[Marxism] WSJ report on "Christian Zionism" and its support for Israel

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 27 06:23:45 MDT 2006


Some people in the United States, especially if we think of ourselves
as "sophisticated", "political", and so on like to laugh and sneer at
the religious fundamentalist nutcase militants like these, but they're
not much different, in their own way, from some of the odder sectarian
tendencies on the political left, except that they get the backing of
wealthy and nutty individuals and corporations, and though them get 
television and other media coverage. 

Unlike the political left, over on the fundamentaloid poliitical right 
they don't let their doctrinal differences get in the way of united 
action to deny women's rights to abortion, or any rights for lesbians, 
gays and other people whose sexuality doesn't fit what is the prescribed 
formula [marriage, family, sex in the position of the missionaries, with
the lights out, and for purposes procreation only, if you don't mind.

In fact, groups and organizations like this, who have access to some of
the highest levers of power in the United States, as this profile in 
today's Wall Street Journal makes clear, are working toward building as
close to a fascist movement, based on the ignorance and fears which are
so pervasive in the violent culture of the United States, as can today
be built. Without exaggerating their influence, we'd be damned foolish
to laugh them off as just eccentric fruitcases.
=====================================================================
("Christian Zionism has been around for years but is now gaining
greater prominence as it gets turbocharged by the marketing flair of
Mr. Hagee and other religious entrepreneurs. Mr. Hagee has deployed
massive resources to galvanize support for Israel.")
-----------------
("As his exposure grew, so did controversy. He ran into flak for
inviting former White House aide Oliver North, a pardoned felon, and
disgraced televangelist Jimmy Swaggart to speak at Cornerstone. 
----------------
("Mr. Hagee also upset black leaders. To help students seeking odd
jobs, his church newsletter, The Cluster, advertised a 'slave' sale.")
=====================================================================

PAGE ONE

Holy War
A Texas Preacher
Leads Campaign
To Let Israel Fight
Mr. Hagee Draws Evangelicals
By Arguing Jewish State
Fulfills Biblical Prophecy
'End of World as We Know It'
By ANDREW HIGGINS
July 27, 2006; Page A1	

WASHINGTON -- After Israel sent warplanes into Iraq in 1981 to bomb a
nuclear reactor, Texas televangelist John Hagee sent letters to 150
fellow Christian preachers to rally support for the Jewish state.

He got just one positive response. When Mr. Hagee pressed ahead with
plans for a pro-Israel gathering in a San Antonio theater, he says he
got a death threat on the phone and someone shot out all the windows
of his station wagon parked in his driveway.

Last week, as Israel's armed forces pounded Lebanon and worries of a
wider conflagration mounted, Mr. Hagee presided over what he called a
"miracle of God": a gathering of 3,500 evangelical Christians packed
into a Washington hotel to cheer Israel and its current military
campaign.

Standing on a stage bedecked with a huge Israeli flag, Mr. Hagee drew
rapturous applause and shouts of "amen" as he hailed Israel for doing
God's work in a "war of good versus evil." Calls for Israel to show
restraint violate "God's foreign-policy statement" toward Jews, he
said, citing a verse from the Old Testament that promises to "bless
those who bless you" and curse "the one who curses you."

The gathering was sponsored by Christians United for Israel, a
national organization the 66-year-old preacher set up this year. The
group lobbies politicians in Washington, rallies grassroots support
for Israel and aims to educate Christians on what it calls the
"biblical imperative" of supporting the Jewish state.

Mr. Hagee is a leading figure in the so-called Christian-Zionist
movement. This evangelical political philosophy is rooted in biblical
prophecies and a belief that Israel's struggles signal a prelude to
Armageddon. Its followers staunchly support the Bush administration's
unequivocal backing of Israel in its current battle with Hezbollah in
Lebanon.

President Bush sent a message to the gathering praising Mr. Hagee 
and his supporters for "spreading the hope of God's love and the
universal gift of freedom." The Israeli prime minister also sent
words of thanks. Israel's ambassador, its former military chief and a
host of U.S. political heavyweights, mostly Republican, attended.

At a time when Islamist groups are displacing secular nationalists as
the main vehicle for political revolt across the Middle East, Mr.
Hagee and like-minded evangelicals are injecting greater religious
fervor into American attitudes and policy toward the region. They
see, and even sometimes seem to embrace, the notion of a global
conflict between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West, just as do many
zealous Muslims.

