Archive for John Hagee

Christians for Palestine

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Pastors with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Jerusalem Church

“Jesus was the first Palestinian martyr.” –Yasser Arafat

A few months back Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren penned an article titled, “Israel and the plight of Palestinian Christians,” in which he attempted to manipulate the reality of Christians in the Holy Land. Oren’s article came on the heels of an Islamophobic screed by Ayaan H. Ali in Newsweek titled, “The War on Christians.”

Also, today, Bob Simon of 60 minutes will be reporting on the “slow exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.”

As the birthplace of Christianity, Palestine is home to the oldest Christian populations in the world. But after centuries of continuous presence in the Holy Land, the creation of modern-day Israel in 1948 precipitated a quiet exodus of native Christians.

Although Christian opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict has always been mixed in Western countries, many evangelicals have been blind to the plight of  Palestinians in favor of Israeli hardliners. Though their unconditional support for Israel can be attributed to many factors, the phenomenon of “Christian Zionism” can at least in part be traced to concerted outreach efforts on behalf of Israel–bolstered by negative portrayals of the Palestinian people, and an absence of their narrative.

Christian Palestinian groups like Sabeel Center and Al-Bushra have had an on-line presence for years, but they were not widely known outside the Middle East. Recently, Palestinian Christians reached out to the global community with the launch of the Kairos Palestine Document, modeled after the South African Kairos Document published in 1985 as part of a successful effort to abolish Apartheid:

This document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades. The suffering continues while the international community silently looks on at the occupying State, Israel. Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God.

We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid, urging them to work for a just peace in our region, calling on them to revisit theologies that justify crimes perpetrated against our people and the dispossession of the land.

Also, last month in the West Bank city of  Christ’s birth, the Bethlehem Bible College  held an annual conference under the banner, “Christ at the Checkpoint.” Hundreds of Christians from around the world attended, and organizers hailed the event as, ”a major breakthrough in the evangelical world.”

While Palestinian Christians have so far reached only a small minority of their Western counterparts, their apparent success has captured the attention of Israel’s increasingly worried supporters.

Christians for Palestine

By Lee SmithTablet

For most American Jews and Israelis, evangelical Christians are synonymous with zealous, biblically inspired support of the Jewish state—so zealous, in fact, that it makes some Jews uneasy. But the days when Israel could count on unconditional support from evangelicals may be coming to an end.

Last month, a conference convened in Bethlehem by Palestinian activists and Christian clergy long at odds with the Jewish state managed to bring a number of leading lights from the evangelical community in North America and Europe to the Holy Land. Many of the speeches at the conference touched on themes that one would commonly hear at a BDS teach-in, like blaming the entire Middle East conflict on Israel’s occupation and the settlements.

Indeed, the name of the conference, Christ at the Checkpoint, is indicative of the different direction this segment of the evangelical movement is heading toward. The idea is that evangelicals should rethink their support for a state that occupies another people and oppresses them. Once they get the full story, conference organizers hope, Western evangelicals may find they have more in common with the downtrodden Palestinians than with the Israelis.

To pro-Israel evangelicals and Zionists who were paying attention, Christ at the Checkpoint was a wake-up call. The larger trend, which for want of a better phrase might be called the pro-Palestinian evangelical movement and is indeed spearheaded by Palestinian Christians, is already changing minds. Giving them momentum are money raised in the United States, theology, and perhaps most important of all, a movie. The documentary film With God on Our Side is leaving many former pro-Israel evangelicals wondering why they never heard the Palestinian side of the story.

Many friends of Israel, as well as Israelis, have long been concerned that evangelical support is premised largely on self-interest of an especially macabre nature. Israel, in this reading, is ground zero for the apocalypse: Before Christ can return to Earth, the Jews must return to Israel and the Temple must be restored, ushering in first a time of tribulation and then a reign of peace.

