Way back in the early 90s when I was a brand new, California resident scrapping my way through seminary, I would come home after church let out and turn on John Hagee while I boiled up water for my macaroni noodles. We only had a set of rabbit ears for a junkie TV someone gave us, but it was enough to pick up the main stations broadcasting in LA, including TBN.
Usually I got home to catch the last half of an end of the world, conspiracy driven pseudo-news broadcast TV show that read current events into the Bible. By the time I had changed out of my church clothes and put on my loose fitting short pants and my water was boiling, John Hagee’s show was coming on. I didn’t so much watch him for edification as I did for entertainment. Plus, as a young preacher wannabe, I was interested in preaching styles. Hagee had a Bible-belt windsucker patter about him that made him captivating to listen to.
Now, that doesn’t mean I agreed with anything he said. Most of his sermons, if we can call them that, was him reading a Bible verse or two, then launching into a rant against the Clintons and what he perceived as the demise of American culture. He’d rail against “Hillary and her hellcats” (his words, by the way) and how they wanted to “bewitch” our children with their homosexual ideas, or corrupt their minds with evolution, or what ever secular humanist agenda was on Hagee’s radar at the time.
His theology was not only politically driven, but also deplorable in some instances, as well as woefully inconsistent. For example, he had someone in his congregation design a giant, 24 foot display of the Seven Dispensations of History that he stood up behind his pulpit. For a long time, nearly a year, his TV show was him preaching on the various aspects of the classic, seven Dispensations scheme. On one program he made sure everyone knew we were now currently living in the Dispensation of the Church age. However, in another program, he talked about the age of law and how the 10 commandments played a prominent role in defining that period for the nation of Israel. He then goes into an “exposition” of each of the 10 commandments and bemoaned how Americans no longer live by the 10 commandments, especially the Clintons, and how we need to return to the authority of the 10 commandments as a society, especially Bill and Hilliary. If a person didn’t know any better, you’d have thought he was a theonomist.
Well, as he became a popular TV evangelist, he was “knighted” somewhere along the way as being a leading evangelical spokesman. So much so that he felt it his duty to open his big mouth and utter his evangelical-political opinion on some issue or offering his endorsement to a candidate worthy of “evangelical” support. However, this creeping malaise that has clouded “leading” evangelical pastors over the years with a need of being “politically relevant” in our society, has truly settled upon pastor Hagee in recent days, and in a rather significant manner. This is particularly true in the area of lending his personal endorsement of presidential candidate, John McCain, and it is not without devastating consequences for the integrity of his ministry.
Earlier this year, John Hagee, by throwing his personal endorsement behind John McCain, essentially told his evangelical flock both near and far to vote for McCain as president. Shortly after Hagee endorsed McCain, though Barak Obama experienced his Rev. Wright moment. Not to be undone by the inferred guilt-by-association between Barak and his crackpot pastor, Obama supporters, seizing upon Hagee’s endorsement earlier in the year, attempted to tie John McCain to Hagee in similar manner as Obama was to Wright. They cited comments Hagee had made in the past allegedly slandering the Roman Catholic Church with the “Great Whore” of Revelation and proclaiming Katerina as God’s judgment against a Gay festival to be held in New Orleans. Certainly Barak has his “crazy racist” pastor, but McCain has his “crazy anti-Catholic pastor” just the same.
Such a comparison is absurd because McCain never had the mentor relationship with Hagee as Obama did with Rev. Wright. But no matter. The allegations of being an anti-Catholic bigot had some traction, so much so that Hagee made the rounds on conservative talk radio to “clarify” any past comments he had made against Catholics and to affirm his support of Catholics in like-minded political causes and to distance himself from appearing to be a Rev. Wright.
Then earlier this week, just to make certain no animosity still exists between himself and American Catholics, Hagee issued a statement apologizing for any anti-Catholic remarks he may have made in the past. The full text of the letter can be read here.
Herein lies the devastating consequences: in his effort to synchronize his evangelical conservatism with Red State Republican politics, Hagee has to compromise truth in order to prevent appearing as a hypocrite.
First, in order to appear sincere with his apology, he had to deny or “waterdown” any past remarks about the history of Rome, regardless if whether or not his comments were factual, and the ones I heard were. And I hasten to add that contrary to Hagee saying his “Great Whore” comments were not meant for the Pope and Rome specifically, I most certainly remember him making statements on his program speaking against Catholicism as a heresy, so I am a bit surprised at his disingenuous remarks claiming he never said anything negative about Catholicism.
And then secondly, even if it were important to him, from this point onward, he can no longer offer any meaningful critique of Roman Catholicism historically, let alone theologically. Hagee has become beholden to the ecumenical status quo. That being, “We all love God just the same, no matter what sort of loopy, twisted beliefs we may hold dear to our hearts about Him, so let’s all join hands and work together for a better conservative America with evangelical family values.” I hope he took his own initiative with writing this apology letter to the Catholics, but I have a sneaking suspicion political operative may had “suggested” to him to do it.
None the less, I see with this apology statement a clear lesson for the Christian minister. There is a stark danger of being beholden to men with any affiliations we have outside our calling as pastors. We see among many evangelicals these days the rigorous pursuit of partnering with politics. This allegiance places a pastor in a precarious position. For when his biblical convictions become a liability in an ever widening political correct culture for his chosen politician, something has to give. Either his convictions he proclaims in the pulpit, or his involvement with politicians. Sad to say, most of our evangelical pastors side with the politician, not necessarily the biblical convictions.