Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Christian Zionist Gathering Mired in Controversy

As well it should be!

by Bill Berkowitz

The battle lines over Pastor John Hagee have been drawn, redrawn, and are no doubt being drawn again as this is being written. The San Antonio, Texas-based mega-preacher with the multi-million-dollar empire has always been controversial, but these days, the pastor is a lightning rod for critics.

And as the days pass leading up to Hagee’s annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference in Washington next month, new revelations of his anti-Semitism have come to light.

Preachers like Hagee, and there are many, many who are like him, have hated Jewish people for as long as I can remember. These kinds of preachers (some non-denominational, some Baptist, some from smaller denominations) have never had a kind word to say about Jewish people or Roman Catholics. We can now add Muslims to the mix, of course. Basically, they hate anyone and everyone who are not part of their "faith tradition." I use quotes, because I can't find anything faithful about them and the only real tradition they have is one of hate and division. The things they say in public are quite different from the things they say in private and they always have been.

At last year’s CUFI conference, Senator Joseph Lieberman called Hagee “an Ish Elochim”, saying he is “a man of God, and, like Moses, he is the leader of a mighty multitude.”

Hagee has been a whack-job for as long as I can remember but, in all seriousness, what has happened to Lieberman? Did we all just not realize how far 'round the bend "holy Joe" is or has something happened to an internal head injury or a psycho-emotional breakdown of some kind?

"Like Moses, he is the leader of a mighty multitude?" A mighty multitude of what, exactly? A multitude of whack-jobs just like himself, except that his flock is much more poor than he is, for reasons obvious to any one who watches one of his sermons on occasion.

When it was first revealed that Hagee had made a series of anti-Catholic remarks, critics, including Bill Donohue of the conservative Catholic League, went ballistic. Hagee apologised. When Hagee blamed gay people for causing Hurricane Katrina, many were offended. Hagee offered up a half-hearted apology and quickly moved on.

Bill Donohue is like many others, in the Christian tradition, who seem shocked to find themselves in bed with snakes over the abortion and gay rights issues. Donohue, and others like him, really thought all of that Catholic-hating was over a long time ago. It is over among members and clergy of other mainline Christian Churches, for the most part. (There are always exceptions to every rule.) Nevertheless, the old saying still holds true; if one does not want to receive a deadly bite, one should not lie down with snakes.

When a preacher says a hateful thing about you or to you about another, why would you accept his apology and go on as if it had never happened? Because of a political bond of any kind? The diatribes of Hagee and those of his ilk are not mistakes he made in a fit of pique or while having a stroke. The snake meant every word he said, he just did not want you to hear it, for political expediency's sake.

To American Jews, Catholics and other targets of hatred by the far-right, fundamentalist, end-timer, crusading crackpots, I would issue, as I have on many a website other than this one, a dire warning: No matter what is at stake, don't hang out with the crazies. If you do, you will find crazy and, often times, dreadful things happening to you and to people you love.

However, when Hagee’s remarks about Hitler being sent by God to force the Jews to pack their bags for Israel became a You Tube sensation — and then garnered the attention of the mainstream media — longtime allies in the Jewish community began to question what Hagee was up to.

As I said then, Hagee finally hit on the wrong voting block...............

They sure as hell better be questioning everything about Hagee and all of those who are like him. It has amazed and shocked me that Israeli politicians like Bibi Netanyahu and other Likudniks have allowed themselves to become so aligned with the likes of Hagee, Robertson, Falwell, when he was still alive, and others of the Religiously Insane of America, Inc. Perhaps the politicians of Israel, like the Neocons over here, don't believe that the beliefs of these nut-jobs matter all that much, as long as they and their flocks will help elect those friendly to Israel. WRONG!!!

