The long knives are out for Rev. John Hagee. The fiercely pro-Israel evangelical leader is being branded a bigot—again—but this time the media has tagged him with the worst possible association: Hitler.
Granted, Hagee himself raised the specter of Hitler in a sermon reportedly from a decade ago that was recently dredged up by a left-wing blogger, in which he said that God sent Hitler and “allowed” the Holocaust to happen “because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”
Far from the ugly media-driven perception that Hagee was justifying—or even somehow praising—the Holocaust as Heaven-sent, he was actually trying to answer the question with which countless rabbis and survivors have grappled ever since: How could there be both an all-powerful God and the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust?
While anyone could rightly be outraged at his theology or even his apparent hubris in purporting to know God’s motives, it cannot be said that he is anti-Semitic. The charge, in fact, is completely counter to what is most beautiful about Rev. Hagee’s ministry, that it has been so dedicated to combating Christian anti-Semitism.
Media elites have pounced on this story to help McCain’s likely general election opponent, Barack Obama, but many understandably have been startled by the “Hitler” headlines. If the media coverage were even remotely accurate, the concern would be warranted. But put into context, Hagee’s “Hitler” sermon is, at worst, questionable theology—that also happens to have some Jewish adherents.
In a probing and at times challenging one-on-one interview this March at a public gathering in Los Angeles, Hagee talked about how, as a young man, he was profoundly impacted by reading the book The Anguish of the Jews, by a Roman Catholic Priest named Father Edward H. Flannery. The book chronicles over two thousand years of anti-Semitism, going back to before the time of Jesus. It was, Hagee explained, a dark side of history to which he had not been exposed in all his theological studies.
Hagee was so haunted by the sins committed against Jews in the name of Christianity, he said, that he felt it was his calling to purge anti-Semitism from Christendom. Untold numbers of Christians have felt called by God to do many wonderful things, but it would seem too few have had the same yearning as Hagee. Which is precisely why Hagee has for so long has worked to rally other Christians not just to support Israel, but the Jewish people.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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