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Archive for the ‘John Hagee’ Category

from The Middle East Quarterly:

A mere decade ago, Christian Zionism was seen as an emerging force in American politics. As if out of nowhere, a block of fifty to one hundred million friends of Israel were poised to enter the national debate and safeguard the U.S.-Israel relationship for generations to come. Evangelical love for Israel appeared so solid that the only debate within the Jewish community was whether or not to “accept” it.

How quickly things change. The days of taking evangelical support for Israel for granted are over. As they are increasingly confronted with an evangelical-friendly, anti-Israel narrative, more and more of these Christians are turning against the Jewish state.

There is troubling precedent for such an about-face. At one time—prior to the 1967 war— the mainline Protestant denominations were among Israel’s most reliable American supporters. Israel’s opponents, therefore, targeted these denominations with mainline-friendly, anti-Israel messages. There are still many mainline Protestants who support Israel today. But to the extent the mainline denominations act corporately in connection with the Jewish state, it is to divest from it. And it is from Israel—not Iran—that they seek to divest.

In a similar fashion, Palestinian Christians and their American sympathizers are successfully promoting a narrative aimed at reaching the rising generation of evangelicals and turning them against Israel. As a result, more leaders of this generation are moving toward neutrality in the conflict while others are becoming outspoken critics of Israel. Questioning Christian support for the Jewish state is fast becoming a key way for the millennials to demonstrate their Christian compassion and political independence. In short, this population is in play.

The Shift

There is nothing new about the efforts to drive a wedge between America’s evangelicals and Israel. Many in the anti-Israel camp have been working for years to do exactly that. Anti-Israel Palestinian Christians such as Sami Awad and Naim Ateek have traveled the country telling American Christians how their “brothers and sisters in Christ” are being oppressed by Israel’s Jews. Left-leaning evangelicals such as Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, and Serge Duss have echoed this narrative in their corner of the Christian world. Duss’s sons, Brian and Matt, have worked diligently to mainstream their father’s views within the fields of Christian philanthropy and Democratic Party policy-making, respectively.

Until the past couple of years, however, there was little reason to believe that these individuals were influencing Christians beyond their own narrow circles. Almost every significant evangelical leader who took a position on the issue came out squarely behind the Jewish state. A center-right evangelical world simply was not taking its political cues from these stalwarts of the left.

This situation is changing dramatically. With every passing month, more evidence is emerging that these anti-Israel Christians are succeeding in reaching beyond the evangelical left and are influencing the mainstream. In particular, they are penetrating the evangelical world at its soft underbelly: the millennial generation. These young believers (roughly ages 18 to 30) are rebelling against what they perceive as the excessive biblical literalism and political conservatism of their parents. As they strive with a renewed vigor to imitate Jesus’ stand with the oppressed and downtrodden, they want to decide for themselves which party is being oppressed in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Whoever first defines the conflict for these young people will win lifelong allies.

Of Polling and Documentaries

In October 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a major survey of evangelical leaders attending the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. When asked with which side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they sympathized, these leaders answered as follows:

All Evangelicals (Global)

Sympathize With Israel—34%
Sympathize with the Palestinians—11%
Sympathize with Both Equally—39%

American Evangelicals

Sympathize with Israel—30%
Sympathize with the Palestinians—13%
Sympathize with Both Sides Equally—49%

The survey contained two bombshells. It showed that only a minority of those evangelicals polled sympathized primarily with Israel. And it demonstrated that American evangelical leaders were actually less inclined to support Israel than evangelical leaders in general.

These figures may mean that evangelical support for Israel was never as universal as was commonly believed. But they may also demonstrate that years of grassroots efforts by Israel’s critics were beginning to bear fruit even before their recent intensification.

The year 2010 was one of dramatic escalation in the efforts to drive a wedge between American evangelicals and Israel using the medium of film. In the span of that one year, no less than three major documentaries were released attacking Christian support for Israel. These were hardly the first anti-Israel movies to be produced. What made these films special was that they were focused on discrediting Christian support for Israel. While First Run Features’ Waiting for Armageddon was produced and directed by a team of secular documentarians, two other films—With God on Our Side (Rooftop Productions, 2010) and Little Town of Bethlehem(EthnoGraphic Media, 2010)—were made by Christians specifically for Christians. With God on Our Side was produced by Porter Speakman, a former Youth with a Mission (YWAM) activist while Little Town of Bethlehem was funded and produced by Mart Green, chairman of the board of trustees of Oral Roberts University and heir to the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts stores fortune.

These two Christian-made films are masterpieces of deception. They feature compelling protagonists wandering earnestly through a Middle Eastern landscape in which all Arab violence, aggression, and rejectionism have been magically erased. Thus the Israeli security measures they encounter along the way—from the security fence to Israel’s ongoing presence in the West Bank—are experienced as baffling persecutions, which any decent person would condemn.

