Who is John Hagee?
John Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, a non-denominational megachurch with more than 19,000 active members. Hagee is also the chief executive officer (CEO) of his non-profit corporation, Global Evangelism Television (GETV). Hagee is the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in the United States on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations, and eight networks, including The Inspiration Network (INSP), Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and Inspiration Now TV.
The ministries can be seen and heard weekly in 99 million homes. John Hagee Ministries is in Canada on the Miracle Channel and CTS and can be seen in Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in most Third World nations. Hagee is the founder and National Chairman of the Christian-Zionist organization Christians United for Israel, incorporated on February 7, 2006. Hagee has incurred controversy for his religious beliefs and comments regarding Nazism, Catholicism, homosexuality, Islam, Judaism, and Hurricane Katrina.
Life and career
John Hagee was born in Baytown, Texas, to the former Vada Mildred Swick and the Reverend William Bythel Hagee. He graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1964. He was on a football scholarship and appeared on the Academic Dean's List.
Hagee received a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Texas in Denton in 1966 and completed his theological training at Southwestern Assemblies of God University with a Diploma in Theology in Waxahachie, south of Dallas. Hagee descends from a long line of Anabaptist Mennonite pastors, a sect known for espousing doctrines of pacifism, aversion to war and forgiveness of enemies.
In 1989, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2005, he received another Honorary Doctorate from Netanya Academic College in Israel. Hagee served on the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents from 1989 to January 2008. Hagee married the former Diana Castro, a member of Trinity Church, on April 12, 1976. According to both biographies at John Hagee Ministries, Hagee and his wife Diana have five children and eight grandchildren. Matthew Hagee, John's son, is the executive pastor of Cornerstone Church.
Hagee founded a new church, The Church at Castle Hills, on May 11, 1975, Mother's Day. The church started with 25 members, but within two years, had to build a new sanctuary seating 1,600 people. The church continued to grow; on October 4, 1987, Hagee dedicated a 5,000-seat sanctuary and named it Cornerstone Church. Dr. W. A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, anointed Hagee and Diana before the congregation. Today, Trinity Church is located 7.3 mi (11.7 km) from Hagee's Cornerstone Church on the same stretch of highway in San Antonio.
Hagee believes in traditional Pentecostal practices such as the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." He also believes in the "absolute authority of the scripture," baptism by immersion, and evangelism. Hagee has denounced replacement theology, believing that chapters 9-11 of the book of Romans teaches that the Jews have continuing favor with God by the election of grace. He believes the Bible commands Christians to support the State of Israel and the Jewish people even though he has uttered remarks that some have interpreted as antisemitic.
Because the land now known as Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank was ruled by the Ottoman Turks prior to World War I, then controlled by the British, and later partitioned under United Nations mandate, Hagee argues that the land does not belong to the Palestinian people, and that the name "Palestine" (deriving from that of the ancient Philistines) was imposed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to punish the Jews for their revolt against the Roman Empire. Hagee maintains there is no Palestinian language and no historic Palestinian nation.
In 2007, Hagee stated that he does not believe in global warming, and he also said that he sees the Kyoto Protocol as a conspiracy aimed at manipulating the U.S. economy. Also, Hagee has condemned the Evangelical Climate Initiative, an initiative "signed by 86 evangelical leaders acknowledging the seriousness of global warming and pledging to press for legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions." Hagee denounces abortion, and stopped giving money to Israel's Hadassah Medical Center when it began performing the procedure.
He has spoken out against homosexuality, linking its presence in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina as an act of divine retribution. He said in 2006, "I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are—were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came." However, on April 25, 2008, Hagee clarified his comments regarding Hurricane Katrina by saying, "But ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise."
In his 2005 book Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, Hagee interprets the Bible to predict that Russia and the Islamic states will invade Israel and will be destroyed by God. This will cause the antichrist, the head of the European Union, to create a confrontation over Israel between China and the West. The book echoes predictions made in The Late, Great Planet Earth, the best-selling 1970 book co-authored by Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson.
