John Hagee’s funding of Im Tirtzu highlights the significant role that Christian Zionists are playing in Israeli and American politics. In the wake of the ensuing controversy David Brog, the Jewish Executive Director of Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI), and Hagee’s spokesperson Ari Morgenstern, have attacked J Street for referencing Hagee’s controversial “Hitler as hunter” sermon quote which resulted in John McCain’s rejection of Hagee’s political endorsement in 2008.
Despite Hagee’s enormous influence, the ongoing argument in the press has been distilled to a brief excerpt from one sermon, in which Hagee describes Hitler as a hunter sent by God to “chase the Jewish people back to the land.”
Hitler as God’s Hunter
Many columns have been devoted to analyzing Hagee’s words, and clearly most of that commentary has been written by those who have never watched this sermon, or any of Hagee’s apocalyptic media. This allows Hagee’s defenders to make remarkable claims. In a recent JTA news op-ed, Brog claimed “J Street proceeded to slur our chairman” and that the only information J Street provided about CUFI was “Pastor Hagee once said that Hitler was sent by God to force Jews to move to Israel.” Ari Morgenstern has compared Hagee’s sermon to the “teachings of noted Jewish theologians Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal and Eim Habanim Semaichah who put forth this interpretation as a part of their efforts to understand how a loving God could have allowed the Holocaust.”
The philosophical discourse described by Morgenstern in no way resembles the Judeophobic apocalyptic prophecy which Hagee regularly disseminates to millions around the globe. The controversial quote is from third sermon in a 2005 series titled “Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis.” The description on the DVD case includes, “In this prophetic sermon series you’ll understand that Jesus Christ is coming much sooner than you believe… the War of Ezekiel 38-39 is upon us.” Hagee’s book Jerusalem Countdown includes very similar wording to the sermon series and was published in 2006, just prior to the founding of CUFI.
The quote that was publicized begins at about 35 minutes into sermon.
“Those who came founded Israel. Those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust. Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says - Jeremiah writing - they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks, meaning there’s no place to hide. And that will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended. I didn’t write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, “my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel”. Today Israel is back in the land and they are at Ezekiel 37 and 8. They are physically alive but they’re not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come spiritually alive and say, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is God?”
I have watched this sermon series many times, produced transcripts, and spent endless hours studying Hagee video, audio, and prophecy books. But it doesn’t take years of engaging in this type of work to understand that Hagee’s defenders are not being honest with the Jewish community.
The fact that Hagee’s empire has been built on apocalyptic end times prophecy is clear in the advertisement that precedes the DVD version of the sermon. The marketing of these sermons by John Hagee Ministries, Inc. is one of the ways that Hagee became the highest paid head of a non-profit in San Antonio in 2004, with his more than a million dollar income “nearly twice that of the next best-paid executive.” This two minute promo is for “Prophecy in the 21st Century,” a four-part sermon series, one of which includes a virulent attack on Roman Catholicism that parallels a 19th century conspiracy theory that has been used to demonize both Catholics and Jews. Many of Hagee’s marketed products more closely resemble a John Birch Society screed than an evangelical sermon.
Why does this matter?
Jewish leaders daily face the decision whether to publicly partner with, and accept the flow of funding from Hagee, CUFI and Christian Zionists who provide a definition of Zionism and “blessing Israel” for millions worldwide. Despite the fact that Christian leaders from across the denominational spectrum have rejected Hagee’s millennialist theology for an array of reasons, he has been empowered by those in Jewish leadership who have given him awards, compared him to Moses, participated in CUFI activities, and invited him to speak at AIPAC’s 2007 convention. When these leaders stand with John Hagee, they provide legitimacy for his agenda and fan the flames of millennial frenzy.