Of course, the apocalypse and Christ’s return is not the only justification for Christian support of Israel. Indeed, this end-time scenario embarrasses some evangelicals whose support is premised on the idea that God keeps his promises, not only to Christians but also to Jews, to whom God pledged the land of Israel. This conviction is further buttressed by a sense of historical responsibility, specifically to stand with the Jews and atone for the failure of Christians during the Holocaust to save the nation that gave them their savior.

Though the vast majority of evangelicals still maintain that support, for the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948, there is an increasingly heated debate in the evangelical community that may augur a shift in the political winds. And if the Christ at the Checkpoint camp wins out, the pro-Israel Jewish community that once looked warily upon evangelical support may come to regard that movement with nostalgia.

***

“The debate in the Jewish community should not be about whether or not to be comfortable with Christian support for Israel,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, told me last week. “Christians are going to be involved in the issue whether we are comfortable or not. The question is whether they’re going to be on Israel’s side or not.”

Christians United for Israel is the United States’ largest and best-known Christian Zionist organization. Founded in 2006 by John Hagee, pastor of the CornerStone Church in San Antonio, Texas, CUFI boasts over a million members. Hagee has found himself in the middle of political controversy in the past—most recently during John McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign when his statements regarding the Holocaust were misinterpreted and McCain rejected his support. (Hagee declined to comment for this article.)

John Hagee
John Hagee

Hagee and other figures base support for the Jewish state on biblical foundations, specifically on Genesis 12:3, where God tells Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” The message is clear: Those who support Israel will be rewarded by God. But pro-Israel evangelicals have sent their flock out into the field vulnerable—that is, without an account of the conflict that besets the citizens of the present-day homeland of the Jews. Armed only with a biblical defense of the Jewish state, evangelicals are unprepared to justify it on political grounds.

This gap has made room for people across the cultural and ideological spectrum—whose motivations run the gamut from genuine compassion for Palestinians to anti-Semitism—to fill the space with their own interpretations of contemporary Middle East history. Not surprisingly, many of these narratives tend to be drawn from precincts of the left, like the BDS movement, that are known for their hostility to the Jewish state. What is peculiar is that these accounts are being entertained and sometimes embraced in evangelical churches, Bible schools, and Christian colleges that are not typically known for their progressive politics.

It wasn’t difficult for these Christian critics of Israel to find a weak link in the Christian Zionist narrative—it’s the ethical morass inherent in the formulation of Genesis 12:3. The children of the Bible, Christians as well as Jews, believe that all people are created in God’s image and are therefore born with individual dignity. But if people of faith are supposed to bless Israel because they’ll be blessed in return, then they are treating others, Jews and Arabs, not as individuals but rather as instruments in their own spiritual drama.

You can’t treat people as chess pieces, says Porter Speakman Jr., the 40-year-old director of With God on Our Side. This 82-minute-long documentary, which premiered in 2010 and is now being shown at churches and college campuses, has had a major role in tilting evangelical opinion, especially among young people, against Israel. Speakman told me in a phone interview that isn’t aim isn’t to “delegitimize Israel, but to be critical of policies that are having an effect on real people’s lives.”

“I grew up in a Christian home in the south, where not to support Israel was to go against God,” Speakman told me. He said he made the film in order to explore a question that he thinks has been missing from the conversation in the evangelical community. That is: “What are the consequences of my beliefs and my theology for real people living on the ground?”

With God on Our Side follows the intellectual odyssey of Christopher Harrell, a twenty-something recent film-school graduate, who is trying to come to grips with the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is a very different story from the Bible-based injunctions that formed his spiritual life as a child. The film’s narrative trajectory starts with Harrell’s parents, who he recalls once celebrated Passover—“I’m not sure why we did that. We’re not Jewish. We’re just this normal American Midwestern family”—and who support Israel because that’s “just what everyone did.” The film moves then to a series of interviews with figures in the evangelical community known for their animus toward Zionism, like Gary Burge and Stephen Sizer, and writers outside the evangelical milieu whose reputation rests on their hostility to Israel, like Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein.