"This is a religious war that Islam cannot -- and must not -- win,"
Mr. Hagee wrote in a recent book, "Jerusalem Countdown," which
focuses on what he says is a coming nuclear showdown with Iran. "The
end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching.... Rejoice and
be exceeding glad -- the best is yet to be." The book has sold nearly
700,000 copies since it was released in January, according to his
Florida-based religious publisher, Strang Communications.

Christian Zionism has been around for years but is now gaining
greater prominence as it gets turbocharged by the marketing flair of
Mr. Hagee and other religious entrepreneurs. Mr. Hagee has deployed
massive resources to galvanize support for Israel. He heads a San
Antonio megachurch, which claims 19,000 members, runs a television
company and has close ties to Republican Party power brokers. His
Washington banquet last week cost about $500,000, according to an
organizer. A big Christian broadcasting network, Daystar, carried the
event live.

The following day, he mobilized evangelicals representing all 50
states in a lobbying blitz through the Capitol. Armed with talking
points scripted by Mr. Hagee and his staff, they peppered senators
and congressmen with arguments for Israel and against its enemies,
particularly Iran.

While Mr. Bush is clearly close to evangelicals, he has never fully
embraced their agenda or rhetoric. But their views are generally in
sync with the aims of his national-security strategists, who reach
similar conclusions through a different logic. They have long blasted
what they've termed the "false stability" of a region mostly ruled by
autocrats and that has tolerated terrorist organizations committed to
Israel's destruction. The influential "neo-conservative" school of
foreign-policy advisers has also buttressed this line, arguing that
the U.S. must push more aggressively for democracy in the Middle
East.

Bedrock for Bush

Christian evangelicals, who first found political traction under
President Reagan in the 1980s, now number about 50 million and form a
bedrock constituency for President Bush. Best known for their
lobbying against abortion, same-sex marriage and on other domestic
issues, they have also taken a keen interest in foreign policy,
especially since the attacks of 9/11.

"Leave Israel alone. Let them do the job," Mr. Hagee told his
supporters last week at the banquet. Israel's enemies, said New York
Congressman Eliot Engel, one of the few Democratic speakers, "do the
work of Satan."

This melding of realpolitik and religion, say former and current U.S.
officials, has produced a potent force. Israel's evangelical
supporters "were out there before, but didn't really appear on the
radar screen," says Dennis Ross, a Middle East envoy in the
administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. "Now they
are an important part of the landscape." More than any prior White
House, the Bush administration has established formal, regular
contacts with American evangelical leaders.

The White House says it isn't overly influenced by any one group.
"The president makes decisions about policies for our country based
on what is right for our citizens," says Dana Perino, deputy press
secretary. "The United States has been an ally of Israel since its
founding, and President Bush has worked to strengthen that alliance."

The main vehicle for Mr. Hagee's pro-Israel activities over the years
has been San Antonio's Cornerstone Church, which he first joined as
pastor back in 1975 when it was called Church of Castle Hill, a
moribund parish with only a few dozen worshippers and heavy debts. He
had quit his previous church the same year during a messy divorce
that was quickly followed by his remarriage to a young churchgoer.
Attracted by Mr. Hagee's mix of thundering oratory and folksy humor,
the congregation mushroomed.

The son of a puritanical preacher, Mr. Hagee first visited Israel in
1978. He says he went there "as a tourist and came back home a
Zionist." While in Israel, Mr. Hagee visited Jerusalem's Western Wall
and says he felt a "nearness to God like no other place on Earth." At
that moment, he recalls, "The Lord required of me to do everything I
could to bring Christians and Jews together."

After returning to Texas, Mr. Hagee says he plunged into a
"three-year study binge to discover the Jewish roots of
Christianity." This coincided with a surge of contacts between
American evangelicals and the then Israeli government of Menachem
Begin, a devout biblical scholar and hardline defender of Israel's
right to territories won in 1967. Mr. Begin worked hard to cultivate
American evangelicals, with whom he shared a belief that Israel's
birth in 1948 and subsequent struggles were a fulfillment of biblical
prophecy.

Mr. Hagee says he met with Mr. Begin three times.

