John Hagee, an influential Texas televangelist, is a huge supporter of the state of Israel. His theology is plainly dispensational and his support of Zionism is well-known. The same could be said about the views and practices of many other evangelicals. What has created considerable public conflict, in Hagee’s case, is his endorsement of John McCain. John Hagee’s anti-Catholicism, not his pro-Zionism, has been made an issue in recent weeks. Since McCain had previously accepted Hagee’s endorsement the media has made strong comparisons between Hagee’s anti-Catholicism and Jeremiah’s Wright’s anti-Americanism.

This issue became even more contentious when the association of Jeremiah Wright with Barack Obama was made an issue over the last few months. This support of McCain by Hagee has been compared to the Wright-Obama matter, even by Obama’s campaign on several occasions. It seems to me that fair-minded people, who are not blindly committed to either one of these two candidates, can see an obvious difference here. Whereas John Hagee met with McCain and then endorsed him, Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright go back together for more than twenty years. But all this aside, the debate over Hagee’s views about the Roman Catholic Church is actually worthy of further consideration.

So far as I can discern John Hagee’s anti-Catholic views are actually rooted in several real historical facts. The Crusades and the Inquisition, as well as the Holocaust, all have some connections with Catholicism. But Hagee has also blamed Protestants Hagee
for the having similar connections with the Holocaust, which they did, at least via the German Lutheran Church and the anti-Semitic statements of Martin Luther. Thus this kind of accusation is correct, at least in some sense. Yet even these connections are sometimes overstated by many who want to make way too much out of them. To say that there is some truth to these connections is not to fully embrace anti-Catholicism or anti-Protestantism. It is simply to be truthful with the facts of history, as I’ve said.

But John Hagee’s comments seemed to go beyond these historical realities to include the notion that Rome is still guilty of these terrible sins against the Jews and that this was as true of the Church today as it ever was in the past. (Many Christians, and many Christian churches, have openly admitted the sins of past anti-Semitism, including both the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant churches!) So this kind of confession is really not new.

Hagee put all of this to rest last week when he apologized after meeting with 22 religious activists, virtually all of them Roman Catholic. Said Hagee, "In my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms, I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholics and Protestant relations with the Jews. In the process I may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic church. It most certainly does not."

William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, not only accepted Hagee’s apology but urged Catholics, and all others, to do the same. This should put the matter to rest but in a political season I would not bet on it.

I must admit that I am not a huge fan of John Hagee, whose theology and ministry are not all that close to my own on many points. But I have to say that I have to truly admire anyone who will sit down with offended parties and seek personal and open reconciliation. This is far more than what I have seen from many similarly conservative leaders within the evangelical world. I thus believe that John Hagee should be honored for his courage and humility. I have changed my own view of him considerably as a result of his actions this past week. I wish more Christians would follow this excellent example. If they did the unity of the Church in America would again be seen, by more and more of us, as a precious gift from God to be preserved as much as possible.

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  1. Jack Isaacson May 15, 2008 at 6:51 am

    What should we think of those Presbyterian churches that hold to the 1646 WCF where the confession includes statements such as this under CHAPTER XXV: OF THE CHURCH, # 6? “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.”

  2. Fred Carpenter May 15, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Did you mean to say Hagee’s “pro-Zionism” in the last sentence in your first paragraph?
    Anyway, I would like it if you would speak a little more prophetically on this matter. For example, traditional dispensationalism never had a ‘signs before the times’ understanding, therefore only pop dispies ever spoke of 1948 as having some kind of biblical connection. Once they did (Lindsey, et,al), then Falwell, Robertson got in on the action too.
    I see Zionism more as a political movement with great Christian support from the West. If American Christians begin to understand their Bibles better, that support wll surely wane.
    For example, it should not be about about their ‘Jewishness’, i.e., their bloodlines or race, but about relationship and being in covenant to God in Christ. Muslims and Jews outside of Jesus need Jesus period, wherever they live. I remember Falwell once saying we had to support the State of Israel even if Christians in Israel were being persecuted. How does this makes sense?
    It’s about grace, not racial lineage at this point in Christian History. The “land” promise after the coming of Christ was the whole world, not a certain piece of real state in Middle East.
    Fred Carpenter

  3. John H. Armstrong May 15, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Most ministers who sign the WCF, so far as I can tell, make this clause an “exception” and state this in their procedure. The overwhelming majority of such conservative Protestants do not agree with this any longer and I am of the same opinion, as you can readily tell.
    I support Israel as the truest democracy in the Middle East and because the displaced Jews, following the holocaust, needed a true and real homeland. I am not a Zionist and do not support Israel for prophetic biblical reasons, as do Hagee and all those that you name.
    I agree completely with your statement re: “the land promise” of the Bible and also do not see this as connected to the modern state of Israel or my reasons for protecting it.

  4. Chris Criminger May 15, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Hi John and all,
    Just to add a little more to the discussion, Hagee has gone as far as saying that Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah in his new book on Israel. I take it he is following a kind of two covenant theology to appease his Orthodox Jewish friends. Surely this is just plain wrong as well as a gross misunderstanding of Scripture.

  5. Fred Carpentr May 16, 2008 at 8:01 am

    The first book I read on AIPAC (Israel Lobby) was by Congressman Paul Findley from Illinois called “They Dared To Speak Out”. He noted how most Senators and those in the House don’t last long if they won’t support the Lobby.

  6. Glenn May 16, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Zionism is a political movement that supported the reestablishment of a homeland for the Jewish People in Palestine and continues primarily as support for the modern state of Israel (Wikipedia) You should note the difference between Zionism and Christian Zionism – of which there is a huge difference. To state, “I support Israel as the truest democracy in the Middle East and because the displaced Jews, following the holocaust, needed a true and real homeland” is to define oneself as a Zionist! Zionist do not use biblical prophecy or define specific land borders according to biblical promises to support their cause, while Christian Zionist do.

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