Their beliefs will get you and, perhaps, us blown to hell and back, because their god is apparently so impotent and their theology so twisted, that they believe they have to help him out a little with Armageddon thing. It doesn't matter to them, you see, if Israel gets nuked, because Jesus will then descend and fix everything. Of course, all but around 144,000 of you guys will be road- kill on the road to heaven for them. When the Hagees of the world speak about the Jews being God's chosen people, it is to the 144,000 Jews, who will accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, that they are referring. Jews who remain Jewish are bound for hell-fire and damnation just after being cannon fodder for Armageddon, along with the Muslims, who are all damned to hell, according to crusading-crackpot theology.

To his credit, Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, quickly threw Hagee off the bus, despite having spent a year courting the pastor for his endorsement.

To his credit? TO HIS CREDIT? McCain doesn't get any credit for this. When a politician goes seeking a preacher's endorsement, he had damned well better know what that preacher has been preaching, especially when typical preachin' of this type usually contains pure hatred for one group or another.

However, the condemnation hasn’t been universal. A number of fellow Christian conservatives and Jewish leaders have rushed to defend the beleaguered pastor. While last year Hagee was treated like royalty at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he prudently chose not to attend this year’s meeting earlier this month. Nevertheless, when his name was brought up by CUFI executive director David Brog, “the crowd broke into a lengthy round of applause, ending in a standing ovation,” the Jewish Daily Forward reported.

Hagee is an "us v. them," hate-mongering blabber-mouth. There is no way I will ever understand or defend Christians who would defend him and his ilk. Jews who defend him are either using him or they are too dumb to live, as a friend of mine describes anyone who does not know his enemies or, worse yet, mistakes his enemies for his friends.

From Jul. 21-24, Hagee’s Christians United for Israel will be holding its third annual “summit” in Washington. Among the scheduled speakers are Gary Bauer, a CUFI board member and longtime religious right activist and president of American Values; former Republican senator Rick Santorum; Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor; Brad Gordon, co-director of Policy and Government Affairs at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); Daniel Pipes; and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Leonard Fein, in a Jewish Daily Forward piece titled “Our Hagee Problem Has Yet to Be Addressed” asked: “How many of these [the scheduled speakers at the CUFI conference] will now, in light of the new information about Hagee’s beliefs, cancel out? Or will they twist and turn to rationalize their continuing support for this false witness?”

I have to admit it will be interesting to see who walks away and who doesn't.

Despite pleas not to attend the Washington meeting from a number of organizations, including the newly formed Jewish group, J Street — which has partnered with Democracy for America in an effort called “Say It Ain’t So, Joe” — Lieberman appears thus far steadfast in his willingness to stand with Hagee.

One does have to wonder if Lieberman has had a stroke or something.

Some of the other guests are also being asked to forgo attending the conference. At the same time, Hagee’s pals are urging their followers to go to Washington and support the embattled preacher.

In defending Hagee, Stephen Strang, president and chairman of Christian Life Missions and regional director for CUFI, wrote that “Hagee has done more than any other Christian in our generation to show love to the Jews and to stand strong with Israel. Yet he made one comment, taken out of context about Hitler, that some liberal blogger says makes him anti-Semitic.”

For anyone to say that Hitler was an instrument of can that be taken out of context? Hagee "shows love to the Jews" and stands strong with Israel? Has anyone asked him why? I can assure Holy Joe that it isn't because he does, indeed, love Jewish people. He doesn't. Hagee and his ilk still see Jews as "Christ-killers." . He supports Israel for one reason and one reason only; so that all of the Jews of the earth can be shoved back into that small spit of sand at the other end of the Mediterranean and the Temple can be rebuilt.

One comment as Strang alleges? Bruce Wilson, the investigative journalist who first put together the video of Hagee’s Hitler sermon, has uncovered more anti-Jewish material tucked away in the Hagee archives.

In an e-mail interview, Wilson told IPS that all of the Hagee material that he has been “writing about and making videos (short documentary videos in some cases) of has come from material that Hagee has mass marketed himself, mostly from his sermons.”

It is always so with big egos. Sooner or later, they get hung with their own words, when there are enough good people around who hear those words and expose them to the rest of the world.