When Mr. Begin ordered Israel's air force to bomb Saddam Hussein's
Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, Mr. Hagee was horrified by widespread
criticism that followed. After reading a San Antonio newspaper that
described the attack as an act of "gunboat diplomacy," he decided to
organize a pro-Israel gathering.

Local Christians initially showed little enthusiasm for the idea. San
Antonio's Jewish community was even more wary. "There was a lot of
skepticism," recalls Aryeh Scheinberg, an Orthodox rabbi who took
part in meetings among Jewish leaders to decide how to respond to Mr.
Hagee's proposal. "Everyone wanted to know: 'What does he really
want?' I said, 'Let's give the man a chance and take the risk.' "

The pro-Israel gathering went ahead with both Jews and Christians
present. As Mr. Scheinberg mounted the podium to deliver a final
prayer, security told Mr. Hagee of a bomb threat. Mr. Hagee, a stocky
man who got to college on a football scholarship, says he asked God
to make the rabbi pray "not like Moses but like a Presbyterian late
for lunch." The threat was a hoax.

The event has been held every year since, though some Jewish leaders
refuse to attend and reject any alliance with Mr. Hagee. "Many of his
views are hateful," says Barry Block, a prominent reform rabbi in San
Antonio, who accuses Mr. Hagee of demonizing Muslims and propounding
a divisive right-wing agenda that erodes the barrier between church
and state.

When addressing Jewish audiences, Mr. Hagee generally avoids talking
about Armageddon. But his books, whose titles include "Beginning of
the End" and "From Daniel to Doomsday," are filled with death and
mayhem. "The battlefield will cover the nation of Israel!" he writes
in "Jerusalem Countdown," his recent work, describing a "sea of human
blood drained from the veins of those who have followed Satan."

Some fellow evangelicals accuse Mr. Hagee of ignoring Arab
Christians. Donald Wagner of North Park University, an evangelical
Christian college in Chicago, first traveled to Israel at around the
same time as Mr. Hagee but reached the opposite conclusion. "I was
very pro-Israel until I went there," says Mr. Wagner, who heads a
research group that challenges the theology of Christian Zionists.

A Turn to Television

Little known outside of Texas when he first embraced Zionism, Mr.
Hagee turned to television to promote Jesus, Israel and his own name.
His main platform for this was Global Evangelism Television Inc., a
nonprofit organization. First set up in 1978, GETV initially relayed
the programming of others to local cable operators. In the 1980s it
began pumping out its own shows featuring Mr. Hagee for broadcast on
national Christian networks. His sermons and chat shows now appear on
120 stations and, he says, reach more than 90 million homes.

By the mid-1980s his flock had outgrown his church in central San
Antonio. In 1987, Cornerstone moved to a 35-acre suburban campus with
a 5,000-person assembly hall and a new television and radio studio.

As his exposure grew, so did controversy. He ran into flak for
inviting former White House aide Oliver North, a pardoned felon, and
disgraced televangelist Jimmy Swaggart to speak at Cornerstone. He
also feuded with the U.S. Postal Service over nonprofit rates for
church mailings that contained ads for his books and videos. 
(He sued and, he says, got a refund of around $40,000.)

Mr. Hagee also upset black leaders. To help students seeking odd
jobs, his church newsletter, The Cluster, advertised a "slave" sale.
"Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone," it said. "Make
plans to come and go home with a slave." Mr. Hagee apologized but, in
a radio interview, protested about pressure to be "politically
correct" and joked that perhaps his pet dog should be called a
"canine American."

The quarrels didn't stop the steady growth of his congregation, which
is multiracial. His "nights to honor Israel" got bigger, too, as did
his clout as a fund-raiser for Israeli causes. He says he has raised
over $12 million so far.

Increasingly prominent, the preacher attracted the eye and,
initially, the ire of Jerry Falwell, the dean of the Christian right
and another enthusiastic supporter of Israel.

In 1994, The National Liberty Journal, a conservative monthly run by
Mr. Falwell, labeled Mr. Hagee a "heretic" for championing so-called
dual-covenant theory -- a belief that Jews and Christians have
separate deals with God that allow each to get into heaven. The
traditional Christian view is that Jews and other non-Christians must
convert -- or end up on the wrong side of the battle of Armageddon.

