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John Hagee's Christians United for Israel Conference Mixes End-Times Prophecies With Lobbying
JewsOnFirst.org Reporters Were Inside CUFI's Washington Conference
by JewsOnFirst.org, July 24, 2008
Even though televangelist John Hagee barred reporters from the conference of his Christians United for Israel (CUFI), reporters for JewsOnFirst.org covered most of the sessions of the conference at the Washington Convention Center, which concluded yesterday.
A JewsOnFirst.org video:
Iran and the End Times at Pastor John Hagee's Washington Summit, filmed, written and directed by JewsOnFirst.org.
When John Hagee's organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) held its July 2008 summit at the Washington DC Convention Center, JewsOnFirst.org reporters were inside and outside. This video shows some of what we saw and heard, despite CUFI's extraordinary efforts to shield the meeting from public scrutiny.
Media clips from the CUFI Conference
Hagee instructs conference-goers to see themselves as "ambassadors of God" when they lobby Congress. In his conference-opening sermon, Hagee told attendees to see themselves as uniquely placed by God to advocate for the Jewish people "until victory comes."
Hagee mixes absolutist land claim and stereotyping joke. In this two-minute video of the opening session of the conference, July 21st, Rev. John Hagee preaches that God has given "the Jewish people" an exclusive, eternal claim to Jerusalem. In the middle of that declaration, he tells a joke stereotyping women, Jews and Native Americans.
God has given Jews a "blood covenant" to Israel. A four-minute audio clip from Hagee's sermon during the opening session. (If you can't see the player, click here .)
Former Sen. Rick Santorum disparages Shia Islam. In the panel "Radical Islam: In Their Own Words," Santorum depicts Iran's government as more dangerous than the Soviet Union because the latter was run by atheists whereas Iran's leaders believe that the best way to be in heaven "with a posse of virgins is to destroy the infidels."
Clifford May compares Shia Islam to the Nazi movement. In this audio clip recorded at the breakout session on Iran, May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, portrays Iran as Hitler's Germany of the 1930s. (If you can't see the player, please click here.
Frank Gaffney says "Sharia is sedition." In the breakout session on Iran, Reagan official Frank Gaffney, ranted against banks offering "sharia" (Islamic) investment products, calling those products a threat to "our capitalist system," and stating, "Sharia is sedition." We've posted the last 13 minutes of Gaffney's speech (mainly so it would not be said that the rant was "taken out of context") in the right-hand column; his remarks on Islamic banking start at 8:05 minutes. (If you can't see the player, please click here.
According to a document distributed at the conference, "CUFI is a national, grassroots organization which unites all pro-Israel Christians in America under one umbrella." JewsOnFirst.org estimates that as many as 3,000 people attended the conference. According to the CUFI website, 4,500 attended its 2007 Washington conference.
In an apparent effort to avoid the derisive media coverage of previous CUFI events, the organization's leaders strove to keep conference attendees' focus on their key themes -- oppositon to Israeli-Palestinian peace, hostility to Iran, disparaging Islam -- political. However, according to our reporters, session audiences repeatedly turned the discussion to the "end times" prophecies that they attach to CUFI's political issues.
In a sermon opening the conference on Monday, Hagee himself used biblical constructs to express opposition to a land-for-peace settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for what he characterized as Iran's plan for a nuclear holocaust "to exterminate the Jews." (See first video clip.)
Hagee interpreted Genesis as God giving a "blood covenant" to the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants -- specifically excluding the "Ishmaelites" (understood to be Muslims) from the deed. That land contract, Hagee said, was "based on God's integrity," not Abraham's. Hagee said that "God knew the day would come when there would be a global controversey" over ownership of that land. Please click here or use the player in the sidebar for an audio clip.
In his preaching on Iran, Hagee tangled together the biblical story of Esther and ancient Persia with present-day Iran, which he contended, aims to annihilate Israel. He enjoined attendees to emulate Esther when they went to lobby Congress, and to see themselves as "ambassadors of God," uniquely placed to advocate for the imperiled Jewish people "until victory comes." (See video clip.)
In the culminating "Night to Honor Israel" banquet on Tuesday night, Hagee expressed political, rather than "prophetic," opposition to trading land for peace, stating that Israel had not benefited from its withdrawal from the Gaza strip or Lebanon.
In Monday's sermon, Hagee repeated a major theme he emphasizes in CUFI's political work: that God will bless those who bless Israel. He called Israel the "gateway of blessings" for individuals, businesses and churches.
Hagee also warned of God's "judgment" on those who divide Israel's territory. He has similarly stated that Hurricane Katrina was God's judgment for a gay parade that New Orleans planned.
Hagee also said that God has chosen Israel as his habitation on earth. "God has married the Land of Israel," he said, adding "He's very passionate about it."
While Hagee stressed the blessings that would come to those who did "practical acts" in support of Israel, he also repeated his teachings on the ultimate disposition of a "united" Jerusalem: It will be ruled forever by Jesus, who, Hagee says, will return "as a Jewish rabbi" with sidecurls -- not dressed in a gray flannel suit.
In a call and response, Hagee proclaimed that Jesus will "rule the nations of the world from Zion." He asked the audience: "Where is the Temple Mount?" And he answered with them: "In Zion."
Lobby preparations strictly political
In the preparatory session, Brog described Iran's military potential as capable of wreaking a second Holocaust on Israel.
Former Reagan official Frank Gaffney said in the breakout session on Iran that Tehran is developing a missile capable of destroying electrical power grids in the United States. "We have been at war with Iran since 1979," said Gaffney.
Hagee, in his Monday sermon, said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was planning a nuclear holocaust against Israel. Preached Hagee: "He is not going to stop because it's a religious belief that he is destined by his God." At the conference's closing banquet, Hagee called Ahmadinejad a present-day Hitler.