Fishers and Hunters
Hagee’s controversial sermon quote is about “fishers and hunters,” one of the most common motifs found in Christian Zionist media. The meaning is unambiguous. The ingathering of Jews in Israel is considered a prerequisite to the 1000-year reign of Jesus in the end times. Christian Zionists view themselves as “fishers” who must befriend and persuade Jews to move to Israel before the “time of the hunters.” Hunters are those who will violently force the remaining Jews around the world to leave their respective nations and flee to Israel.
There are conflicts in Christian Zionism about the exact timing and details of these events. For instance, some believe that they will be taken from the earth in the “Rapture” before this time of horrors, while others believe that they will remain as God’s warriors on earth. But they agree that there will be a coming explosion of worldwide anti-Semitism referred to as the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” In Christian Zionist prophecy, this holocaust is required to bring the remaining Jews to repentance because, as Hagee states in his controversial sermon, Jews “are not spiritually alive.”
Hagee and other Christian Zionists have repeatedly claimed that their support is benign since they can not move the hands of the prophetic clock. Their sermons and books tell another story - one in which humans must play an active role in hastening the coming of the messiah. Hagee’s church magazine features solicitations for donations to move Jews to Israel under a banner that reads “Become a Part of the Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy.” CUFI Director Billye Brimm stated in a televised program, “He [God] said he was going to bring the Jews home. Now God prophesizes things in the bible, but it takes men working with him to make that come to pass. It takes you.”
Preparation for the end times requires enticing Jews to settle throughout the boundaries of the coming “Kingdom.” In the West Bank settlement of Ariel, which is described as the capital of Samaria, there is a John Hagee sports building which houses the Billye Brimm swimming pool.
Moving the hands of the prophetic clock is not idle talk. Christian Zionists have opened wide their wallets and dedicated their time, some their entire careers, to fulfilling what they believe to be the prerequisites for this utopian kingdom.
Fishing for Jews
The Ebenezer Emergency Fund and its Operation Exodus were founded in England by Gustav Scheller. The organization’s website currently states that “according to the latest figures, in 2007 Ebenezer-Operation Exodus has helped and assisted 61% of all Jewish people making aliyah from the countries of the former Soviet Union where we are working. In Russia, the figure is 78% and in Central Asia this rises to 86%—in Tajikistan it is 100%.” The website also features a 2009 letter from the Jewish Agency for Israel thanking Ebenezer Emergency Fund for their partnership since the 1990s and for supporting Jews making aliyah from North America.
Gustav Scheller’s book Operation Exodus: Prophecy Being Fulfilled recounts careful cultivation of Jews in the former Soviet Union. Jewish communities are provided with extensive charitable services in order to convince those resisting to relocate to Israel before it is “too late.” Scheller describes escape routes being planned for Jews around the world including the possibility of an “exodus across the Bering Strait.” He quotes the pastor of an Alaskan church who states that his church “has already made preparations to welcome the Jews when they come.”
Refuge in the Last Days
In a quote published in Newsweek, Pastor Ed Kalnins of Wasilla Assembly of God, Alaska, stated “I believe Alaska is one of the refuge states, come on you guys, in the last days, and hundreds and thousands of people are going to come to the state to seek refuge, and the church has to be ready to minister to them.” Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker at this videotaped event in June 2008. In November, Palin told Barabara Walters, “I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.”
There are airport ministries that are dedicated to the task of “Jewish Aliyah Services” with the purpose of transporting fleeing Jews. One Alaskan ministry describes the process. “We are called to fly dispersed Jews to our home in the wilderness of Alaska where they will be comforted, nourished and shown how Yeshua (Jesus) is their Messiah. As they accept Him they will become betrothed to God through the New Covenant Wilderness Betrothal… After this time of ministry we are to fly them to Israel to complete their journey to the Promised Land.” What about the Jews who will not convert? The explanation is continued on the ministry website, “Just as in the original exodus, God will also purge rebellious people from Israel…”
Johannes Facius led Operation Exodus for two years after Scheller’s death and has written that believers should be “active in helping to fulfill certain biblical conditions necessary to usher in the return of Christ. Key to this plan is for Gentiles to help accomplish God’s purpose for the Jews.” The title of the book is Hastening the Coming of the Messiah: Your Role In Fulfilling Prophecy. Facius writes, “ As a result of the Jewish rejection of their Messiah, the people were sent into global exile…Jesus is saying that His Second Coming will not take place until there is a Jewish population in Jerusalem who will welcome Him with all of their hearts.”
