Republican presidential nominee John McCain once sought the endorsement of Texas mega-church pastor John Hagee (left, with McCain). But once McCain got it he was forced to reject it. Why? Because Hagee has denounced Catholicism as “The Great Whore,” called for the destruction of Islam, demonizes homosexuals, thinks global warming is a hoax and constantly insists the U.S. should attack Iran because it will help usher in the Second Coming.
Hagee’s also a fervent supporter of the State of Israel against its Muslim neighbours. But he doesn’t bother to tell Jews that Christians of his ilk expect all Jews to convert to Christianity. If they don’t, such end-times Christians believe Jews will suffer eternal damnation when Jesus returns in the Last Judgment.
recently had his sermons removed form You Tube for alleged copyright reasons, after millions of people signed on to watch him say God sent Hitler to frighten European Jews into moving to Israel. Hagee is also reported to have said that the AntiChrist will be German, gay, a “blasphemer” and “partly-Jewish.”
The silence from fellow evangelicals about Hagee’s militant declarations are perplexing, given that mainstream Muslims are often criticized for not denouncing their extremist brothers and sisters in the faith.
Here’s a piece I wrote about how some Jews are growing increasingly nervous about Christian Zionists support for the state of Israel:
Jews and Christians have rarely enjoyed a comfortable relationship. After a history of Christian persecution that contributed to the Holocaust, however, Jews began meeting with shamed Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, who eventually agreed not to target Jews for conversion.
Evangelical Christians did not typically take part in the interfaith dialogues, or come to the same conclusion. As a result, many Jews have been offended by evangelicals who still believe Jews can go to heaven only if they recognize their “mistake” in not recognizing Jesus as their Messiah.
In politics, as well, there has often been tension between Jews and evangelicals. In the U.S., Jews strongly support the Democrats while white evangelicals firmly back the Republican party. That trend holds in Canada, where polls show evangelicals lean toward the Conservatives and Jews typically vote Liberal or New Democrat.
But there is one overriding issue that opinion polls show is increasingly bringing together many evangelical Christians and Jews in an uneasy alliance: The state of Israel. Many evangelicals, like influential Texas mega-church pastor John Hagee, now call themselves “Christian Zionists.” They’re supporting Israel against its Middle Eastern foes mainly because of the way they interpret biblical prophecy about the Apocalypse.
These evangelicals cite Genesis 12:3, which recounts God’s promise to bless Israel’s friends and curse its enemies. Based on their reading of the Book of Revelation, such evangelicals also worry Jesus will not return to Earth to bring in Judgment Day unless the holy land is governed by Jews.
A recent poll by the respected Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found 63 per cent of white American evangelicals believe current conflicts involving the state of Israel “fulfil Biblical prophecy about the Second Coming.”
American evangelicals, who constitute 26 per cent of the population, gave President George W. Bush 40 per cent of his votes in the last election. The Pew Forum poll found evangelicals are more than twice as likely as secular Americans to sympathize with Israel more than the Palestinians.
The complex and awkward subject of Christian Zionism — which causes division within both Judaism and evangelicalism — was highlighted last year by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which represents 2.5 million conservative Protestants. The Canadian umbrella organization widelydistributed an article in which Christian Zionist Jim Hutchens accused a group of moderate U.S. evangelicals of “appalling ignorance” for supporting Bush’s two-state peace proposal of separate nations for Palestinians and Israelis.
The EFC at the same time sent out a related article that offered evangelicals pointers on how to respectfully befriend Jews in hopes of converting them to Jesus Christ. In publishing the articles, however, the EFC says it doesn’t necessarily endorse such views.
The issue of conversion is the most combustible ingredient in the political mix that is bringing together evangelicals and Jews.
The controversy relates to the Rapture, or evangelical beliefs about who will be saved on Judgment Day, which grow out of the apocalyptic Book of Revelation. Shaped in part by the phenomenal publishing success of the the Left Behind series, theological thrillers about the end of the world, polls show more U.S. evangelicals than ever believe the reconstitution of the state of Israel in 1948 after nearly 2,000 years signalled the start of a series of events presaging the Apocalypse.
Others signs include the war in Iraq, the oil crisis and the Iranian conflict. Many evangelicals (unlike Roman Catholics or mainline Protestants) believe the more Israel is threatened, the closer is the fulfilment of biblical prophecies about the end times.
For Jews, therefore, the big worry behind Rapture theology is that evangelicals believe they have a special duty to convert Jews to usher in the longed-for Judgment Day. On Judgment Day, many evangelicals believe, all those who have not become Christian, including Jews, will be condemned to eternal damnation.
The Left Behind series includes graphic scenes of unconverted Jews dying in a terrible conflagration. Given this, many Jews have conflicting feelings about embracing evangelical as allies. The national director of the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, warned against it: “Make no mistake,” Foxman said. “We are facing an emerging Christian right leadership that intends to ‘Christianize’ all aspects of American life.”
In Canada, the most high-profile champion of Christian Zionism is Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College in Ontario, head of the Defend Marriage Coalition and leader of Ottawa’s new Institute for Canadian Values. Even though McVety is a Conservative party supporter, no political polling exists that I’m aware of about whether Canada’s evangelicals, who make up almost 10 per cent of the population, agree with his views about the state of Israel or Judgment Day.
Canadian evangelicals, as a group, tend to be more moderate than their American cousins. But the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s recent messages to adherents make clear the future of the state of Israel remains a live and sensitive issue for conservative Protestants north of the border.