May 20, 2008
The Hagee chronicles
I have written before about John Hagee, head of the group called Christians United for Israel (CUFI). This is a group that is politically aligned with the extreme right wing of American and Israeli politics, opposes any land for peace deal with the Palestinians, opposes withdrawing from any of the occupied territories, and does not see violence and chaos on the Middle East as a bad thing.
What kind of idiotic thinking could possible lead to such dangerous conclusions? You can be sure that it is based on religion. Hagee and CUFI are apocalyptic, rapture-ready Christians, just waiting for the moment, which they believe is imminent, when Christ will came back to Earth and personally escort them to heaven, to escape the time of tribulation that will then be unleashed on Earth. (I have written about this crazy belief system before. See here, here, here, here, and here.)
You would think that a religious extremist like Hagee with borderline insane beliefs would be so toxic that any mainstream political candidate would shy away from any link with him. But you would be wrong. John McCain eagerly sought and obtained Hagee's endorsement.
But then things hit a snag. It turns out that Hagee also believes in that golden oldie, that god unleashed hurricane Katrina on New Orleans because of that city's sinfulness, particularly because of the gays there. But even being callous and hateful towards the people of New Orleans and gays was not crazy enough to make McCain keep him at arm's length. After all, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell also stated something similar and neither was ridiculed out of the public arena.
To get a sense of how extreme Hagee's views are, listen to this Fresh Air interview with him. Terry Gross is a gentle interviewer and is to be commended on her self-restraint in not laughing out loud at Hagee. But why does she not ask Hagee hard but simple questions based on his own view that the Bible is the inerrant word of god? Why not ask him, since he is such a fan of following every word of the Bible, whether he also supports the death penalty for each of the following transgressions: Taking the name of the Lord in vain, working on the Sabbath, children who talk back to their parents, adultery, planting different crops side by side, and wearing garments made of two different threads. All these actions are condemned by god in the Bible, sometimes specifying that burning or stoning be the method used in implementing the death sentence.
The reason that these questions are not asked by those in the mainstream media is because there is a tacit understanding that we don't point out those things that show religion and religious texts to be extreme and foolish, unless the religion is that espoused by people we don't like, which currently is Islam. It is perfectly acceptable to point out the absurd things in the Koran. The fact that Hagee can come on mainstream programs and have his Biblical-based ravings discussed as if they are rational ideas shows how low our exaggerated 'respect for religion' attitude has caused us to sink.
Some Jewish groups are understandably uneasy about being affiliated with rapture-ready groups like CUFI who see Jews as basically expendable extras playing scripted parts in an end-times spectacular in which the Christians get all the leading roles.
But others, like Joe Lieberman who has compared Hagee to the mythical Moses, are happy to have Hagee's support. They presumably think that the rapture stuff is sheer lunacy and will never happen so why not humor the old coot since he provides unconditional Christian support for Israeli expansionist hard line policies against Palestinians that have created a state of siege in Gaza and an apartheid-like state on the West Bank?
Where Hagee seemed to step over the line and cause problems for McCain was when he attacked Catholics, calling them "The Great Whore", an "apostate church", and "a false cult system." He said that this view of the Catholic Church was clearly spelled out in the Book of Revelations.
Bill Donohue, head of an outfit called the Catholic League and self-proclaimed defender of Catholicism and always ready to exploit outrage to get himself some media attention, denounced the endorsement in his usually angry tone and people started giving the Hagee endorsement of McCain some attention, although nothing close to the media frenzy over Barack Obama's association with his former pastor.
Still, the unease was enough to cause Hagee to suddenly announce that his views on Catholicism had been revised and he has written a letter to the Catholic League apologizing. He no longer seems to consider the Catholic Church as "the Great Whore" or an "apostate church".
So what caused Hagee to revise his sour view of Catholics? Some new evidence? Some new research? Some new facts? Of course not. Those things are for wimpy rationalists. As a deeply religious man, all he needed was a revelation that his earlier views were wrong. That's it.
The ease with which religious people like Hagee can reverse course should (but probably won't) give enablers like Lieberman pause. Religious people can change their views on a dime because those views do not depend on reason or evidence or even basic logic. Hence such people make very undependable allies.
For example, on May 17, a group that had spent six months in an underground cavern waiting for the rapture gave up, after two of their members had died. If at some point enough of these rapture-ready Christians get fed up waiting for a Christ who seems to be really tardy, their leaders may suddenly have a new 'revelation' that this is because it is the Jews and Israel who are somehow holding Jesus back or some other crackpot idea, and they may suddenly start to view all Jews as the enemy. Remember, they don't need any reasons to believe anything. They start, like all religious believers, by first deciding what they want to believe, then making up the reasons afterwards, finding appropriate passages of support in their religious texts.
We have to stop giving credence to religious people unless they have something useful to say based on the same criteria we apply to everything else: that it be based on fact and reason and evidence and logical argument.
What the Bible or Koran or any other supposedly holy book says should not count for anything in the world of politics. Otherwise our politics and even world peace will be held hostage to this kind of irrationality.
POST SCRIPT: Stand up and be a man!
Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell, and John Hagee are not, unfortunately, the only people with weird religious views in America. There exists a kind of minor league farm system that provides a steady supply of people with bizarre ideas derived from religion.
For example, do you know what the real problem with America is? Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church does will tell you and he is not taking things sitting down. It is straight from the Bible so it has to be true.
Jesus' General thinks that Pastor Anderson is just the man to head up a new project he has in mind.