These interviews challenge the mainstream evangelical narrative with well-worn accusations typical of BDSers. For instance, the Israeli occupation, says one South African evangelical, is “apartheid on steroids.”

“Growing up,” Speakman said of his childhood, “there was never a choice, you were supposed to love and support Israel. That meant following Genesis 12 as well as a fulfillment of endtime prophecies. But does supporting Israel mean supporting all of Israel’s geopolitical decisions?”

Speakman, who lived in Israel with his wife from 1998 until 2003, said that he thinks the role of Christians is to support both Jews and Arabs in their search for a solution. But some critics of his documentary think that the film goes much further. They see it as making the case that evangelicals have taken the wrong side—favoring a nation inhabited by those who rejected Jesus as their savior rather than the Christian communities that have existed in the Holy Land since the time of Christ. The issue is that key segments of the Palestinian Christian community have a vested political interest in delegitimizing Zionism—a fact that Speakman and other Western activists in the evangelical community may or may not be aware of.

Among the Palestinian outfits leading the campaign critical of Israel is the Bethlehem Bible College, which organized Christ at the Checkpoint, for which Speakman served as a media coordinator. The most prominent and active organization is the Jerusalem-based Sabeel, headed by a Palestinian Anglican priest, Rev. Naim Ateek. Its American branch, Friends of Sabeel North America, is based in Portland, Ore., and raises money for its Jerusalem affiliate.

“Sabeel is nakedly hostile to Israel,” Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst for CAMERA, told me in an interview. In an article on Sabeel and Ateek published last week, Van Zile quotes the clergyman at length, including this peculiar admission: “From my perspective as a Palestinian Christian, Zionism is a step backward in the development of Judaism.”

***

According to Randy Neal, Western Regional Coordinator of CUFI, the ideological foundations of the pro-Palestinian Christian movement are grounded in both liberation theology and replacement theology. The first is a politicized doctrine that requires a continual mindset of victimhood, in order to solicit political sympathy and action on behalf of the “oppressed” against the “oppressors.” The latter holds that the church has replaced Jews as God’s chosen and become the real Israel.

“It’s not just that church has replaced Israel,” said Neal, but for many of the Palestinian Christian clergy and their activist sympathizers, “the Palestinian church is the real church. Jesus, on this reading, was an underdog, who came to champion the underdog. He was oppressed by the Romans, so if you are Christ-like, you are also oppressed, like the Palestinians. This increasingly includes the idea that Jesus was a Palestinian. It’s an adopted narrative that is believed to have started with Yasser Arafat, but to some people it’s become a gospel fact.”

In other words, it’s a narrative that denies Jesus’ Jewish identity. “It is a very ugly expression of Christian anti-Semitism,” Neal said.

But Brog, Neal’s colleague, disagrees: “anti-Semitism is not the driving force.” Rather, he said, the impetus comes from a combination of two ideological streams. “There’s the anti-Israel perspective, which comes from the Palestinian Christians, who are using theology to preach a politically anti-Israel message. And then there are the Christians based in North America and Europe who are allowing liberal politics to trump Christian beliefs.”

The unpleasant reality is that Christian anti-Semitism has as much, if not more, theological justification as Christian support for Israel. Compared to two millennia of Christian anti-Semitism culminating with the Holocaust, one biblical verse is a pretty thin thread on which to hang support of the Jewish state.

Neal says that he believes Christian love of Israel is premised on Genesis 12:3 and on Joel 3:2: “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will enter into judgement with them there for my people, my heritage Israel.”

“We are supposed to love what God loves,” Neal said. “We consider ourselves ambassadors of Christ. For centuries, Christians abused and abandoned the apple of God’s eye, and we are not going to let that happen again on our watch.”