Soon after the article appeared, Mr. Falwell arranged to meet the
Texan at a Christian pow-wow in Memphis. Mr. Hagee, says Mr. Falwell,
convinced him that he didn't believe in the "dual covenant." Mr.
Falwell now sits on the board of Christians United for Israel.

Mr. Hagee, citing a New Testament verse, says a "remnant of Jewish
people...have favor with God right now" but he is vague on which Jews
will get to heaven without conversion, saying that only God knows
this. He dismisses the dual-covenant issue as "something to start
coffee-table debate."

Closer to Power

Mr. Bush's 2000 election victory and the Republican Party's control
of both houses of Congress brought evangelical Christians closer to
power than ever before. Mr. Hagee had met Mr. Bush several times
while he was Texas governor and solidly supported his push for the
White House. Mr. Hagee was closer, though, to another powerful Texan,
Congressman Tom DeLay. Soon after becoming majority leader in the
House of Representatives, Mr. DeLay gave the keynote speech at Mr.
Hagee's 2002 pro-Israel gathering in San Antonio. Mr. DeLay, since
embroiled in a corruption scandal, also spoke last week in
Washington.

In 2003, The San Antonio Express-News dug into Mr. Hagee's filings
with the Internal Revenue Service. The article alleged no wrongdoing,
but reported that Mr. Hagee received more than $1.25 million in 2001
for his church and TV work and had a trust that includes a nearly
8,000-acre $2.1 million Texas ranch.

Mr. Hagee says that the bulk of his earnings comes from royalty
payments from his 21 books, not from churchgoers' donations. He says
he'll earn much the same this year if book sales hold up.

His finances under the spotlight, Mr. Hagee reorganized his holdings
in a way that allowed him to avoid having to make public filings. In
September 2004, Global Evangelism Television re-registered as a
church under the name Grace Church of San Antonio. Churches, unlike
religious TV companies and other nonprofit outfits, are exempt from
filing detailed returns with the IRS. A further reorganization in
recent weeks moved all assets into Cornerstone Church. None of the
Church's financial records are publicly available. Mr. Hagee said his
lawyers had recommended the changes for "greater clarity."

President Bush abandoned President Clinton's efforts to secure a
big-bang peace settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict but, under
prodding from Britain and others, did back a slow-paced plan known as
the Roadmap for Peace.

In May 2003, Mr. Hagee and other evangelical leaders sent a letter to
President Bush applauding the invasion of Iraq but complaining about
the Israel-Palestine peace plan. They said it would be "morally
reprehensible" for the U.S. to be "evenhanded" between Israel and
"the terrorist-infested Palestinian infrastructure."

Last fall, he took his annual "night to honor Israel," to Israel,
holding the event in the hangar of an Israeli air-force base. He
spoke at the Israeli Parliament and organized a visit for his U.S.
followers to Megiddo, an Israeli hilltop that he believes will be the
site of the battle of Armageddon.

Mr. Hagee also started laying plans for Christians United for Israel,
hoping to meld a plethora of mostly small pro-Israel Christian groups
into a national network. He contacted Mr. Falwell, who says he
immediately offered support. He hired David Brog, a lawyer who had
worked in both Israel and on Capitol Hill and who is a distant cousin
of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as the new
organization's executive director.

As Mr. Hagee's plans took shape last fall, American Israel Public
Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, set up an "outreach" unit to
work with Christians and others. Appointed to head the unit was a San
Antonio native who had previously worshipped at the synagogue of Mr.
Scheinberg, the Orthodox rabbi who has been one of Mr. Hagee's
keenest supporters.

Christians United for Israel held its first meeting in San Antonio in
February and immediately began organizing last week's Washington
event. To galvanize support and allay suspicions in some quarters of
his motives, Mr. Hagee traveled around the country, meeting with
Christian and Jewish leaders. Some Jews worry that Christian-Zionists
want to convert Jews to Christianity, something Mr. Hagee has always
denied.

The current eruption of violence, says Mr. Hagee, shows that Israel
should not surrender land in search of peace and that Christians and
Jews are on the same side.

"If God opposes giving away the land, if it has never worked, let's
come up with another plan," he thundered last week. "Do not give the
land away. It belongs to you. It is God's heritage to you."

--Karby Leggett in Jerusalem contributed to this article.





More information about the Marxism mailing list