From Religious Rant to Political Bombast to Spiritual Emptiness and Deception

By Rev. Art Preisinger, Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, October 23, 2006 (Reposted with permission.)

If John Hagee’s "Night to Honor Israel" extravaganza is any indication, Christian Zionism is a misnomer. From happy-clappy Jewish praise music, to love songs crooned to and about Israel, to a kitschy Hava Nagila; from invocations and benedictions that turn out to be sermons; from Muslim-bashing to Israel lauding; from dramatic processions to keynote addresses; from offerings taken and offerings given -- there was not a shred, a trace, a scintilla of Christianity in the proceedings. It could well have been sponsored by the PTA or the Rotary Club.

Of course, if Hagee wants to honor Israel and give it gobs of non-governmental funds that is certainly his privilege. But to promote this under the aegis of "Christian" is, frankly, fraudulent.

But the "Night to Honor Israel" was worse than a fraud -- it was idolatrous, and this in two ways.

First, what was worshiped was the state of Israel, and more particularly, Jerusalem. Select passages culled from the Hebrew Bible, referring to Israel’s "right" to the land -- all of Palestine -- and an undivided Jewish Jerusalem were repeated again and again ad nauseam. What was not quoted were those passages that speak of the obligation to do justice and practice mercy.

Part of the problem is in the word "prophecy." Christian Zionists, as well as most fundamentalists and millennialists, use that word almost exclusively as a means to understand present, and predict future, events. [Jewish understanding of "prophecy" also differ from Christian Zionists.] Contemporary events, seen through the spectacles of "prophecy," lead to "Rapture" and "Tribulations" and "Second Comings" and "Armageddon." Biblical passages are interpreted to coincide with that scenario.

On the other hand, prophecy in its initial sense is a human agent (the prophet) who speaks God’s word for a particular existential situation. Christian Zionists would be well-advised, for example, to read the book of the prophet Amos as a corrective to these skewed interpretations of various passages often quoted from Ezekiel. Daniel, and Revelation.

Second, the adulation of John Hagee, as one who is becoming the most important leader of contemporary Christian Zionism, if not idolatry, comes awfully close to it. This cult of the personality was most striking at the "Night." David Brog, Executive Director of CUFI [Christians United for Israel] extolled the virtues of Hagee in the words, "Pastor John Hagee is not an important man. Pastor John Hagee is a great man!" With the cheering and clapping and whistling and stomping of feet and raised arms of the 3000 disciples at this announcement, I was reminded of Leni Riefenstahl’s film, Triumph of the Will, about the Nuremberg rallies in Nazi Germany. Hitler had his Goebbels; Hagee has his Brog.

Interspersed with religious rant from misinterpreted Hebrew Scriptures (the New Testament was not mentioned once, nor was Jesus; God got a tip of the hat only occasionally) was political bombast. This was supplied by Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

Two things were most disturbing: the advocation of violence and the racism of the Christian Zionist movement. Time and again Hoenlein, as well as Hagee, called for the bombing and possible invasion of Iran. Diplomacy is not an option since it simply conveys weakness to the 300 million (count ‘em) Muslim terrorists who "hate freedom" (that old canard) and who, if not stopped in Iran, will eventually come to our shores with suitcases full of nuclear bombs.

What is inherent in this scenario is the racism that declares the superiority of the West and western culture over against the East (read Middle East). And that racism is Manichaean -- in stark terms "they" are evil, "we" are good (so Hoenlein). The good must not only defend itself against the evil, it must wipe it out; it must obliterate it.

Finally, I am struck by the fact that throughout the speeches and the hoopla the centuries-old complaint of Jewish victimhood was juxtaposed with Israeli military triumph (also of the will), which (God?) will grant Israel. Victim or conqueror: You can’t have it both ways.

Hagee closed his speech with "God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America." Implied is "and God damn all those who are not us."

TOPIC: Christian Zionists