For right-wing Pastor John Hagee, it was a glorious day. In his view, Bible prophecy was being fulfilled and his personal comeback was complete. Here he was delivering the closing prayer at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Less than 60 miles away, the Israeli military was slaughtering unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. How could Hagee not be thinking that this event — engineered and staged by the Trump administration, in coordination with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu — might be the launching point for the greatest battle ever: the “End Times”?
“We thank you, O Lord, for President Donald Trump’s courage in acknowledging to the world a truth that was established 3,000 years ago — that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Hagee said. “Jerusalem,” he prayed, “is where Messiah will come and establish a kingdom that will never end.”
Earlier, in an interview with Breitbart News, Hagee said he told Trump that he would win “political immortality” for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.
In reporting about the embassy event, several US media outlets referred to Hagee as “controversial.” In reality, the word “toxic” may be a more accurate descriptor. Toxic enough that during the 2008 presidential campaign, after a tape surfaced of Hagee claiming that Hitler and the Nazis were sent by God to chase Europe’s Jews to Israel, Sen. John McCain disavowed Hagee’s endorsement, despite spending many months soliciting it.
“God says in Jeremiah 16: ‘Behold, I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave to their fathers…. Behold, I will send for many fishers, and after will I send for many hunters,'” Hagee said in the taped sermon that surfaced in 2008. “‘And they the hunters shall hunt them.’ That would be the Jews…. Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.”
“Hagee’s controversial sermon quote about ‘fishers and hunters,’ is one of the most common motifs found in Christian Zionist media,” veteran investigative reporter Rachel Tabachnick wrote in Zeek. “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.”
John Hagee Ministries, part of Hagee’s multimillion-dollar media empire, later packaged and marketed the sermons, including the one about Hitler being a hunter.
Since that time, Hagee, the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, and CEO of Global Evangelism Television, has been on a long and winding comeback trail.
On three consecutive Sundays in March 2003, Hagee’s sermons were “heavily loaded with anti-Jewish memes, stereotypes, slurs and conspiracy theories,” Bruce Wilson reported last year in the Huffington Post.
In 2006, Hagee founded Christians United for Israel, which has since become one of the most powerful pro-Israeli lobbying groups. In fact, as The Times of Israel pointed out, before Trump announced the relocation of the embassy, Christians United for Israel members sent roughly 135,000 emails to the Trump White House, pushing for the move to Jerusalem. The result of Trump’s move is that the small American consulate in West Jerusalem will be rebuilt into a giant embassy complex over the next six years.
In a pre-embassy-dedication interview, Hagee told The Times of Israel that he believed “this is a fulfillment of the biblical position in the Torah, where God promises to Israel in Deuteronomy, where he promises that He will make Israel the head, and not the tail, of the nations, and that toward the end of days, Jerusalem and Israel will be the epicenter of everything that’s going to happen.” For veteran Christian Zionists, the dedication of the US embassy in Jerusalem is a major step moving this process along.
When asked about growing anti-Semitism in the US, Hagee laid the blame at the feet of President Barack Obama, calling him “the greatest traitor Israel has ever had in the history of the United States of America.” Hagee’s inaccurate and hyperbolic assessment of the Obama administration was nothing new. In 2014, during the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran, he told a gathering of the Zionist Organization of America that he believed “The executive branch… is in the hands of one of the most anti-Semitic presidents in the history of the United States of America.”
Asked about his vision of “the End Times,” Hagee said: “In a broad brush, the Bible teaches … that at the end of days, the messiah is ruling on this earth with a kingdom that has 1,000 years of peace, which is the golden age of peace in Judaism. ‘When the lion lays with the lamb.’ And that righteous Jews are front and center with righteous gentiles. Those who are not judged to be righteous, God takes care of them in His own special way, and that’s His business.”
In the interview, Hagee brushed off his earlier claim that his God sent Hitler to force the Jews to Israel.
Meanwhile, in a post-embassy-dedication piece, Hagee wrote, without a tinge of irony or introspection, that “Contrary to the shortsighted speculation of some, the new US policy toward Jerusalem will advance peace in the region.” Hagee has always advocated a more hawkish approach to US policy in the Middle East. The Jerusalem embassy dedication strengthens hardliners on all sides, conspiring to kill an already dormant peace process.
John Fea, an evangelical Christian who teaches American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and is the author of the forthcoming Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, recently pointed out in Sight Magazine that “The Jerusalem decision reinforces the idea that America is a Christian nation. This decision makes America great in the eyes of God. It also makes Trump great in the eyes of those American evangelicals who visit the White House regularly to consult with the president, the flatterers and sycophants whom I have called the ‘court evangelicals.'” Fea maintains that the politics of fear, and white evangelicals’ quest for political power, have caused them to fully embrace Trump.
In 2016, 71 percent of Jewish voters supported Hillary Clinton, down from the 79 percent that supported Al Gore’s presidential run in 2000. However, it is highly doubtful that the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem will bring many more Jewish voters to the GOP. The embassy dedication and the elevated presence of two Christian conservative evangelical preachers — Hagee and Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist who was another big-time supporter of Trump during his campaign — appear to have been aimed squarely at the white Christian evangelical base that voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. Why the Jerusalem dedication now? A wounded president and the upcoming midterm elections are about all we need to know.