According to Wilson, at Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio on three consecutive Sundays in March 2003, the pastor delivered “sermons heavily loaded with anti-Jewish memes, stereotypes, slurs and conspiracy theories, one of which was almost identical to what was perhaps Adolph Hitler’s favorite conspiracy theory, which alleged that an international Jewish banking cabal, led by the Jewish Rothschild banking family, controls the fates of entire nations, even the progression of world events and history, through the manipulation of global money markets.”

This does not surprise me in the least. In the deep-south/bible-belt, where I grew up, it was often difficult to tell the difference between the preachers and the Klan or the NeoNazis.

The three sermons — delivered on the eve of, and just after, the invasion of Iraq — were packaged and sold by Hagee’s ministry as “Iraq: The Final War.”

There is no final war; not as long a mankind exists, untransformed, on the earth.

WWI was supposed to be the last world-war, as people actually believed that it would be the last war man would be willing to endure; the weapons of war having become so much more terrible with TNT. As a matter of fact, that was the hope of the maker of dynamite.

Then, as WWII was coming to a close, two atomic bombs were used by the U.S. on Japan, primarily to scare the wits out of Stalin. Many believed that those two Mushroom clouds signaled the end of world-wide war. Nope, those hideous clouds simply marked the beginning of the "cold-war," with hot out-breaks periodically, and the never-ending feeding of the beast, known as the military-industrial-complex.

Wilson claims that Hagee’s sermons are part of a distinct and “deeply disturbing pattern.” He notes that Hagee’s Cornerstone Church members have sung “Blow the Trumpet in Zion” at CUFI’s “signature event”, the Night to Honour Israel, with scripture drawn from the Second Book of Joel, Chapter 2, verses 1-11.

“That scripture…concerns prophecy forecasting the invasion and ‘desolation’ of Israel expected by Hagee and his church flock, which is divided into 12 administrative units each named for a Tribe of Israel,” Wilson said.

Hagee and his crowd are NUTZ, but that does not mean that they aren't dangerous as hell. They are. Of all the types of insanity, religious insanity is the most dangerous.

Although the preaching of Hagee and other conservative Christian evangelicals has been going on for decades, “Few in the American Jewish community, or the Israeli Jewish community, grasp the magnitude of the anti-Jewish hatred that has been stoked from American pulpits and American televangelist broadcast networks,” Wilson recently wrote.

And Mr Wilson is absolutely right.

After WWII and the horrors of Hitler's concentration camps came to light, antisemitism became more and more frowned upon in the U.S., except among some religious groups, such as that of Hagee, and semi-religious groups like the Klan/ the Neo-nazis. When it comes to hatred, there isn't a dimes worth of difference between them.

“The propaganda has been slightly coded but in the end not very subtle. Rather than directly vilify Jews, Christian fundamentalist preachers and leaders have for decades vilified groups and terms that traditionally, for better or worse, have been associated with Jews.”

While some Jewish leaders reject out of hand the End Times theory that sees Israel as the final battleground before the return of Christ, others prefer to look away, sometimes even laughing off the loopier aspects of these apocalyptic visions on the one hand, while accepting millions of dollars of support for their favorite Israel charities and powerful political network the Christian Zionists have built.

In other words, we have fools using fools using fools for their own political gains and mythic level theology.

Bruce Wilson’s research, and the attendant publicity it generated, has likely forced Hagee to the sidelines for the bulk of the presidential campaign. When asked whether his new discoveries will lead to the severing of ties between Hagee and some of his most fervent Jewish supporters, Wilson told IPS that “were they to get anything close to the same level of media play as the ‘God sent Hitler’ video it might. Barring that, it would probably take something even more shocking to cause such a rift.”

Fools and more fools.......

Will Lieberman and Pipes continue backing Hagee regardless of what other anti-Jewish commentaries might be discovered? Will CUFI continue to escalate its push for the Bush Administration to deal militarily with Iran? These questions might be answered when CUFI members flock to Washington next month.

Perhaps the fools should be joined and confronted....

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column “Conservative Watch” documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

Copyright © 2008 IPS-Inter Press Service

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

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