Jewish Journal


May 29, 2008

In defense of John Hagee


I mentioned in a post yesterday that leading Jewish organizations have been mum on the topic of the Rev. John Hagee and his now-infamous Hitler sermon, but that some Jews have rushed to his side.

Doris Wise Montrose, L.A. president of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors,  said her father and his friends rarely spoke of the Holocaust without mentioning God’s hand in it. (How do you talk about tragedy, especially on such an enormous scale, without wondering where God was?)

It seems now that Hagee must be the one asking: Why? Why did the public turn against him so hard when his words weren’t universally offensive, even if they were disagreeable?

“What was most breathtaking about the debate over Pastor Hagee’s statements on the Holocaust was the complete absence of one,” David Brog, Hagee’s right-hand who recently discussed theodicy with Haaretz, wrote in an op-ed titled, “The New Inquisition.”

This was not a case where thoughtful arbiters discussed his words in the context of a rich Judeo-Christian tradition of theodicy.  There was no respect given to a quite common worldview.  There was no trial.  We skipped right to the auto da fe.

Breathe in deeply and you can still smell the embers smoldering around Pastor Hagee’s public persona.

The latest pressure is being exerted upon Sen. Joe Lieberman, who agreed to speak during the annual meeting for Hagee’s Christians United for Israel and can be seen in the above video likening Hagee to Moses. A confidant of John McCain, who pushed Hagee aside, Lieberman has refused to cut ties.

“I believe that Pastor Hagee has made comments that are deeply unacceptable and hurtful,” Lieberman said in a statement. “I also believe that a person should be judged on the entire span of his or her life’s works. Pastor Hagee has devoted much of his life to fighting anti-Semitism and building bridges between Christians and Jews.”

So what’s really going on here? Were Hagee’s words hurtful, misrepresented or, on their face, uncontroversial? The always thoughtful Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues writes that the case is awfully flimsy. He addresses five points, among them Montrose’s letter, the repeated media criticism of Hagee, the pastor’s talk in March at Stephen S. Wise Temple and a bit of theology:

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