The Christian Research Institute (among others) has strongly criticized Hagee's recent book, In Defense of Israel (2007), for apparently arguing that Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah for the Jews, only the Savior for the Christian Church, and therefore, that attempts should not be made to convert Jews. Hagee issued a statement denying the first of these allegations and promises to revise one chapter in a new edition to make his views clearer.
Relationship with Israel
The San Antonio B'nai B'rith Council awarded Hagee with its "Humanitarian of the Year" award. It was the first time this award was given to a gentile. Hagee was presented the Zionist Organization of America's Israel Award by U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. This award was given by the Jewish Community of Dallas, Texas. He was presented the ZOA Service Award by Texas Governor Mark White. Houston Mayor Kathryn J. Whitmire issued a special proclamation in his honor, declaring Pastor John C. Hagee Day.
Hagee has been to Israel 22 times and has met with every Prime Minister of Israel since Menachem Begin. John Hagee Ministries has given more than million to bring Soviet Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel. Hagee is the Founder and Executive Director of "A Night to Honor Israel", an event that expresses solidarity between Christians and Jews on behalf of Jerusalem, the State of Israel, and the United States.
On February 7, 2006, Hagee and 400 leaders from the Christian and Jewish communities formed a new national organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI). This organization addresses members of the United States Congress, professing a Biblical justification for the defense of Israel. Hagee was the primary early funding source for the Israeli Zionist group Im Tirtzu, which has pressured Israeli academics it accuses of being anti-Zionist and lobbied to have their funding cut for their political views.
Hagee has been criticized for his statements about Israel, the Roman Catholic Church, and Islam. One notable critic is journalist Bill Moyers, who claims that Hagee and other evangelicals are working toward supporting the religious right. He states, "Someone who didn't know better could imagine from the very name Christians United For Israel—CUFI—that pastor John Hagee speaks for all Christians. Well, he doesn't... What these fellows have forged is a close connection between the [George W. Bush] White House and the religious right." Some Jewish leaders, such as Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie, criticized Hagee for being an "extremist" on Israeli policy and for disparaging other faiths including Islam and Roman Catholicism.
Accusations of anti-Catholicism
After Hagee's 2008 endorsement of U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain, a furor arose over comments, broadcasts, and writings made by Hagee that were seen as anti-Catholic. After discussions with Catholic leaders, Hagee made an apology, which was publicly accepted by Catholic League President William Donohue.
Hagee's attack against Christian antisemitism in his book Jerusalem Countdown claimed that Adolf Hitler's antisemitism derived especially from his Catholic background, and that the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII encouraged Nazism instead of denouncing it. (pp. 79–81) In his 1998 book he called Hitler "a spiritual leader in the Catholic Church", despite there being no evidence Hitler even attended Mass after 1918.
He also states that the Roman Catholic Church "plunged the world into the Dark Ages," allowed for the Crusaders to rape and murder with impunity, and called for Jews to be treated as "Christ killers". (p. 73) Later in the book (pp. 81–2), however, he praises Pope John Paul II for repudiating past antisemitism in the Roman Catholic Church.
Hagee claimed in March 2008, "I've learned that some have accused me of referring to the Catholic Church as the 'great whore,' of Revelation. This is a serious misinterpretation of my words. When I refer to the 'great whore,' I am referring to the apostate church, namely those Christians who embrace the false cult system of Jew-hatred and antisemitism." Donohue rejected Hagee's explanation as disingenuous: "Anti-Catholic Protestants have long labeled the Catholic Church "The Great Whore," and no amount of spin can change that reality. No one who knows anything about the term would suggest otherwise."
