Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Whited Sepulchre

Digging around into John Hagee's "ministry" is like working to clean out a septic tank. Just when I thought things were disgusting enough with his anti-Catholic bigotry, I find that he is also a crazed, anti-semitic, Left Behind type. As I mentioned in my previous post, you can discover for yourself rather easily that he is a slimy anti-Catholic just by poking around in YouTube. But you may also find these two videos rather instructive. In the first, we discover that the only reason he supports Israel is because he wants Iran to nuke it, thus bringing on the Rapture:



In the second, we find that the "illuminati" have been plotting the rule of the Anti-Christ for centuries, and it's gonna happen any minute now:



This is the guy whose support John McCain warmly welcomes, saying only that, in politics, it's possible to welcome someone's support even if you don't agree with "everything" the person stands for? Well, at this point, I'd like to know, just which of the things that Hagee stands for does John McCain agree with? Is there any substantive issue on which they truly do see eye to eye? I hope not: I have to assume that what McCain means is that, like Hagee, he "supports Israel". But surely he doesn't support Israel for the same reasons? That would be like saying that you welcome the support of Hitler because he believes in law and order. Anyone who finds anything Hagee stands for truly "welcome" is not only as stupid and evil as he is, but just as insane as well.

8 comments:

Kevin D. said...

Well, Hagee does stand for things like pro-life and pro-family/marriage causes. And he does, when he's not preaching eschatology, preach things like forgiving your neighbor and helping the poor (but it's usually eschatology). And he does subscribe to basic Nicene orthodoxy (Trinity, Christology) and the atonement of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, he's loopy, but his anti-Catholicism is founded upon sincere biblical convictions, stemming from a certain dispensational premillenial hermeneutics (although, his is a little more extreme form, at least in his own confidence in determining the exact role of, e.g., Iran, Iraq, Russia, Israel, the EU, the UN, the US, etc.).

It's a little odd that I'm sort of defending Hagee (I'm an Evangelical who very much wishes that Hagee, and company, did not exist, as such), but I think we need to be a little more balanced in our condemnations of him. Perhaps Bill Donohue is right in calling McCain out on it, but the super-hyped rhetoric of Donohue (typical) is not helpful, and Donohue very likely has little to no understanding of premil-dispen theology, which actually does have a somewhat coherent and a seemingly plausible exegesis behind it.

All I'm saying is that I don't think Hagee is operating off of a crass bigotry, but, rather, like I said, sincere biblical convictions.

Scott Carson said...

Kevin,

Thanks for your comment. If I understand you correctly, your basic claim is that Hagee is at least sincere in his beliefs, and his views, whatever they may be, are derived from a certain sort of theology and a certain method of interpreting Scripture from which his views follow naturally. In short, he is not simply hiding behind ideology in order to mask an underlying irrational hatred of Catholics, but rather he is simply stating what he takes to be logical entailments of that ideology itself.

I think it's quite plausible that Hagee genuinely and sincerely does not believe that he is a bigot, and that he does sincerely and in good conscience think that his views are supported by the Bible. But I really don't think that excuses him from holding beliefs that are morally noxious and intellectually bankrupt. It's one thing to subscribe to a non-Catholic theology--plenty of perfectly reasonable and sane folks do that--but there are also some crazy theologies out there, and they remain crazy no matter how sincere their adherents are. Someone might claim that, by starting in Genesis and going through the whole bible taking every word corresponding to a prime number one finds a message telling one to destroy all the Jews, but though one might sincerely believe such a thing the belief itself remains ridiculous, even if the words really do come out that way.

Now, I take it to be a matter of fact that any and all interpretations of Scripture, and any and all theologies, that make the Roman Catholic Church out to be anything less than what she claims to be, are nothing short of heretical. Now granted, that's a Roman Catholic speaking, and I don't suppose many non-Catholics will agree, but it seems to me that if it's at all licit to say that to be "balanced" in our treatment of Hagee we must make allowances for what he himself believes himself to be saying, then of course precisely the same criterion ought to be applied to Donohue, in which case it simply begs the question against him to say that he's being "super-hyped" in his rhetoric against Hagee. He's merely doing exactly the same thing that Hagee is doing, but from a different perspective.