More recently, in November 2013, another anti-Israel documentary—The Stones Cry Out—was released. Like its 2010 predecessors, this documentary specifically tailors its anti-Israel message to a Christian audience. The film’s website laments: “All too often, media coverage of the conflict in Palestine has framed it as a fight between Muslims and Jews.” The not-too subtle goal of The Stones Cry Out is to reframe the conflict as a fight between Christians and Jews.

The Stones Cry Out begins with the story of Kfar Biram, a Christian Arab village on Israel’s border with Lebanon. Israel expelled the village’s residents in 1948 in order to, in the words of the film’s website, “make way for settlers in the newly created state of Israel.” The film then moves on to “the expropriation of the West Bank in 1967” and the plight of modern Bethlehem, which is “hemmed in by the wall.” As such language repeatedly makes clear, the filmmakers did not craft a nuanced critique of Israeli policies. They produced instead a modern passion play.

In an interview about the film, Bethlehem pastor Mitri Raheb summarizes the changes taking place in the American evangelical world:

It’s not a hopeless case. The first time I went to the States in 1991, most of the people I met knew nothing about Palestine. That has changed a lot. I see among the evangelical Christian community more openness towards the Palestinians.

Raheb is right about the openness. And this could be a good thing if it leads to an honest examination of the issue. Unfortunately, Raheb and his colleagues are exploiting this openness by telling a one-sided narrative of Jewish persecution of Christians that may sow the seeds of future hate.

Of Campuses and Conferences

The effort to delegitimize Israel on America’s college campuses has quickly progressed from news item to cliché. The annual Israel apartheid weeks and the repeated divestment campaigns targeting everything from university pension funds to cafeteria humus have become all too familiar. But what many observers do not realize is that the effort to demonize Israel is also being waged on America’s Christian campuses.

Perhaps the most troubling example comes from Wheaton College in Illinois, commonly referred to as the “evangelical Harvard.” Some of the most prominent church leaders in America have graduated from Wheaton, including the Rev. Billy Graham, Sen. Dan Coats (Republican, Indiana), and George W. Bush’s former speechwriter Michael Gerson.

Wheaton is also the home of Gary Burge, one of America’s most prominent anti-Israel evangelicals. Burge travels the country and the world accusing the Jewish state of the worst of crimes and engaging in a mockery of Judaism that borders on anti-Semitism. When Christians United for Israel (CUFI) announced plans to hold an event at Wheaton in January 2009, Burge went on the offensive. CUFI’s student members came under such intense pressure that they moved their event off-campus: There would be no pro-Israel event at the evangelical Harvard.

Another of America’s leading Christian schools, Oral Roberts University (ORU), has deep conservative Christian roots. Oral Roberts himself was a Pentecostal televangelist and a strong friend of Israel. Some of the leading preachers in America graduated from ORU, and its board of trustees has included pro-Israel Christians such as pastors John Hagee and Kenneth Copeland and Bishop Keith Butler.

But things may be changing at ORU. The current chair of ORU’s board of trustees is the aforementioned Mart Green. He is reported to have “saved” ORU with a $70 million cash infusion. In January 2013, ORU’s board of trustees elected Billy Wilson as the university’s new president; a few months later, Wilson was named as a speaker for 2014 at the leading anti-Israel Christian conference, “Christ at the Checkpoint.”

Bethel University in Minnesota provides a further example. While this school lacks the national reputation of Wheaton or ORU, it is likely more representative of the direction that America’s Christian colleges are taking. Bethel’s leaders are neither leading nor funding the effort to delegitimize Israel but are merely the products thereof. Like many Christian schools, Bethel emphasizes racial reconciliation and cultural openness and has accordingly developed numerous opportunities for its students to study abroad. In 2010, Bethel’s president Jay Barnes and his wife Barb visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to explore the prospect of building a study abroad program there. During the trip, they visited Bethlehem and were exposed to the standard Christian anti-Israel narrative. Like so many of her fellow travelers, Barb Barnes apparently bought into this one-sided presentation. Shortly after her return, Barnes posted a poem on the university’s website that summarized the leading anti-Israel themes of these tours:

Incredible conflict exists in the land of Jesus’ birth/ I believe God mourns.

The wall is a constant reminder of many lost freedoms/ I believe God mourns.

For more than 60 years, people have lived in poverty in refugee camps/ I believe God mourns.

Apartheid has become a way of life/ I believe God mourns.

Extreme disproportional distribution of resources, such as water, exists/ I believe God mourns.

Hundreds of villages have been demolished to make room for settlements/ I believe God mourns.

Human rights violations occur daily/ I believe God mourns.

The Christian population is declining as many are leaving to avoid persecution/ I believe God mourns.

The Barnes visit did not motivate further study ultimately yielding a more nuanced understanding. In October 2012, President Barnes hosted a “Hope for the Holy Land” evening at Bethel, a one-sided, blame-Israel speaking tour featuring Sami Awad, Lynn Hybels, and other long-standing Christian critics of Israel.

One need not be a student to be exposed to this anti-Israel narrative. In recent years, the number of Christian conferences focusing entirely or partially on criticizing Israel has grown along with the attendance at these conferences.