But as CUFI pushes Genesis and Joel, the Christ at the Checkpoint crowd is focused exclusively on Palestinians’ distress and apparently ignoring history. CAMERA’s Van Zile, who attended last month’s conference, noted that nowhere in the pro-Palestinian evangelical narrative is there any account of Jewish persecution. “I’ve heard moving testimony about Palestinian suffering. But they don’t acknowledge Muslim anti-Semitism. They don’t talk about Palestinian leadership, or how it’s abused the Palestinian community. There’s no account of Hamas in their story about Israel.”

********

John Hagee of the rabid Zionist Christians United for Israel, trying to drag the US into a war with Iran:

Why Did Eli Wiesel Speak at CUFI?

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by loonwatch

Why Did Eli Wiesel Speak at CUFI?

Eli Wiesel
Eli Wiesel

Why has Eli Wiesel, the renowned author of Night, a book which many consider to be part of the canon of 2oth century literature spoken at a CUFI (Christians United for Israel) conference? This is astounding considering that CUFI is an apocalyptic organization which holds some very strange, some would characterize Anti-Semitic views. It is also an organization that is virulently anti-Muslim and Islamophobic.

This is a letter that some concerned individuals in the Jewish Community sent to Mr. Wiesel in the hope that he would cancel his speech at CUFI.

An Open Letter to Eli Wiesel

Dear Mr. Wiesel,

Your years of tireless campaigning for human rights and against anti-Semitism have earned our deepest respect. For this reason we have written the following letter in hope that you will reconsider your support of events sponsored by John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. We realize that the outward show of support for Jews and Israel, on display at Hagee’s CUFI events, can be very enticing but there is another aspect of Christian Zionism which we believe runs strongly counter to Jewish and Israeli interests.

John Hagee teaches “theological racism,” the idea that the destiny of peoples is based on their biblical genealogy. Hagee claims Jewish souls are different from those of gentiles and that, according to divine plan, Jews have no right to live anywhere on Earth but in Israel. Hagee’s fellow Christian Zionists predict that a coming, divinely ordained paroxysm of anti-Semitic violence, a “second Holocaust,” will be necessary to force all Jews to make aliyah. From the pulpit, pastor Hagee and his fellow Christian Zionists preach their theological racism that risks provoking such a catastrophe.

When you attend CUFI events, you will receive a great deal of outward affection and participate in singing and celebration that looks and sounds Jewish. However, this is a manifestation of a volatile millennial cycle, an exuberant embrace of “Hebrew roots” founded on the expectation that this generation will bring about the fulfillment of “God’s plan for Israel.” There is some argument among Christian Zionists about the exact timing and details of this plan, but on one point they are absolutely consistent; the ingathering of Jews to Israel, and the elimination of Rabbinic Judaism as part of Israel’s “restoration,” are required for the 1000 year reign of Christ.

Our combined years of research have produced a substantial body of documentation on the anti-Semitic face of Christian Zionism. Last May, one small piece of that documentation was widely publicized through a video by Bruce Wilson that included a quote, from a sermon John Hagee gave in 2005, in which pastor Hagee stated “…then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.” Amidst the ensuing publicity, presidential candidate John McCain rejected Hagee’s political endorsement.

John Hagee’s attacks on Judaism are well documented and have included calling Hillel an extremist whose followers incited both the killing of Jesus and centuries of anti-Semitism. From the pulpit Hagee has claimed that the anti-Christ is “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler.”

Hagee also preaches that European-based Rothschilds control the US economy, through the Federal Reserve, and conspire to attack the American middle class by devaluing the dollar. According to the ADL, this class of Federal Reserve conspiracy theory, which names Rothschilds, is a “classic anti-Semitic myth.” ADL traces it to Christian Identity, one of the most overtly anti-Semitic sectors of American society but one which uses “Hebrew” symbols and Christianized version of Jewish holidays because, according to Identity theology, Christians, not Jews, are the “true Israelites.”

Christian Identity’s roots are based a millennial movement that was “philo-Semitic,” but which in the early 20th century rejected Jews as impostors descended from Esau and the Edomites. This narrative can still be seen throughout Identity media. In his 2006 book Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee promotes a similar theological claim, that a lineage of “half-breed Jews,” descended from Esau and which included Adolf Hitler, have persecuted full-blooded Jews throughout history. Hagee writes that God intends to exterminate that “half-breed Jew” line.

