Bibi and Hagee’s Mutual Love-Fest, Ctd

Ari Morgenstern, spokesman for Christians United for Israel, emails:

I’m writing to address certain misconceptions and inaccuracies in your March 19th post “Bibi and Hagee’s Mutual Love-Fest.”

In your piece you assert that Pastor John Hagee is an “anti-Catholic fundamentalist bigot.” Your comment is no doubt fueled by a past controversy in which certain statements made by Pastor Hagee were mistakenly thought to have been referencing –and thus offensive to– the Catholic Church.

Although few papers covered it at the time, Pastor Hagee repeatedly clarified that all of his references in question were not to the Catholic Church, but to an entity referenced in the Book of Revelation that Pastor Hagee believes will come into being at the End of Days. Since this entity does not currently exist, there is no way it could be the Catholic Church. As you no doubt know, papers are often very good at reporting the mistake, less so at reporting the correction.

In addition, following the controversy in question, an exchange of letters between Pastor Hagee and Catholic League President Bill Donohue included the following comment from Donohue: “The tone of Hagee’s letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it.” Donohue went on to say “Now Catholics, along with Jews, can work with Pastor Hagee in making interfaith relations stronger than ever. Whatever problems we had before are now history. This case is closed.”

Having closed the matter with the Catholic League, I know Pastor Hagee would hope that individuals from the Catholic community (yourself included) would look towards building a more constructive, inter-faith relationship, rather than deepening any Protestant-Catholic rifts.

Equally as unfortunate is your offensive mischaracterization of Evangelical-Christian theology as it pertains to Israel. You write “The evangelicals see permanent Israeli colonization of the West Bank as critical to End-times theology.” Minimal research into the subject would have shown you that this assertion is patently untrue. As I noted recently in a letter to the editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA):

Just as portions of the Tanakh and the Talmud discuss Jewish eschatology (‘end times’ theology), so do portions of the Christian Bible. However, Christian Zionism is no more motivated by Christian eschatology than Jewish Zionism is by Jewish eschatology.

The two faiths share a belief that the ‘end times’ and the coming of the Messiah will be centered on events in Israel. The primary differences between the two faiths are first, of course, that Christians believe it will be the Messiah’s second coming and Jews believe it will be His first. More importantly, while many Jews believe that there are certain things the Jewish people can do to hasten the coming of the Messiah, pre-millennial dispensationalist Christians (such as Pastor John Hagee and the majority of Christian Zionists) believe that the return of the Messiah is on a fixed, divine timetable that they are powerless to change. So while followers of this interpretation of Christian eschatology may see -- as do many Jews -- the rise of the modern State of Israel as Biblically prophesized, they do not believe the actions of any human can hasten the ‘end of days.’

To assert that Christian Zionism is driven by Christian eschatology is factually incorrect, theologically impossible, and deeply offensive to millions of Christians who know exactly why they stand with Israel. There are a variety of political, religious and historical motivations for Christian Zionism. As Eric Fingerhut noted in a JTA blog post discussing this subject: “As for the allegation that Christian support for Israel is all part of an eschatology having to do with the Second Coming, I've talked to enough Christian Zionists over the past few years to believe that for the vast majority of them, their support for the Jewish state is genuinely motivated by Genesis's admonition that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people, as well as their respect for Judaism as a foundation for Christianity or even their general beliefs about U.S. foreign policy.”

The Biblical foundation for Christian support for Israel is rooted in the promises of Genesis not the prophecies of Revelation.

You also assert that this theology drives Christian Zionist investment in West Bank “colonization.” By including this assertion in a piece about Pastor Hagee you incorrectly imply that his organizations are “helping fund [West Bank ‘colonization’] with millions.” Again, just the bare minimum of due diligence would have disabused you of this false opinion. Also from the aforementioned letter to the JTA:

1. The vast majority of the money that [John Hagee Ministries] gives to Israel stays within the pre-1967 green line. In 2009, for example, donations to entities in the West Bank comprised less than five percent of the $9 million JHM gave to Israeli causes.

2. What little money was given over the green line was given to those communities that almost all observers recognize will remain a part of Israel in any negotiated two-state compromise.

3. The funds given to these communities went to support social services such as schools, hospitals or youth/sports oriented facilities.

You conclude your piece by noting your fear that if your opinions are not heeded “Israel will be as polluted by the fumes of Christianism as the GOP.” I would wager that if in that sentence you replaced Christians with some other religious group, your editors would have been horrified at such a broad faith-based attack. Odd that just a few short paragraphs earlier you had accused Pastor Hagee of bigotry, and then sought fit to display a bit of your own.

Unfortunately your piece betrays a fundamental ignorance of both the theology and practices of Christian Zionists. I would welcome the opportunity to have a face-to-face dialogue with you in an effort to address your concerns. Hopefully, learning the truth about Christian supporters of Israel might enable you to let go of some of the false Christian Zionist stereotypes you seem to hold and start making distinctions among Christian Zionists as you do with Jewish Zionists.