On March 7, 2008 John McCain repudiated any views of a prominent televangelist who endorsed him last month “if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics.”John McCain has won the GOP nomination. Can he win the hearts and minds of the Christian right? THE JOURNAL reports on popular conservative evangelist John Hagee and his controversial endorsement of McCain. Hagee, leader of the politically powerful group Christians United for Israel (CUFI), has been criticized for controversial remarks about Catholics and about America’s role in the Middle East. Some say his message is dangerous: “It is time for America to … consider a military preemptive strike against Iran to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Israel and a nuclear attack in America.” Find out more about the politics and philosophy of Hagee and CUFI below:
“If a line has to be drawn, draw it around Christians and Jews. We are united.”
-Pastor John Hagee, CUFI Founder
John Hagee, along with other Christian Evangelical leaders, created Christians United for Israel (CUFI) less than two years ago, yet it has already grown into one of the largest and most politically influential Christian grassroots organizations in the country.
“When 50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel, it is a match made in heaven.”
Dr. Hagee founded and is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational evangelical church that has more than 18,000 members. He is also the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which he says boasts a television and radio audience of 99 million homes.
At the recent annual CUFI summit in Washington, D.C., prominent politicians were present to pledge support for this growing movement, including Senators John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, as well as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Lieberman particularly sang Hagee’s praise:
“He is a Ish Elokim, a man of God and those words really fit him…like Moses he’s become a leader of a mighty multitude, even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the promised land.”
CUFI considers its defining issue to be the growing challenge of radical Islam, particularly as relates to the security of Israel and the United States. CUFI is incresingly concerned by Iran and its potential nuclear threats. Hagee often alludes to Nazi Germany in order to underline what he believes to be the gravity of the situation:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are reliving history. It is 1938 all over again,” Hagee explains in a 2007 speech. “Iran is Germany. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. And Ahmadinejad, just like Hitler, is talking about killing the Jews.”
Increasingly, some American evangelical Christians have emerged to form an alliance with Israel. Citing Biblical prophecy, this group of evangelicals call for all ofthe West Bank to remain in Israeli hands, and they oppose any two-state solution. Sometimes called Christian Zionists, they believe that a Christian Messiah will returnto earth in Jerusalem. They have joined with conservative Israeli politicians to oppose any division of the city.Learn about the foundation of this movement through a greater understanding of some of the key components:
Evangelicalism is the movement, especially in English-language theology, which places special emphasis upon the supreme authority of Scripture and the atoning death of Christ. According to Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, the term was originally used to refer to “those faith groups which followed traditional Christian beliefs, in contrast with two other movements: philosophical rationalism and legalistic Christianity.”
Today, evangelicalism generally refers to a broad spectrum of Protestant Christians.
Comprising the most active, exclusive, and conservative wing ofEvangelicalism, fundamentalism draws its support primarily from the Baptist, Pentecostal and Independent Bible churches associated with individuals such as JerryFalwell, Pat Robertson, Hal Lindsey and Mike Evans.
Fundamentalist Christians typically believe that the Bible is the Word of God, internally consistent, andfree of error. Today, fundamentalists are the most vocal group in opposition to abortion access, laws making homosexuals a “protected category,”physician-assisted suicide, the use of embryonic stem cells for medical research, comprehensive sex-ed classes in public schools, etc.
Many Christian Zionists subscribe to Dispensational Premillennism, a theological approach that claims that “God relates to human beings via different covenants (“dispensations”); in particular, dispensationalists believe that God’s covenant with Israel, including promises of land, continues in full force distinctive from Christianity.” (Donald Wagner, SOJOURNER, July-August 2003)
Paul Beran, lecturer at Northeastern University, explains that “in dispensationalism, history is an evolving pre-ordained plan that has certain marking points.” Each of these seven dispensations represents one of God’s tests for man on the path toward Christian salvation.
When Israeli statehood was declared in 1948, dispensationalists considered it an important prophetic event, or as Arno C. Gaebelein, editor of OUR HOPE described it, “the sign of all signs.”
Central to dispensationalism is the belief that all Israel will be saved; as theologist Stephen Sizer puts it, it is the belief “that the boundaries of the land promised to Abraham and his descendants will be literally instituted; and that Jesus Christ will return to a literal and theocratic Jewish kingdom centered on Jerusalem.”
Premillennial dispensationalists believe that Christ will return prior to the millennium (or 1,000 year reign) begins. There are also post-millennialists who believe that Christ will come after the 1,000 years and amillennialists who believe that God’s promises are figurative and will not be literally fulfilled.
This concept is from a literal interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 in which Paul says, “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Rapture is the notion that in the last days believing Christians will be removed from the earth; it is literally explained as the time when Jesus calls thefaithful to heaven and believers are physically taken up.
To learn more about how Evangelical Christians became so closely aligned with Israeli Zionists, read Timothy Weber’s “How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend.”