Since its founding in 1979, Bethlehem Bible College in the West Bank has been a leading source of the anti-Israel Christian narrative. In 2010, it launched a biennial conference called “Christ at the Checkpoint.” The name of the conference along with a photo of the Israel security fence that forms its logo invoke the increasingly popular meme that Jesus was a Palestinian who would be suffering under Israeli occupation today much as he suffered under Roman occupation millennia ago.

In 2010, the conference brought 250 Christian leaders and activists to Bethlehem; in 2012, that number was more than 600 including such mainstream evangelical leaders as mega-church pastor Joel Hunter and Lynne Hybels, wife of mega-church pastor Bill Hybels, who has since become a key evangelical critic of Israel.

The days when one had to travel to Bethlehem to hear such anti-Israel voices are now over. The anti-Israel narrative of “Christ at the Checkpoint” is now being shared at major Christian conferences in the United States including those organized by Empowered21 and Catalyst.

Empowered21, the preeminent gathering of Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, provides a troubling example of this trend. Its leadership is a who’s who of Pentecostal and Charismatic luminaries from around the world, including many longstanding friends of Israel. However, the leading critic of Israel among these leaders, Mart Green, appears to be playing an outsized role in setting the conference’s agenda: Its 2012 conference in Virginia included a talk by Sami Awad and a screening of Green’s film, Little Town of Bethlehem.

Empowered21 has announced that it will hold its 2015 global congress in Jerusalem. Given the conference’s connections to Sami Awad and Mart Green, there is some skepticism whether the choice of location was intended as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish state. Only time will tell if the organization’s leadership will permit the conference to become a one-sided Israel bashing fest.

Troubling developments are also taking place at the annual Catalyst conference. First launched in 1999, Catalyst has quickly grown into the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America with more than 100,000 leaders having made the annual trek to Atlanta to participate in this conference since its inception. Additional Catalyst events are now being held in Florida, Texas, and California.

In the past, Catalyst studiously avoided discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 2012, however, Lynne Hybels was invited to address “Peacemaking in Israel/Palestine.” No one was asked to provide a pro-Israel perspective. As journalist Jim Fletcher observed after attending Catalyst 2012:

In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millenials … expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.

In addition to speaking at major conferences, anti-Israel speakers such as Burge, Awad, Hybels, and Steven Sizer tour churches across the country. The flyer for a September 2013 evening with Burge provides a sense of the climate at these events. Entitled “Christian Zionism: A Problem with a Solution,” the flyer includes a string of three lies that form the core of the new Christian anti-Zionism:

Zionists in Israel have created a state that wants racial purity. Many Zionists want native-born Christians to leave Israel. Christian Zionists in America support Israel because they believe this will accelerate the second coming of Christ.

Trips to “Israel/Palestine”

A growing number of organizations are bringing an increasing number of Christian leaders, influencers, and students to visit “Israel/Palestine.” These trips are well marketed and seek out mainstream evangelicals by claiming to be both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian—or simply “pro-people”—but never anti-Israel. Yet these trips tend to focus on Palestinian suffering and to blame Israel alone for this suffering.

The Telos Group, founded in 2009 and funded by George Soros, is typical of these new organizations. Run by a savvy team professing a moderate agenda, Telos promotes itself as “a leading organization of America’s emerging pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, pro-peace movement.” Their tours take visitors to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority where they meet with both Israelis and Palestinians. What could be more evenhanded?

Yet these tours are carefully calibrated to teach their participants that Israeli policy is the source of Israeli and Arab suffering and the only real barrier to peace. The Palestinian speakers include extreme critics of Israel such as Mitri Raheb and Archbishop Elias Chacour (both featured prominently in The Stones Cry Out). The Israeli speakers, while not as extreme, are stalwarts of the far Left who likewise blame Israel for the region’s problems. A brief visit with an Israeli right-winger—usually a settler—does more to confirm this one-sided narrative than challenge it. Telos organizes approximately fifteen of these trips every year.

Another recent arrival on the scene is the Global Immersion Project. Founded in 2011, the project seeks to “cultivate everyday peacemakers through immersion in global conflict.” But thus far, the only conflict they study is that between Israel and the Palestinians, and the only trips they make are to “Israel/Palestine.” In 2014, they have two “learning labs” scheduled in the Holy Land.

These newcomers have joined an old stalwart of the movement, the Holy Land Trust. Founded in 1998 by Palestinian Christian activist Sami Awad, the organization claims to promote nonviolent solutions to the conflict with Israel. However, Awad has stated quite clearly on his blog that nonviolence is “not a substitute for the armed struggle. This is not a method for normalization with the occupation. Our goal is to revive the popular resistance until every person is involved in dismantling the occupation.” The Holy Land Trust promotes a strongly biased version of history in which Israel alone is to blame for the absence of peace. It shares this message to those who visit on their various service projects, olive harvesting initiative, and “Palestine Summer Encounter.”

