toronto, and his books and tapes are sold from McVety's Christian college. (5)
Even in the reliably conservative world of mega-church evangelism, the old order is changing. Hagee’s incendiary political attacks and Armageddon fear-mongering suited the post-9/11 anger and anxiety that gripped America, but the rising stars on the evangelical circuit are now touchy-feely compassionate conservatives such as Joel Hunter, an Orlando, Florida, evangelical who delivered the benediction at this year’s Democratic National Convention, and Rick Warren, who heads Saddleback Community Church in California and hosted a faith summit with Barack Obama and John McCain this summer. (2)The Tea Parties have created a bit of a surge for Religious fanaticism, Fox News and Republican nonsense, but I think even that is starting to burn itself out, they've become so ridiculous. Ann Coulter is now boring and Glenn Beck parodied more than Sarah Palin.
So will people like Hagee find a more willing audience north of the border? After all we did have a visit from the Queen of spite recently and Stephen Harper has signed a deal for a Fox News North. Welcome to our future.
*Interestingly, McLaughlin and Associates, an American Republican consulting firm, takes credit for the career of both Stephen Harper and the Likud Party, as well as many Religious Right endorsed Republican politicians.
1. Columbia Journalism Review, March 7, 2008
2. The Zionist in winter, By Gilbert Garcia, The San Antonio Current, November 12, 2008
3. A critical analysis of the Jewish alliance with the Christian Right regarding Israel, By Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Yom Kippur 2008
4. Stephen Harper delighted to help flotilla 'farce', By Linda McQuaig, Rabble.ca, June 15, 2010
5. . The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8