John Hagee – pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, founder of Christians United for Israel, and eager herald of End – has endorsed John McCain for president of the United States. One reason that Hagee gave for his choice was McCain’s “support of the state of Israel.” Hagee also claimed that he personally backs Israel because it is a democracy, not because of its place in apocalyptic scenarios. One must presume that after saying these words at a San Antonio press conference, the good minister turned and gave an immense wink to anyone who has read his books.
In 1996, Hagee turned out “Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist.” It fits a genre of “prophecy” works churned out by popularizers of dispensational premillennialism: To prove that the final seven years of history are about to begin, he presents a standard list of verses and his own collection of headlines that supposedly fulfill scriptural predictions. His description of the last seven years – the so-called Tribulation – is pornographically violent. (Despite Hagee’s disrespect for Catholicism, I’d bet Mel Gibson would love to film the gore that Hagee describes, which includes a 200-mile river of blood.) The ultimate proof that the End is coming is the creation of the State of Israel. Hagee manages to bend the murder of Prime Minister Rabin into additional evidence. As a good dispensationalist, Hagee portrays the seven years ending with Jesus’s return and the Jews accepting him en masse.
Before getting to the End, Hagee express uncommon sympathy for Yigal Amir, the man who murdered Yitzhak Rabin. Israeli society, Hagee explains, is divided between Jews “who put more faith in man than in the God of their fathers” and those “motivated by a Biblical imperative to redeem the Land of Israel.” Hagee spends several pages quoting scripture to support the latter group. Then he indicates that Amir acted because he belonged to the believers. Hagee is smart enough to avoid giving his explicit blessing to Amir, but if you follow his argument, the implications roar.
So far, McCain has mostly taken heat from Catholics for cuddling up with Hagee. The minister has called Catholicism “the great whore of Babylon” – which is also pretty standard dispensationalist fare. (Tim LaHaye’s giga-selling Left Behind books, as I’ve written, have long, wild riffs against Catholicism as handmaiden of the antichrist.)
Jews should be joining Catholics on this one. If McCain were as pro-Israel as Hagee says he is, he’d want nothing to do with Hagee. You don’t back a democracy by siding with someone who regards a handgun as the means to change policy. There is a certain dissonance between supporting a country and giving theological justifications for the murder of its elected leader. We don’t even have to talk about Hagee’s earnest hopes for war on Israeli soil, or his classic theological delegitimization of Judaism.
Mr. McCain, do you know how to say “denounce and reject”?