Furthermore, Hagee did identify [the Great Whore of] Babylon as Rome in his book From Daniel to Doomsday (1999), in a way that it became inherent to the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church: "The evidence would point to Rome...It was Rome where Nero wrapped Christians in oily rags and hung them on lampposts, setting them ablaze to light his gardens. It was Rome that orchestrated the Crusades where Jews were slaughtered...It was Rome that orchestrated the Inquisitions throughout the known world where "heretics" were burned at the stake or pulled in half on torture racks because they were not Roman Catholic." (pp. 10–11)
Hagee further responded to the charge in a videotaped statement and press release, categorically denying that he was anti-Catholic, on the grounds that his church runs a "social services center" that serves a largely Catholic constituency, that he supported a convent personally, that he had often denounced Martin Luther, not just the Catholic Church, for antisemitism, and that he did not interpret the "Whore of Babylon" as a reference to the Catholic Church.
Letter of apology and reconciliation
On May 12, 2008, Hagee issued a letter of apology to William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, expressing regret for "any comments that Catholics have found hurtful." He apologized for condemning Catholics for what he viewed was their persecution of Jews, and outright stated that he did not believe that, and many other previously held views, any longer.
He also said that the "great whore" comments were taken out of context and were not directed at the Catholic Church. He went on to explain that his comments about the Catholic Church were made "[i]n my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms. I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews."
Bill Donohue told Fox News, "I'm absolutely delighted... I haven't seen such a quick turnaround in the 15 years that I have been president of the Catholic League.... The tone of Hagee's letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it." "Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology," Donohue wrote in a press release. "What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns. But he has done just that. 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."
On the September 18, 2006, edition of National Public Radio's Fresh Air, Hagee discussed Islam, stating, "those who live by the Qur'an have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews... it teaches that very clearly." He then proceeded to characterize the military threat posed by those who follow Islamic scripture: "There are 1.3 billion people who follow the Islamic faith, so if you're saying there's only 15 percent that want to come to America or invade Israel to crush it, you're only talking about 200 million people. That's far more than Hitler and Japan and Italy and all of the Axis powers in World War II had under arms."
Despite Hagee's professed "Christian Zionist" beliefs and public support for the state of Israel, Hagee has made statements that some have interpreted as antisemitic. He has blamed the Holocaust on Jews themselves. He has stated that Hitler's persecution was a "divine plan" to lead Jews to form the modern state of Israel. He calls Jews "poisoned" and "spiritually blind." He also admits that the preemptive nuclear attack on Iran that he favors will lead to the deaths of most Jews in Israel.
Hagee has attributed the persecution of Jews throughout history, implicitly including the Holocaust, to disobedience, thereby attracting accusations of antisemitism:
"It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day... Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of antisemitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.... it rises from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people."
In the book, Hagee cites material from the Jewish tradition (Jeremiah 9:13–16; 44:2–4, 15–17) to justify this view.
In 2008, in response to a question about this matter, he differentiated between his interpretation of the Bible and his understanding of modern history: "I learn from the Bible that the children of Israel were punished by God for their iniquities. But I do not presume to explain Jewish suffering in modern times. I only seek to alleviate it."
Hagee's interpretation of the historical role of Hitler and the Holocaust in relation to the foundation of the state of Israel has also caused offense. Hagee interprets a reference in Jeremiah 16:16 to "fishers" and "hunters" as symbols of positive motivation (Herzl and Zionism) and negative motivation (Hitler and Nazism) respectively, both sent by God for the purpose of having Jews return to the land of Israel, even suggesting that the Holocaust was willed by God because most Jews ignored Herzl's Zionist call. Following the broadcast of Hagee's remarks in late May 2008, some orthodox and conservative Jews have come forward to defend Hagee against charges of antisemitism, although other Jews have applauded McCain for distancing himself from Hagee.
In another sermon, Hagee blamed American economic problems on the fact that the Federal Reserve System is controlled by "a group of Class A stockholders, including the Rothschilds." In the same series, Hagee further asserted that the Rothschilds, who are Jewish, were part of a wide-ranging conspiracy of "international power brokers based in Europe."
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