As a televangelist, CEO, author, lobbyist, Death Eater, and now, quite possibly, a presidential king-maker, John Hagee has spent his adult life sowing the seeds of religious intolerance within a large and devoted community. He blamed Hurricane Katrina on a gay pride parade, called Catholicism “a gutter religion,” and denounced Harry Potter as an introduction “to the occult.” If ever a man were to be both rejected and denounced in totality, it would be Hagee.
And yet, on February 27, the Texas pastor took the podium in San Antonio and with the candidate standing directly to his right, announced his enthusiastic endorsement of Senator John McCain for president. McCain, for his part, later declared, in the unwavering monotone that his supporters call “straight-talk,” that he is “very proud of…Hagee’s spiritual leadership to thousands of people.”
The news reports immediately following the event noted that Hagee is often “accused” of demonizing Muslims and other groups. This is not entirely accurate—accusations imply some element of doubt. Hagee is unequivocating in his vitriol when it comes to Muslims, Catholics, gays, J.K. Rowling, and just about everyone other than John Hagee himself.
The founder of the organization Christians United for Israel, Hagee has drawn praise from McCain and conservatives in Washington for his hawkish rhetoric—Joe Lieberman even went so far as to publicly equate him to Moses. But Hagee’s reasons for supporting Israel should force any rational person to reconsider such praise.
John Hagee supports the state of Israel in much the same way as the Ku Klux Klan supported Marcus Garvey. Hagee’s intention is not to usher in a new era of peace, nor is it rooted in geopolitical realities; his stated mission is simply to expedite the imminent apocalypse by defeating Iran and vanquishing Islam. As for the Jewish people, his words allow little room for interpretation for what happens next: “If you…don’t confess your sins to God Almighty through the authority of Christ and His blood,” he warned one San Antonio audience, “you’re going straight to Hell with a nonstop ticket.”
So much for finding common ground. When it comes to Catholicism (which he refers to as “the great whore”), his record is every bit as incendiary. In his 2006 tour de force, Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee suggests that “most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.”
For the most part, supporters choose the candidate and not the other way around. Barack Obama will be stuck with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, and McCain will in turn collect the votes of all those who believe Obama to be a closeted Islamofascist. But in this case, McCain aggressively sought, and then graciously received, the pastor’s endorsement. With good reason, we can and should judge candidates by the company they choose to keep.
Top aides on the campaign trail often stay on as advisers, and prominent supporters during the campaign are likely to have the president’s ear when he works in the Oval Office. There likely won’t be much room for Hagee in McCain’s cabinet, but if he helps the senator win the office, he will surely expect and receive some influence in the administration. And for someone who preaches hatred, like Hagee, any amount of influence is too much.
We shouldn’t particularly care that Hagee wants to destroy the entire world. That only puts him on the same level as every single Captain Planet villain, most of whom are harmless. But as an admitted novice when it comes to economics, McCain has centered his candidacy, yet again, on his reputation as a straight-talker equipped with sound judgment and unassailable integrity. So long as he permits his surrogates to trash the religious views of billions, it goes without saying that we should demand an explanation.
So far, McCain has offered none.
Tim Murphy, a Maroon Viewpoints Editor, is a third-year in the College majoring in history.