The Generational Divide

Despite these troubling inroads, it is unlikely that an older generation of evangelicals raised to support Israel will abandon it en masse. The greater threat comes from the younger generation that never developed such bonds and seems quite eager to question them. There is a real danger that these films, conferences, and campus attacks will combine to create a generational shift in attitudes toward Israel.

Most of the evangelicals who dominated Christian political activism for the past few decades—men such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Francis Schaeffer—were vocal supporters of Israel. While their children may share this perspective, they tend to talk about it less. In fact, Schaeffer’s son Frank has become a vocal critic of “the largely unchallenged influence of Christian Zionism.”

Making matters worse, there is a cadre of rising young evangelical stars who are bonding on trips to Israel and the Palestinian Authority and returning to push their fellow evangelicals away from the Jewish state. This is a largely well-coiffed and fashionably dressed bunch dedicated to marketing Christianity to a skeptical generation by making it cool, compassionate, and less overtly political. Questioning support for Israel and expressing sympathy with the Palestinians is fast becoming a hallmark of this clique.

This generational divide is best highlighted by the example of Christian publisher Steven Strang and his son Cameron. Steven Strang publishes Charisma, a leading evangelical monthly with a consistently pro-Israel perspective. He has also published works by many prominent Christian authors, including pro-Israel stalwart John Hagee. Strang was, until recently, regional director for Christians United for Israel. His son Cameron publishes Relevant, a highly popular magazine among millennial evangelicals, claiming to “reach about 2,300,000 twenty- and thirty something Christians a month” through its print and online publications.

Less than a decade ago, Relevant was as pro-Israel as Charisma. In December 2005, for example, it published a powerful, pro-Israel piece called “Israel: Why You Should Care.” In 2006, Relevant interviewed the author of this article for its weekly podcast, and the interview could not have been friendlier.

Then Lynne Hybels took Cameron Strang to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories, and everything changed. During Israel’s 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Relevant published an article titled, “Is Israel Always Right?” in which the author dispensed with any balanced analysis of urban counterterror operations to conclude: “When I examine Israel’s choices like I would that of any other nation, I find myself appalled that they’re not doing more to protect the innocents [in Gaza].”

When Israel confronted Hamas again in November 2012, Relevant published an article titled, “How Should Christians Respond to the Middle East Crisis” by Jon Huckins, a co-founder of the Global Immersion Project. The article was an extended exercise in moral relativism, noting the suffering on each side without attributing blame. Huckins never once criticized Hamas, but he did take a thinly veiled swipe at Christian Zionists by blasting the “hateful stereotyping, racism, and violent response [to events in Gaza] being disseminated by Christians.”

Relevant‘s May/June 2012 cover featured Donald Miller, author of the New York Timesbestseller Blue Like Jazz (2003), which was made into a 2012 movie. In August 2008, Miller delivered the first night’s closing prayer at the Democratic National Convention. He is considered a rising star among America’s 20-something evangelicals who comprise many of his 189,000 Twitter followers. Miller visited Israel and the Palestinian territories with Strang and has since embraced the anti-Israel narrative. On November 12, 2012, Miller blogged “The Painful Truth about the Situation in Israel.” Here he repeated a number of outrageous lies about Israel he likely heard during his visit:

In September a group of journalists and I visited Israel and stood on a hill overlooking the wall separating Israel from Gaza. From our viewpoint, we could see the controversial territory where 1.6 million Palestinians have been walled in and secluded from the outside world. They are, essentially, imprisoned.

The walls erected around the West Bank and Gaza separate families from families. Many mothers will not see their children again. Millions will never return to the homes their families had occupied for hundreds of years. … Thousands of Palestinian students at American universities will never see their families again.

Israel gives most Palestinians fresh water once each week. … In Gaza, Israel also rations their food, allowing only so many calories per human being.

The Response

Freeze the frame today, and the pro-Israel side is still far ahead in the battle for the hearts and minds of America’s evangelicals. Just one pro-Israel organization, Christians United for Israel, has over 1.6 million members, chapters on more than 120 college and university campuses, and sponsors thirty-five pro-Israel events across the country every month. Anti-Israel Christians do not come close to matching CUFI’s size, activity, or influence.

But the long-term trends are now coming into sufficient focus to discern a challenge. Anti-Israel Christians are on a roll. While small in number, these activists seem to have extensive funds. They are taking far more Christian leaders and influencers to Israel and the Palestinian Authority than the pro-Israel side. Through these newly-minted allies, they are reaching an ever expanding network of evangelicals in the United States.

The threat is not that these activists will turn the majority of American evangelicals into Israel haters. They do not have to. The real danger is that they will teach their fellow evangelicals a moral relativism that will neutralize them. The day that Israel is seen as the moral equivalent of Hamas is the day that the evangelical community—and by extension the political leaders it helps elect—will cease providing the Jewish state any meaningful support.

Those who reject such facile moral equivalence must take this threat seriously. They cannot let the evangelical community go the way of the mainstream Protestant leadership. They must not forget that big lies must be confronted early and often. And they dare not ignore the fact that Israel’s enemies are telling very big lies to some very influential Christians—and telling them quite well.

