On July 18 and 19, John Hagee, pastor and founder of San Antonio's evangelical Cornerstone Church, led a "conference" of Christians United for Israel in Washington D.C., the purpose of which was to show support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
The combined Israeli and Lebanese death toll July 19 stood at 330. To Hagee, those bodies are merely props in a twisted version of Biblical prophecy that I think of as The Final Solution Part II. What Hagee will say to general audiences is "If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there would be no Christianity." What he has written for his followers in such books as From Daniel to Doomsday is "Jesus will clean house ... Every hostile force that would challenge Christ's right to rule the earth will have been eradicated ... The hearts of the Jewish people ... will fully turn to their true God ... " In a more recent publication, Jerusalem Countdown - A Warning to the World, Hagee wrote that "The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching ...," echoing a Christian Zionist belief that the current Mid-East troubles foreshadow Armageddon and the Second Coming.
The treatment for Hagee's historical screenplay basically goes: Israel and America go to war to re-establish Israel à la Old Testament. Jesus returns to earth, the Jewish people embrace him as the true Savior and are saved along with evangelical Christians. Or not, in which case they burn in hell with other nonbelievers (See you there. Bring banned books and sunscreen; I'll bring oysters and champagne).
I don't have a problem with Hagee exercising his right to free speech, but he and his lobbyists actually have the ear of our born-again Commander in Chief, who sent a message of support to the D.C. gathering, as did Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Setting aside for a moment the question of whether Israel ought to embrace an "ally" who freely announces his intent to use the Jewish (and Lebanese and Iranian, etc.) peoples for his own end, consider the danger Hagee and his ilk pose to the tenuous Mid-East situation.
Hagee sees the numerous fighting factions in the Middle East as pawns in an undifferentiated clash between the Islamic world and the Christian West - in this view, not only are the conflicts between Israel and her neighbors, between Iran and the U.S. and Israel, and between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, intractable, they are part of God's master plan and should be abetted rather than defused. Hagee's rhetoric dovetails nicely with the Administration's us against- them terrorist trope, which in turn supports the White House's neo-con plans to wage war throughout the region for military and economic gain while undermining civil rights at home.
But the all-too-human truth is that the Mid-East conflicts are driven by people and political entities who have needs and desires that can be manipulated and met through compromise and careful diplomacy. By doing so, not only can we save thousands of lives in the immediate future, we can lay the groundwork for a prosperous and peaceful Middle East and undermine the psychological and monetary support for anti-American terrorists.
The current fight in Lebanon is in many ways a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran. Reports are now surfacing from the likes of veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the White House green-lighted Israel's initiative against Hezbollah as a prelude to a U.S. push against Iran. To the extent that the President adopts, or refuses to rebut, the ideology of an Armageddon-drunk false prophet from San Antone, he is furthering our shadow government's anti-democratic push for more war and encouraging Americans to shirk our real moral responsibility - to advocate for a practical peace in the Mid-East.
"It would be crazy to suggest that the President wants war in the Middle East to fulfill a Biblical prophecy," my husband said Sunday morning. But it's not crazy to suggest that those who do are playing into the Administration's plans.
If Bush, cheered on by Hagee and his short-sighted allies, successfully thwarts the UN's effort to do what we will not, the next Final Solution may consume us all.