Christian Identity’s overt anti-Semitism has very limited appeal and reach. Cloaked in the guise of “love” for Jews and Israel, John Hagee’s conspiracy theories and theological racism can be consumed without guilt by listeners in the 190 nations Hagee claims to reach through Christian television and radio broadcast networks.

How can John Hagee so sincerely and convincingly claim to love Israel while introducing theological racism to a international audience?

The widely taught prophecy narrative of the “fishers and hunters” of Jeremiah 16 helps to explain this paradox. Christian Zionists see themselves as the “fishers” who must befriend and cajole Jews, through emotional and financial support, to fulfill their prophetic destiny. Meanwhile, the “hunters” are overt anti-Semites who will force the remaining Jews of the world to flee to Israel. In order for the Christian Zionist prophecy of the “restoration of Israel” to be fulfilled, there must be a future wave of violent anti-Semitism in which the world will turn on Jews and Israel.

The quote which our research team provided to the press from Hagee’s 2005 sermon series, “Jerusalem Countdown,” concerned Hitler’s role as a “hunter” in the “fishers and hunters” narrative. But Hitler did not succeed in forcing all Jews to flee to Israel, and even those Jews who have settled in today’s modern state of Israel have not met the prophetic requirement of “spiritual restoration,” which is acceptance of Jesus. In his 2005 sermon Hagee also stated, “they [the Jews] are physically alive but they’re not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come spiritually alive…”

Many Christian Zionist leaders describe their prophecy of the “time of Jacob’s trouble” as the second or final holocaust of the Jews. Tom Hess, in Let My People Go, pleads with Jews to leave the U.S. before it is too late, and Hess details his vision of trains all over the world taking Jews from major cities. In her best-selling fictional portrayal of the Jewish people, Israel My Beloved, Kay Arthur has portrayed the coming persecution to be “beyond the horrors of Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz.” Richard Booker’s Blow the Trumpet in Zion features a list, on the back cover, of the book’s topics, including “Why Christians Should Love Jews” and “The Jews’ Final Holocaust.” Booker explains that nothing less than this “final holocaust” can bring the Jews back to God, and Jesus can not be king of all the world until Jews accept him. Paradoxically, these Christian Zionists seek to “bless Israel” and show their “love” for Jews through fulfillment of a prophecy in which Judaism is eradicated.

All three of these Christian Zionist leaders have become involved in the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus, which is working to raise millennial expectations to a fevered pitch – with the endorsement of the Israeli government. Some may view their support as politically valuable, but Christian Zionists are helping to spread around the globe a dangerous obsession with Jews and Israel.

Mr. Wiesel, you have spent your life teaching the world about the dangers of anti-Semitism. Please do not provide legitimacy to John Hagee and other Christian Zionists who have spent their careers teaching that the elimination of Judaism is the will of God and the divine plan for Israel. Yes, the exuberant singing, dancing, and tears of Christian Zionists are indeed a celebration of their love for Israel – but that is a strange and terrible love, not too far from hate, which seeks a very different Israel than the one of Jewish hopes and a very different future for the world than the vision of peace and coexistence for which you have fought all of these years.

Sincerely,
Bruce Wilson
Rachel Tabachnick

Notes:
Elie Wiesel is scheduled to speak at John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church on Sunday, October 25 for a CUFI Night to Honor Israel event.

Bruce Wilson is the co-founder of Talk2action.org and produced the nationally televised video clip on Hagee’s 2005 sermon series, “Jerusalem: Countdown To Crisis”. (Despite Hagee’s comments, the quote came from a 2005 sermon in which Hagee later referred to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.)

Rachel Tabachnick also contributes to Talk2Action.org and is the author of “God’s Plan for Israel, The End Times Prophecy Narrative of Christian Zionism,” a free teaching resource on CD.