Facius continues, “Ebenezer and other Christian ministries have been fishing thousands of Jews from the land of the north (the former Soviet Union) for the last ten years.” In a chapter titled “Fishers and Hunters” Facius explains that God is sending the hunters to chase Jews “out of the nations they occupy toward the Promised Land” and emphasizes that it is not the devil, but God, who sends the hunters. Like Hagee, Facius explains that Jews “being brought back to Israel are spiritually blind people.”
Saving Jews from Judaism
The largest single international Christian Zionist event is the Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, co-founded in 2004 by CUFI director Robert Stearns and Jack Hayford. Hayford is founder of a seminary which now trains charismatic Messianics to “reach all Israel for Yeshua in our generation.” In an interview with Christian Broadcast Network in 2005, Stearns stated that participating churches were sent Your People Shall Be My People, a book by his mentor Don Finto.
The book celebrates the growth of Messianic Judaism and Finto pleads with churches to embrace and support Messianics in Israel. Finto also explains that Christian Zionists should build trust with Jews in order to prepare for the great “harvest of souls” in the coming holocaust. He adds, “Some of my friends are actually building shelters – secret hideaways – to house Jews in the coming persecution. Christians in Finland and the rest of Scandinavia have stored food and clothing, bought vehicles for transportation and made other preparations… They want to be the Oskar Schindlers and Corrie ten Booms, the righteous Gentiles – as the Jewish people call them – of their generation.”
This great love for Jews does not require a tolerance for Judaism. “Blessing Israel” in this context is about saving Jews and Israel from Judaism. In the same book, Finto quotes Messianic leader Dan Juster, “The essence of Rabbinism is a severe departure, replacing revelation with human reason… We who are Jewish are biblical New Covenant Jews, not Rabbinic Jews!” CUFI’s Robert Stearns describes Juster as the “Thomas Jefferson of Messianic Judaism” and “the vessel the Lord has raised up to pioneer the End-Time move” and describes the dramatic growth in Messianic Judaism as, “Our elder brother is risen from the dead!”
The Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus endorses Stearns and Hayford’s Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, despite the fact they, along with CUFI director Stephen Strang, are the bridge between Israeli Messianic ministries and their Christian Zionist supporters around the world.
These Christian Zionists claim to combat anti-Semitism, but there must be a worldwide wave of violent anti-Semitism for their prophecy to be fulfilled, and they want this to take place in their lifetime. This is one of the many paradoxes of the movement, like its claim to love Jews while aggressively working to eliminate Judaism.
The Hagee Controversy
On May 21, 2008, MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann aired the Bruce Wilson video with audio and transcript from John Hagee’s “Battle for Jerusalem.” By the next day the sermon quote was international news and John McCain rejected Hagee’s political endorsement. We believed that this would open the door to serious dialogue in the Jewish community about the dangerous paradox of Christian Zionism and the movement’s global dissemination of anti-Jewish media. This is why our research team has invested a combined ten years in this work.
Almost two years have passed and this dialogue is not taking place.
Last month the Cleveland Jewish News reported a CUFI Night to Honor Israel as “showing Cleveland that unconditional love for Israel is possible.” At this event David Brog linked CUFI with the righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust. “The idea of the righteous Gentile - those who saved Jews during the Holocaust - is taking over the American church,” Brog is quoted as stating.
A local rabbi who spoke at the CUFI event is not worried about the group trying to convert Jews in order to expedite the second coming of Christ. “They know they can’t change ‘God’s time,’” he is quoted as saying.
If it were not so tragic, it would be comical.
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