However, these intense sentiments -- and Hagee's injunction to lobbyists to see themselves as God's ambassadors (see video clip)-- were absent from CUFI's lobbying talking points. The printed lobbying guide went only so far as to say: "When Israel fights Hezbollah and Hamas, it's fighting our enemies."
Tutorials on the disparagement of Islam
In the Iran session, panelist Clifford May compared Shia Islam to the Nazi movement. At one point in the comparison, which moved very fast between Nazis, the Muslim religion as a whole, and militant Islamists, May said that the latter believe that "no acts, no matter how vile and inhuman are forbidden them."
May, who is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, showed the breakout audience preview clips of a movie in which people with Middle Eastern accents plead with "the West" to wake up to the threat of radical Islam. May said that these clips will be part of a sequel to the controversial film Obsession. There is an audio clip of May's remarks in the breakout in the right-hand column.
The closing speaker in the Iran session, Reagan official Frank Gaffney, ranted against banks offering "sharia" (Islamic) investment products, calling those products a threat to "our capitalist system," and stating, "Sharia is sedition." We've posted the last 13 minutes of Gaffney's speech (mainly so it would not be said that the rant was "taken out of context") in the right-hand column; his remarks on Islamic banking start at 8:05 minutes.
During the panel on Islam, former Sen. Rick Santorum spoke of what he imputed to be the beliefs of Shia Muslims and Iran's President Ahmadinejad:
Because this an end of times kind of scenairo, these are people who are focused on this Mahdi - that disappeared. This a Mahdi returning at the end of times to lead them in an ultimate victory over the Sunnis and the rest of the world for the sake of the Shia. When you have people who have a very hardened escatalogical view of things -- Armegeddon -- letting them have nuclear weapons provides a very different point of view than having a bunch of Soviets [have nuclear weapons]. I was never worried about the Soviets doing something really stupid. Because the Soviets were athiests and they knew if they messed up they would be dead and that would be the end of it.
Gary Bauer, CUFI Executive Board Member, outside the Convention Center on Monday evening. Bauer predicted that Israel would experience violence (see our video Iran and the End Times at Pastor John Hagee's Washington Summit above, or here in full size).
By comparison, Santorum said, Iran's leaders believe that the best way to be in heaven "with a posse of virgins is to destroy the infidels." (You can see a video clip of Santorum in the box on the upper right side of this page.)
Senator Lieberman's speech omitted from broadcast
It is likely that CUFI decided not to air the speech because a woman disrupted the Jewish senator, shouting about "the rule of Lord Jesus." She began shouting just as Lieberman was concluding the story of Nachshon, the leader of the tribe of Judah who led the flight from Pharoah's army by stepping into the sea.
Senator Lieberman's office was not involved in deciding whether to include his speech in the Daystar broadcast, a spokesman in that office told JewsOnFirst.org. CUFI's public relations representative Juda Engelmayer told JewsOnFirst.org that he'd phone with information about the omission of Lieberman's speech from the broadcast, but he never did.
Reflections on the Christians United for Israel Conference
by a JewsOnFirst.org reporter, August 16, 2008
Ever since Senator John McCain denounced the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee because of his controversial comments about the Holocaust, Hagee and other members of his organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), have been on the defensive. At the third annual CUFI Summit in Washington D.C. last July, Hagee specifically denied the claim that CUFI's support for Israel is motivated by a certain eschatology and redirected most of the audience's questions about the Rapture to a coded interpretation of sections in Genesis. Hagee reviewed the Jewish claims to Israel as a biblical real estate contract couched in the words of blessing authorizing the agreement between God and Abraham's descendants.
Guess who is reading Rashi? - Not
Who are the Jews, who are the Christians, and who decides?
A conference attendee asked Hagee what he thought about the "Dual Covenant"—the belief that Jews can go to heaven by following the Torah, but non-Jews must convert to Christianity by accepting Jesus at their savior. Hagee insisted that while God had many covenants, there is only one true path to salvation. However, he coyly did not specify this path, leaving audience members to guess what he meant. When asked if he thought Christians should try to convert Jews to Christianity, Hagee insisted that conversion is not CUFI's purpose.
Jews and the Rapture
While Hagee admitted that the word "Rapture" does not actually appear in the bible, he assured his audience that believers would be taken to heaven. Hagee said that those "who do not believe in the Rapture -- don't want to believe in the Rapture because they're not ready for it." He referenced two passages in the bible that he said proved his theory of the Rapture. "I assure you it's going to happen," Hagee told the audience. "Ready or not. Get ready. Like it or not, get ready."
It is surprising that Hagee would speak so explicitly about the Rapture, which is intimately intertwined with tribulation theology—specifically pre-tribulation theology. The Rapture makes no sense if you are not actually being raptured from something. And it is this tribulation theology that condemns the Jewish people to one of two fates: they must either convert to Christianity or die in the battle of Armageddon.
Hagee denies the belief that the ingathering of the Jews, the reunification of Jerusalem, and the building of the third temple are part of his theory of the End Times leading to the Rapture because he wants his followers—and critics, for that matter—to not be diverted from the belief that his support for Israel has nothing to do with fulfilling eschatology (end time) hopes. While this is extremely unlikely, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility. That being said, it is at the very least disheartening that the leader of a group that so passionately supports Israel believes in an eschatological system in which the Jewish people have no positive role but only a utilitarian role—especially given Hagee's alleged love and respect for the Jews.
In the first scenario, they are simply a means to an end and in the second, they are superhuman and consequently not permitted to fail or to be wrong. As if on a pedestal, they are restricted in where they can move and how they can act. Israelis might seek a territorial comprise with the Palestinians but any difficulties or hiccups in the agreement must be understood as God's judgment punishment.