Within a week of the posting, the reputation of the leading Christian supporter of Israel had been trashed, his views distorted, and the Republican presidential candidate forced to disavow his support all without any serious discussion of the sermon, its theology, or its relationship to Jewish scriptures.
As always, truth was slow to get its boots on, but the response of the new media was nevertheless impressive. David Brog on The American Thinker website, Anne Lieberman on the Boker Tov,
Here is some additional material necessary to understanding Pastor Hagees views and work, and the controversy his sermon produced:
Whether one agrees with his remarks or not, they are hardly controversial to those familiar with the conversation Jews have been having with and about God for thousands of years.
Pastor Hagee is hardly the first person to posit an interactive relationship between the hand of the Creator and the fate of the Jewish people. His opinion in this matter may be uncommon in the mainstream, but it is hardly singular, remarkable or exceptional among Holocaust survivors.
Founder and president of CJHSLA, Doris Wise Montrose, said, My entire life I never heard a discussion about the Holocaust that did not bring up God. Many survivors, including my father, believed that God had a hand in the Holocaust, either by causing it or by allowing it to happen.
CJHSLA urges the public, especially the Jewish community, to recognize and appreciate Pastor Hagees stalwart leadership in American Zionism, as well as his overt, compassionate and substantial support for
What I know for certain, said Montrose, is that 6 million Jews were brutally and systematically murdered over a period of twelve years from 1933 to 1945 because human beings here on earth did nothing to stop it. Pastor Hagee understands that better than most, and has made it his business not only to seek atonement for the sins of those who stood idly by, but also to ensure that history is not allowed to repeat itself.
At CJHSLA, we stand with John Hagee, Montrose concluded. He should be honored, not scorned.
2. In late March, Pastor Hagee was the subject of an earlier media flare-up, relating to his purported antagonism to Catholicism and gays. He addressed those concerns in a dignified statement to his congregation (followed by a letter to the Catholic League, which subsequently praised his sincerity and courage in handling the controversy and called it closed).
CUFI posted the video of Pastor Hagees statement, to which the congregation (numbering in the thousands) listened in respectful silence, until the audience interrupted with applause, which turned into a standing ovation, right after this statement:
As most of you know, two years ago, I founded Christians United for Israel. I believed then and believe now that
Ever since I started speaking out for
3. In early March, Pastor Hagee appeared at Stephen S. Wise Temple in
So in February of 2006, I brought together 400 of the leading evangelicals in America pastors of mega-churches, guys who did all the television five times a week nationally, people who own the radio and television Christian networks, presidents of universities people who are the impact people, and I presented the idea about a Christian Night for Israel.
And briefly, I said Israel is in a state of danger, we have a Bible mandate to stand up and speak up for Israel, we have never done anything as a Christian group that gets close to a unified canopy under which every person who calls himself a Bible-believing evangelical can speak up for Israel. And were a one-issue organization
And I said we will do a Night to Honor
They only care when you go in their offices, look them in the eye and say Im a Christian and I support
4. In the sermon that caused the current flap, Pastor Hagee cited two biblical sources for his belief that the tragedy of the Holocaust and the miracle of Israel were part of Gods ultimate plan: Jeremiah 16(which foretold a second Exodus to occur in the future, this time from the North) and Ezekiel 37(which promised that the dead would be reborn in Israel). These are not obscure biblical references. With respect to Jeremiah 16, it may suffice to note a story told in the
Recently, while searching in the Yad Vashem archives, I came across the testimony of a survivor from Treblinka, who later immigrated to
In the early morning [on October 21, 1942] we arrived at Treblinka on the transport from our ghetto. On the ramp the selection process had begun. Together with a group of youngsters, I was taken from the crowd and pushed aside. We stood and watched the groups being led in the direction of the gas chambers.
Suddenly, we heard the familiar, strong voice of our rabbi. He was standing in the midst of the Jews of his community reciting the confessional viduy prayer, said when Jews know they are about to be martyred. The rabbi said a verse, and his congregation repeated it after him, verse by verse …
The Jews described were from the city of
My fathers life was taken at Treblinka after he said the viduy…. At our last meeting, as … we were standing on the doorstep, he recited from Jeremiah 16:6-7: Both the great and the small shall die in this land; they shall not be buried; neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them; neither shall men break bread for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.
Then he stopped for a while, looked straight into my eyes, and continued, again from Jeremiah, 13:16: And there is hope for thy future, saith the Lord. And thy children shall return to their own border.
Next he addressed me directly: If you manage to get out of here, go and return to the Land from which we were expelled, because only there will the Jewish people be itself and become strong enough to prevent such tragedies.
Naphtali Lau-Lavie was rescued from
As for Pastor Hagees reference to Ezekiel 37, perhaps an even shorter explanation may suffice. At Yad Vashem, the first thing one notices is a prominent quotation in large letters on a column above the parking lot. It reflects the promise in the immediately preceding verse that God will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves . . . and I will bring you into the
5. Literal readings of the Bible, belief in a judgmental God, faith in miracles foretold, or suggestions the God of the Hebrew Bible continues to play an active role in history are not fashionable today. Simply voicing them is not politically correct, and can result in an attempt to exclude one from public life.
The modern age is one in which all authority is challenged, especially religious authority. It would be a better age if the more traditional views of others were accorded greater respect.
In noting that Pastor Hagees sermon was from 1990, there is perhaps an implicit suggestion that it should be discounted as simply an old sermon. But the 1990 date is significant for two other reasons. First, it reflects the fact that Pastor Hagee has been supporting
Second, 1990 was just after the time when a million Jews had finally been able to leave the Soviet Union the most powerful totalitarian state in history and go to
One need not agree with every element of Pastor Hagees sermon, nor believe in Jewish eschatology, nor even endorse the arguments of theodicy, to recognize that his treatment by the political/media complex was an injustice reflecting the perils of defending
It is particularly unfortunate that many Jewish leaders and organizations stood by silently while a longtime friend of
Rick Richman edits Jewish Current Issues at www.jpundit.typepad.com. His articles have appeared in The