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from My San Antonio:

Every Sunday at Cornerstone Church, doors swing open to visitors from every part of the Alamo City and every walk of life. Viewers tune in from across the nation for evangelical services brimming with soaring music and fiery sermons.

This Sunday, as the 40th anniversary of Stonewall — the birth of the gay rights movement — was being observed, the Rev. John Hagee also welcomed a community that doesn’t traditionally attend. They were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The only things distinguishing them from the rest of the congregation were the small buttons they wore that read, “Gay? Fine by Me.”

Hagee addressed them at a reception after the 11 a.m. service and later spoke privately with LGBT leaders.

If any of them expected fireworks from the gatherings, none erupted. Everyone seemed surprised there were no surprises.

The visit, initiated by two Austin-based groups, Soulforce and Atticus Circle, were portrayed as groundbreaking. It was the first in a series of meetings called Sundays of Solidarity, in which the LGBT community will meet with faith communities. Its goals are to have tough conversations, but Sunday’s was to connect with people on a personal level.

Cornerstone members reacted positively.

“We really enjoyed the people we met,” said Buzz Park. “It was a pleasant experience.”

Kelli Busey, who traveled from Dallas, said Hagee’s welcome “couldn’t have been nicer, more heartfelt and productive. He opened the conversation in a very positive way.”

But just as there were no surprises, there were no miracles, either.

“I feel cautiously and hopefully optimistic,” said Jeff Lutes, founder and executive director of Soulforce.

Ultimately, the groups seek a better understanding of LGBT equality and pursuit of equal marriage rights. Lutes said they see “a clear connection between our civil rights and what the church is teaching,” pointing specifically to a sermon by Hagee in which he proposed a constitutional amendment protecting marriage.

Lutes also mentioned a more controversial sermon in which Hagee suggested that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment to New Orleans for its gay pride parade plans.

Church officials declined interviews but did issue a news release saying members of Soulforce and Atticus Circle would meet with its leadership “in the spirit of Christ that commands us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’”

Marianne DeLeon of Soulforce met a Cornerstone member who was relieved that the group’s members weren’t “radical.”

“She was awesome,” DeLeon said. “‘God does not hate anyone.’ That’s what she said.”

But differences between the groups surfaced.

“All I can say is I love lesbians and homosexuals like anybody else,” said Joan Longoria, a member of the congregation. “We just don’t agree, because Scripture says it’s a sin.”

Jodie Eldridge, executive director of Atticus Circle, said Cornerstone was selected for the first visit because of its size and “some pretty atrocious things” said about homosexuals from the pulpit. “We hope to inspire other people across the country to do the same thing,” she said.

“We don’t expect miracles,” she said. “But if the dialogue continues, and we change one heart or one mind, over time, then we have been successful.”

Lutes initiated a similar effort last year in which LGBT groups visited various megachurches across the country, including Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston. “We had a variety of different experiences,” he said. “Some welcomed us. Some did not.”

If there was one issue in which everyone could agree, however, it seemed to be the quality of Cornerstone’s choir and soloists.

“The music was great,” said Judy Faris of Austin, who was among the LGBT group.

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from Herescope:

 

“He Who Came to Jesus By Night”

by Anton Bosch

 

We all know the story about Nicodemus who visited Jesus under the cover of darkness in John 3 and to whom Jesus spoke about being born again and to whom Jesus uttered the famous John 3:16.

It is interesting to note that Nicodemus is mentioned three times in John’s Gospel. In addition to the well-known passage in John 3, he is also mentioned in chapters 7 and 19. He is the only man by that name in the Bible and there can be little confusion about who he was. His name is not common like that of Mary or James, yet every time John refers to him, he refers to Nicodemus as “he who came to Jesus by night.” Thus his visit to Jesus at night became the thing that will forever identify him.

Then there was “Joseph of Arimathea… a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). Just like Nicodemus, Joseph was also a spiritual leader of the Jews who believed in Jesus but would not openly identify with Jesus and boldly declare his allegiance to the Son of God.

The reason for all the secrecy is obvious. It would not have been good for their image, popularity, and position in society if they had openly identified with Jesus. Thus they were no different to Peter, another leader amongst his peers who denied Jesus and would not openly side with his Teacher at a crucial time.

Just as the Jews of Jesus’ day had departed from the true faith and were following their own traditions and inventions, rather than the Word of God, so many churches and denominations today have left, or are departing from, the true faith. They substitute this with a religion of their own traditions and imaginations. And just as in Jesus’ day there are still some spiritual leaders in churches who are exactly like Nicodemus, Joseph and Peter. They know the Truth but will not speak out for fear of what others will say, or because they fear the loss of their status, position or income.

These modern Nicodemuses will approach those who stand for the Truth under cover of darkness and, just like Nicodemus, recognize, acknowledge and support the Truth. But they will not take an open stand for Truth — and against error — for fear of the consequences. Almost every assembly and every denomination has its share of people like this, who will hide in the crowd while the Truth is denied, sold and crucified. While they know the Truth, they choose to remain secret agents, feeding information to those who are waging the battle, but they themselves prefer to operate at night, under cover of darkness.