I mean, let's be reasonable about this. Suppose Hagee were to start claiming that blacks are inferior and ought to be taken from their homes in the U.S. and "shipped back to Africa", using passages from the Bible and some sort of organized theological system to support his views. Surely you wouldn't go around saying "Well, that's a weird view, I'll grant you, but there is a somewhat coherent and seemingly plausible exegesis behind it", would you? Wouldn't you just say "That's a despicable and disgraceful misuse of God's Sacred and Inspired Word and I repudiate every bit of it in no uncertain terms"? That's what I would say about any perspective that had such a vicious entailment, and that's what I and many other Catholics do say about the Feeneyites who claim that all non-Catholics are going to burn in hell forever simply by virtue of not being communicating members of the Roman Catholic Church.

I agree that there are times and places in which we are honor bound to apply the principle of charity and make allowances for certain sorts of views that we either can't understand or simply don't agree with, but I think that there are other times when moral clarity--indeed, our very Gospel--requires us to stand in judgment of our erring brethren and call them to task for their sins, and that is very much the case in this instance. I think the operative words in your comment are "somewhat coherent" and "seemingly plausible". What we need are views that are completely coherent and that do not merely seem plausible but that actually are plausible. Hagee's views are neither coherent enough nor are they the least bit plausible in reality. Hence we have the duty to engage in fraternal correction of him--it is, in fact, the only charitable thing that we can do: to leave him alone, uncorrected, on the grounds that he semi-rational, would be the opposite of charity, and it would involve us in his sin.

John Farrell said...

Scott, is that second video for real?? I was sure for the first two minutes it was a parody.

Yikes.

Scott Carson said...

John

Truth is scarier then fiction.

Kevin D. said...

Scott,

Fair enough. I certainly don't care to defend Hagee's Zionism and exegesis. I did just want to point out that there are things that Hagee supports which I, you, and McCain support. As well, I wanted to, as you note, discern the sort of "bigotry" operative here; if we don't, then our attacks and criticisms are only going to appear as "over-hyped rhetoric" (Donohue did, e.g., accuse Hagee of engaging in an "unrelenting war against the Catholic Church," which I find to be a stretch). I will admit that I simply do not like Donohue, and I very much wish we had someone else at the helm of the Catholic League (or, at least, a different spokesman). I have to cringe at turning on MSNBC and watching my views "defended" by him.

On a positive note, I think Hagee and fellow Zionists, despite their current strength, to be on the verge of petering out. When I get to 80 years old (God-willing) and all these "sure" predictions have failed to manifest themselves, then most people are going to find its "plausibility" next to nill. Of course, the likes of Hagee will continually modify their predictions, but Evangelicals are increasingly recognizing that it's bull@!*#. I scarcely meet a fellow young Evangelical who doesn't find this sort of stuff nausiating (especially if they grew-up with it!).

Scott Carson said...

Kevin

You make good points. Perhaps I have a kind of advantage (if that's the right word) insofar as I don't get MSNBC so I never have to see Donohue in that forum. I just get email notices from the Catholic League and they usually seem to me to be about right in their general tone (though I agree that even then some things get said that are clearly intended for rhetorical force alone).

I hope you're right about this particular brand of stuff dying out!

Paul Hamilton said...

Can we really be sure that this type of thing is going to die out? We've had end-of-the world theorists making predictions in the United States for over 200 years now.

Every once and a while when I'm in a car late at night, I tune my radio to a Christian radio station which has one of these apocalyptic types on it. The radio host is actually kind of funny. He thinks that he alone has the right interpretation of the Bible, and everyone who came before him who has misinterpreted the Bible is going to burn in hell for their errors. However, Catholics have fallen SO deeply into error that God will actually have pity on them and give them a lesser punishment than other Christians!

One of the first things I noticed is that the people who call into his show are not the brightest people in the world: it's not hard to judge given their manner of speaking and the questions they ask. This guy has apparently already been wrong about the end of the world twice; and yet he keeps moving the date back, and he still has a very large following.

Now I'm not saying that every follower of people like Hagee are uneducated; however, there are always people out there looking for someone to make them privy to how things "really" are that are just waiting for a shepherd to lead them.

So no, I don't see this kind of thing dying out any time soon.

Kevin D. said...

Paul,

Yeah, I should have qualified my comments in this regard. It certainly won't die out -- we've actually been having this sort of end time hysteria (called, broadly, "millenialism") in the church since the early centuries and into the Middle Ages (usually thanks to the book of Revelation). I just don't think that it will be nearly as prominent as it is now (e.g., the "Left Behind" phenomenon), but, rather, reduced to looney late night radio preachers. Among Evangelical seminaries (where our future preachers will largely come from) it is roundly condemned and made fun of -- at least, at most Evangelical seminaries (e.g., Trinity Evangelical, Fuller, Gordon Conwell, and so on).