By Rev. Art Preisinger, Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, November 26, 2006
Note: Rev. Preisinger is a Lutheran minister. This report is reposted with the generous permission of the Instititue for the Study of Christian Zionism, www.christianzionism.org.
SAN ANTONIO. Last Sunday, Nov. 19, I went to Cornerstone Church for the last time in the foreseeable future — I hope.
If John Hagee downplays, yea ignores, Christianity when he is with his CUFI [Christians United for Israel] friends, Rabbi Scheinberg [an Orthodox rabbi in San Antonio, who is a longtime collaborator with Hagee], and the barbershop group from Jerusalem in his "Night to Honor Israel," [see below] he reverts to "end time" type among his local followers on Sunday morning and evening.
Aside from roller rink organ music to lead off the show, as well as for the offertory which segues into an audience clappy shtik; and aside from the female soloist crooning a love song to Jesus (I'm reminded of the pop song writer who switched to Gospel music, and when asked how made the transition, said, "It was easy. I just substituted 'God' for 'Cindy' in the lyrics") -- aside from all that, the sermon (lecture) is what concerned me.
Those of you who have seen Hagee's TV program will know that he often uses large backdrops. In this case the mural was a colorful depiction of the [New Testament] book of Revelation (with angels and monsters, etc.) because that is what his current series is on. Hagee is preaching on the letters to the seven churches, and Sunday's theme was "Sardis." He has determined that each church represents a period of time in history.
Hagee prefaces his presentations on Revelation each week by a lengthy review of pertinent history, beginning with 70 CE [Rome's defeat of Judea] and the "Die-aspora" to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The next event of note will be the rapture. Well, you know the drill: those not raptured will suffer tribulation. Then Christ will come to establish his literal 1000 year reign in literal Jerusalem on the literal Temple Mount. Then the destruction of the earth, then heaven, etc., etc.
A number of things to note: Hagee emphatically maintains that it is UNCHRISTIAN to preach that there will be no rapture. On Revelation: "You don't know Jesus until you know the book of Revelation" (tell that to Eastern Christians, who barely let Revelation into the canon.).
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is a lamb (??). In Revelation he is a lion, a conquering hero, a sort of storm trooper.
And so on and so forth.
Hagee mentioned that Ruth Chris was in the front row in the early service and promised that she would build a steak house in north San Antonio, I imagine to fatten up believers to emulate Hagee's girth.
I have discovered that the louder Hagee yells, the louder the clapping and cheering of his disciples.
P.S. The September-October issue of the Cornerstone magazine features an abundance of pictures and text about what Hagee calls the July 18-19 "2006 Washington D.C. Summit." [Our report on that is here.] The magazine states: "From the moment the Shofar sounded, the excitement was enthusiastic and unwavering. As the Regional Directors had roll call over their states, their delegates stood in exuberance, waiving (sic) their state flags along with Israeli flags!"
Prominent attendees were Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum, Pat Boone, Rod Parsley, Jerry Falwell, General Moshe Ya'yalon, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon, General Shimon Erem ("one of Israel's most celebrated generals"), Gary Bauer, Henry Bonilla (Republican Representative from Texas), Kenneth Copeland, et al. Quite a lineup. President Bush sent greetings.
What strikes me is how much this business is turning into a cult of the personality.