We are familiar with the fact that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again, but have you ever looked at the entire message of Jesus to Nicodemus? Jesus concludes his comments to this leader with the following words:

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).


Don’t think these words are said in isolation. They are directly linked to the opening of the passage which tells of Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he loved the darkness rather than the light. We far too glibly apply these verses to burglars and robbers who work at night. But Jesus did not aim them at sinners; He directed them at a religious man who recognized who Jesus was but preferred to remain incognito!

Friend, if you recognize that your church or denomination is moving in the wrong direction and have created (or have begun to create) their own religion of their own design which is not according to God’s Word – then you need to take a stand. If you remain silent because of “fear of the Jews,” then Jesus says that you are in darkness. If you are of the Truth, then you must come to the light, and you must let your light shine and you must speak up for the Truth.

Off course there will be repercussions. Yes, they will hate you, destroy your reputation, strip you of your position and cast you out as a piece of rubbish. Yes, you may lose all your friends, maybe even your salary, health and self-respect. But did they not do the same to Jesus and to all the men of God in the entire Bible? And did Jesus Himself not say:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:10-15).

Note again that we are to be salt and light, not just in the world, but especially, in the church. Note also the connection between being light and persecution.

You can hide for a while, but the time will come when you will need to take a stand. Nicodemus and Joseph were “under cover” for a few years but the time came when they had to nail their colors to the mast. It was Joseph who had to brave Pilate’s wrath and ask for the broken body of Jesus. It was Joseph and Nicodemus who buried Jesus in Joseph’s tomb. But in a sense it was too late. Jesus was dead. Many modern Nicodemuses wake up when it is too late, when the Truth has been killed and all that remains is to bury the remains of the Truth.

Praise God, the Truth rose again and can never be destroyed. But don’t wait until it is too late before taking your stand boldly beside the Son of God. Moses also hid under his Egyptian clothes but the day came when

“choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:25-27).

It was this Moses who, when all of Israel had turned to idols, cried “Who is on the LORD’S side?” (Exodus 32:26). Again, the consequences of the sons of Levi responding to that call were not pretty, but God honored their stand and He will honor your courage. But you must choose and you must do so today.

The Truth:

And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the LORD, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.” (Jeremiah 38:19)

 

 

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from The Dallas News:

Here’s the backstory on how the Rev. John Hagee got religion (the Catholic kind).

When the San Antonio televangelist burst onto the national political scene in February with his endorsement of John McCain, it wasn’t pretty.

Instantly, the Internet was filled with snippets from sermons and provocative YouTube clips of the portly pastor calling the Catholic church “the great whore” of Revelations and suggesting the Vatican was complicit in the Holocaust.

Catholics, particularly Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, howled in protest. Publicly, Mr. McCain scrambled to distance himself from the pastor, whose endorsement was aimed at winning evangelicals.

Behind the scenes, there’s been a campaign to repair the damage.

Key to the effort was Deal Hudson, a former Southern Baptist turned Catholic from Fort Worth who in 2000 was tapped by political guru Karl Rove to help win Catholics for George W. Bush. This year, Mr. Hudson is on Mr. McCain’s Catholic outreach team.

Faith-based voters are a staple in the GOP base. And the Rev. Hagee, who broadcasts worldwide from a 19,000-member megachurch with a flotilla of satellite dishes, is an influential figure in among evangelicals.

Mr. McCain had been wooing the San Antonio pastor for more than a year. And when Rev. Hagee finally agreed to endosre him in the breezeway of a San Antonio hotel last February, the media asked about the pastor’s end-times theology. But nothing about Catholics.

At Catholic League headquarters in New York, Bill Donahue was instantly on the case, denouncing the Rev. Hagee as an anti-Catholic bigot. He was everywhere: CBS, CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews.

The McCain camp now had a pastor problem, like Barack Obama.

Enter Mr. Hudson and the Hagee Catholic Rehabilition Tour.

Over lunch in Washington a few weeks ago, a contrite Rev. Hagee told Mr. Hudson his remarks had been misconstrued. He explained his “the great whore” quote was really about the apostate church, Catholic and Protestant and said some of his best friends were former Catholics – his wife and many Hispanic members of his congregation.

Clearly, there was work to be done. For one thing, you don’t build bridges with Catholics by touting how many people have left the church.

More to the point, the Rev. Hagee’s views had been informed by, among other things, the book “Hitler’s Pope.” Mr. Hudson offered a countervailing view of history, emphasizing how so many in the church had opposed the Nazis.

Last Friday, the Rev. Hagee sat down with 13 Catholic leaders in Washington. Mr. Hudson called it “upbeat and positive.”

As for Mr. Donahue, he said he wouldn’t meet with the Rev. Hagee until he got a public letter of apology. On Monday, he got it.

A meeting between Mr. Hagee and Mr. Donohue was arranged for Thursday at the Catholic League office in New York. Mr. Hudson recalled the scene.

“I hear a Southern accent,” declared Mr. Donohue with a Boston Irish ring. “It must be Pastor Hagee.”

The two got along fine, Mr. Hudson said.

Mr. Donohue showed the pastor and his wife the window where, from the 34th floor, he’d watched the Twin Towers fall on 9/11. He expressed shared support for Israel against Islamic extremists and said it’s important, politically, that conservative Catholics and evangelicals work together.

“That is the liberals’ worst nightmare,” Mr. Donohue said.

In the fall, when the controversy over Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright likely bubbles up again, Democrats will point to the Rev. Hagee. This time, they won’t have the conservative Catholics to count on.

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No Surprise here!

from Bretibart:

John Hagee, an influential Texas televangelist who endorsed John McCain, apologized to Catholics Tuesday for his stinging criticism of the Roman Catholic Church and for having “emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews.”

Hagee’s support for McCain has drawn cries of outrage from some Catholic leaders who have called on McCain to reject Hagee’s endorsement. The likely Republican nominee has said he does not agree with some of Hagee’s past comments, but did not reject his support.

In a letter to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, Hagee wrote: “Out of a desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful.”

Donohue, one of Hagee’s sharpest critics, said he accepted the apology and planned to meet with Hagee Thursday in New York.

“I got what I wanted,” Donohue said in an interview. “He’s seen the light, as they like to say. So for me it’s over.”

The controversy had threatened to pursue McCain throughout the campaign, potentially hurting his standing with Catholic voters. A majority of Roman Catholics voted for President Bush in the past two presidential elections, critical votes in close elections.

The letter came after Hagee met Friday for lunch in a French restaurant in downtown Washington with 22 influential religious activists, virtually all of them Catholics.

Hagee has cited the Inquisition and the Crusades as evidence of anti- Semitism within the Catholic church and has suggested that Catholic anti-Semitism shaped Adolf Hitler’s views of Jews.

“In my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms, I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholics and Protestant relations with the Jews,” Hagee wrote. “In the process, I may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic Church. It most certainly does not.”

Hagee has often made references to “the apostate church” and the “great whore,” terms that Catholics say are slurs aimed at the Roman Catholic Church. In his letter, Hagee said he now better understood that the Book of Revelation’s reference to the Catholic Church as “the apostate church” and the “great whore” are “a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary.”

He stressed that in his use, “neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church.”

The remarkable 2 1/2-page letter was no doubt inspired by the political storm Hagee’s endorsement caused. Hagee leads a San Antonio, Texas, megachurch with a congregation in the tens of thousands. He has an even wider television audience.

When he endorsed McCain in late February, Donohue and other Catholic leaders demanded that McCain repudiate him. The Democratic National Committee also weighed in, highlighting Hagee’s remarks over the years. Some commentators even likened Hagee’s affect on McCain to the controversy Democrat Barack Obama faced as a result of the views expressed by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

McCain initially embraced the endorsement, eager to reach out to religious voters by securing the support of a prominent Christian conservative. But he was soon forced to put some distance with Hagee.

“It’s simply not accurate to say that because someone endorses me that I therefore embrace their views,” McCain told reporters at a March news conference in Phoenix. Then in April, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” McCain said: “Any comments that he made about the Catholic Church I strongly condemn, of course.”

During the early primaries, McCain won strong support from Catholic voters. But Hagee threatened to become an issue heading into the general election.

Donohue said Hagee, by offering his apology now, may have defused a potential problem from the Arizona senator.

“Had this happened after Labor Day I think it would have been an insurmountable problem for McCain to reach out to Catholics,” Donohue said. “Now, with this behind him, I think the raised eyebrows in the Catholic community will begin to normalize.”

In a statement posted in the Catholic League’s Web site, Donohue added: “What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns.”

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John Hagee shows once again in this speech as a guest at Stephen S. Wise, a Reform Temple in West Los Angeles why he is a true pandering publicity seeking Wolf or at least a very Theologically ignorant man! And why people need to flee from him! He has joined the likes of Rick Warren by negatively characterizing fundamentalism to a non-Christian audience and then making it clear that he is not a Fundamentalist!:

“He said that he is not fundamentalist, because he does not wish to be identified with the sort of people who handle snakes. (This was not the only time when Reverend Hagee appeared to cater to a prejudice that he expected his audience to share. At one point, he invited the mixed audience of Jews and evangelicals to commiserate with the difficulties of winning Texas “rednecks” to the task of combating anti-Semitism; he also described a rushed, hurried prayer as being like that of “a Presbyterian late for lunch.”)”

He then goes off the theological cliff by saying that as Christians we are NOT always obliged to Forgive!:

Then the tone of the conversation changed abruptly. Rabbi Woznica asked the Revered if we are always obliged “to forgive.” Hagee said that we are only obliged to forgive in response to a promise of changed behavior, because to forgive without a promise of different conduct is to “make the grace of God an accomplice to evil.” The Reverend went on to remind us of the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman—Jesus, whom Hagee described as a “Reform Rabbi” (!) rescued from the crowd “of Pharisees” about to stone her and told her to “go and sin no more.” The point being that the woman was forgiven, but not without conditions.

And further to say that Jesus was a Rabbi!

The recitation of this story in service of the Reverend Hagee’s theology of forgiveness crystallized what was intriguing and exasperating about the whole evening. As Rabbi Woznica remarked, this may have been the first time that any of the Jews in the audience had heard a Christian suggest that gratuitous forgiveness is not the absolute obligation of every victim—and certainly the first time that we had heard a conservative Christian acknowledge Jesus as a rabbi, much less a Reform one.

You can read the full article and interview here.

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I guess I should not be surprised by this latest offering by Mr. Hagee. After all he has shown himself time after time of being more of a political animal than anything that could be considered a Follower of Christ.

This bombastic mess revels in the limelight! He loves the high seat! He thrives off of having public influence within the American “conservative” political movement!

But for the doubters, here this, these men, these little men only write articles like this to influence others, those who blindly follow their “Political Christianity”! They do not write these article simply to express a personal opinion.

What an abomination that John Hagee would publicly praise the Pope! the leader of an Anti-Christ organization! The “Vicar” of Christ, the one who arrogantly claims to stands in the place of Christ! and ironically one who considers Mr. Hagee himself “outside the faithfull of the Church”

That Mr. Hagee would publicly grovel, praise and flatter such a man is despicable!

As I have said before, you will see more of this as the pressure and persecution of the Christian Faith increases. Those who have high seats, who have influence will do anything in order to not lose that influence! and they will do it in the guise of “preserving American Values” Its called “The White Horse Deception”.

Our model in how we treat men such as John Hagee should be Christ himself, when in Mark 8:15 he said:

Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

John Hagee and the Pope are types of “Herod’s” they appear to be Christian, but they are not, they mix some truth in with a great deal of leaven! you can read here about the Herodian Dynasty and see if you can see the parallels between Herod and John Hagee and the Pope!

from The Washington Times:

Thank you, Pope Bendict

During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI not only conducted mass and met with the Catholic faithful, but he made a series of public statements about the role that our Judeo-Christian faith can play during these challenging times. As an evangelical Protestant I happen to disagree with Pope Benedict on many issues of Christian doctrine and ritual. But when it comes to his moral vision for America and the world I have one thing to say in response to the Pope’s visit: Amen.

I and many other evangelical leaders believe that our faith must not be confined to our churches on Sunday mornings. We maintain that our Christian values and compassion can be powerful tools for helping build a more just and humane nation. Pope Benedict thus spoke for all of us when he said that “Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted” and called for Christian participation “in the exchange of ideas in the public square.”

The pope was recalling the history we all cherish when he cited George Washington’s Farewell Address to note that, “religion and morality represent ‘indispensable supports’ of political prosperity.” The pope likewise voiced all of our concerns when he recognized the threats posed by secularism and materialism not only to our morality but to our happiness.

As people of faith, our concerns go well beyond the borders of our country. After the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, we joined our Jewish brothers in saying “Never Again!” For me, this commitment means never again allowing the Jewish people to be massacred or persecuted and thus helps to motivate my strong support for the State of Israel. But we also take from the Holocaust a universal “Never Again,” which means that we must never again allow genocide to be perpetrated against any of God’s children anywhere in the world.

Thus all of our hearts cheered when Pope Benedict stood before the United Nations and stated so forcefully that when states fail to protect the basic human rights of their citizens, “the international community must intervene.” Likewise, all people of faith applauded his comment in the same speech that it is religion’s “recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman” which provides the powerful source of our commitment to resist genocide and terrorism.

My reaction to Pope Benedict”s visit may surprise some who have come to accept certain caricatures of my views of the Catholic Church. But as I have noted from the start, my critics have ignored the real point and strong emphasis of my words. I have indeed been quite zealous about condemning the past anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church. But I have been equally zealous in condemning Protestant anti-Semitism. Furthermore, as I noted in my 2006 book “Jerusalem Countdown,” I have long viewed Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI as partners in this “righteous work” of overcoming our shared legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.

For decades I have taught that we Christians need to recognize that our roots are Jewish. As Christians we can only understand ourselves if we understand the Judaism from which we sprang. Pope Benedict made this very important point when he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York and shared that: “I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in a place such as this.” With visits and words such as these, Pope Benedict is continuing the important work of recognizing our enormous Christian debt of gratitude to the Jewish people.

The world in which we live faces many difficult challenges. In recent days, we read in our paper of increased starvation due to higher food prices; of alienated youth planning to bomb their fellow students; of Islamic militants actually bombing innocents in Iraq and Israel; and about people so devoid of hope that they end their own lives.

I believe that the message of the Bible and of Judeo-Christian faith offers us timely answers to these problems. We were all inspired by Pope Benedict’s visit. It is my prayer that we will now follow his example and look beyond our differences to see that when it comes to the great challenges of our times, people of faith have much in common.

 

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