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The Third Coming of John Hagee To Denver

October 6, 2011

previous pieces on the `sage from San Antonio’…

The Second Coming of John Hagee To Denver (September 13, 2010)

John Hagee: Second Coming Cancelled; Rapture Delayed (September 30, 2010)

Open Letter: John Hagee’s Pool: Swim At Your Own Risk; No Lifeguard on Duty (November 16, 2010)

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Gaza: Four years of blockade...an open air prison...

He’s probably been in Denver far more than three times actually. In any event, John Hagee, Christian fundamentalist pastor from San Antonio, Texas and leader of what is called Christians United for Israel is returning to the mile high city. He’s scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada (a suburb just west of Denver) on Sunday, October 16.

Scheduled to share the platform with him is Rabbi Selwyn Franklin of Denver’s BMH Synagogue, one of the city’s largest and most influential. Rabbi Franklin spent time in South Africa where he was active in the anti-apartheid movement. It is ironic, but perhaps not accidental to see a Jewish leader with such liberal credentials cozying up to the likes of George Morrison and John Hagee. But then as one Denver Jewish resident put it, when it comes to the Denver rabbinate, that ” `Israel-friendly’ trumps human rights every time”.

Last year the organizers of Denver’s annual Jewish Men’s Dinner, underwritten by Denver developer and politically conservative Larry Mizel, invited Hagee as a keynote speaker. A large event that raises money for different social causes in which Denver’s Jewish Community participates, the Men’s Dinner often boasts attendance of 1000+ participants. The Hagee invitation, defended by the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado as somehow appropriate, triggered an outcry of opposition from many quarters of the Jewish Community – including some Orthodox synagogue’s in the city’s old Jewish neighborhood on the West Side, Jewish youth, women, gays, liberal and left elements – many of whom consider Hagee’s `message’ one of sexism, homophobia and pro-Israeli (Likud) war-mongering.

The outcry was so great that the event organizers had to cancel Hagee’s appearance, a result which was unprecedented in recent history at least, in Denver’s Jewish Community. Both Mizel and Doug Seserman, who heads up the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado came under sharp criticism at the time, a fact that did not go unnoticed in the broader community.But if John Hagee was un-invited, in his stead, one of his board members, who happens to be Jewish, came in his place to defend Hagee’s record. The message was the same, only the messenger changed.

One year later ….support for Israeli practices is fading 

While support for Israel (by this I mean specifically – the Israeli Occupation of the 1967 Territories) is weakening both nationally and internationally, the political alliance between the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado and Christians United for Israel remains as strong as ever. The loss of enthusiasm for Israeli practices is noticed,  not only across the broader political spectrum but among American Jews as well, especially Jewish youth who find it difficult to impossible to reconcile traditional Jewish values and liberalism with Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, the oppressiveness of the Occupation, the on-going Gaza blockade, etc.

Unconditional support for Israel – despite congressional votes – is fading domestically; sympathy for the creation of a viable Palestinian state is growing based on pre-June 1967 borders is gaining strength.

As these tendencies continue to grow, so does the dependency of mainstream Jewish organizations on their Christian fundamentalist and neo-conservative allies.  Not much else left. John Hagee might still be persona non grata in the mainstream Jewish Community here in Colorado, but if anything – the political ties between the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado and Christians United For Israel – are even stronger than they were last year.There are some suggestions that CUFI not only actively and even aggressively funds West Bank settlement building, but actually funds state wide Jewish federations state side as well, which might explain their continued influence on the otherwise liberal U.S> Jewish Community. It is unclear if or how this works here in Colorado but would be interesting to find out.

Internationally, Israel cares little about criticism as long as it has Washington’s support (which it does). Likewise, domestically, as long as neo-Conservatives like John Bolton and his coterie and Christian fundamentalists like Hagee blindly support Israel, who cares  about the growing chorus of criticisms of Israeli behavior coming from  liberal Christians, non-Zionist Jews and others think about the wall, the growth of settlements in the West Bank or the turkey shoot of Palestinian civilians tin Gaza in 2008 described by one Israeli soldier as `like killing ants with a magnified glass’.

A year after John Hagee was rejected, exposed and essentially publicly humiliated – and deservedly so – by this city’s Jewish Community, he will return to Denver. It will be different this time though. The planning is – from a right wing point of view – more thoughtfully shaped in certain ways, the opposition far more tame, at least to date.

  • About ten days ago, the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado  held a rally (it was called a `community briefing’ ) opposing the Palestinian statehood initiative at the United Nations. It was held at Temple Emmanuel in Denver  Although he was not given the platform to speak, Dr. George Morrison, chief pastor of the Faith Bible Chapel (where Hagee is invited to speak) was introduced. He was singled out as being `a great friend’ in attendance and enjoyed enthusiastic applause.
  • George Morrison, is a long serving board member of Christians United For Israel; Faith Bible Chapel has donated undetermined, but admittedly large sums to West Bank settlements; Faith Bible Chapel members regularly visit settlements (Ariel for one) to do volunteer work.
  • Hagee will not be invited by a Jewish organization, but comes at the invitation of the Faith Bible Chapel of Arvada (where he has spoken on `Israel Appreciation Day’ in the past) .
  • If Morrison enjoyed a warm reception at Allied Jewish Federation `community briefing’ , in return, it seems, Rabbi Franklin will share the podium with Hagee at the Faith Bible Chapel. The publicity around Rabbi Franklin’s appearance is already widespread. Expect an important delegation of Denver Jewish Community dignitaries to also (as they have been in the past) be in attendance, holding their noses perhaps, but there all the same.
It’s all a bit more low-keyed than last year; Hagee and his Jewish partners are a little smarter this time. The Allied Jewish Federations hugs Morrison; Faith Bible Chapel hugs Rabbi Franklin. Touching? No? Here’s an `interfaith dialogue for all to appreciate! So Morrison – and CUFI – is (once again) legitimized by the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado and a rabbi – and one considered among Denver’s most liberal –  shares the podium with Hagee and Morrison at the Faith Bible Chapel.
Embracing Hagee…
Rabbi Franklin’s willingness to appear with Hagee formally legitimizes the `sage from san antonio’ – renewing ` the bonds of solidarity’.  But one senses a kind of malaise about all this year’s Christian fundamentalist- mainstream Jewish Community love fest, that everyone is looking over their shoulders, worried once again about the possible reaction from Denver’s `unpredictable’ Jewish Community.  Still, the social chemistry of Hagee’s upcoming visit seems to have worked; at most there has been muffled dissent; some grumblings that haven’t amounted to much … yet. Because of the specifics of the situation, Hagee’s appearance at Faith Bible Chapel has not triggered much of a reaction (that I am aware of anyhow) among Colorado Jews. A pity.
To the contrary, a number of people who last year opposed in one way or another Hagee’s visit have let it be known that they intend to attend Hagee’s talk this time round. I cannot say that I oppose, those, who in the good Quaker tradition see the power and legitimacy of `witness’ although it does strike me as being a bit like asking a Black person to appreciate a KKK cross burning if he’s never seen one. Still freedom of speech, even for the likes of Hagee is a principle worth supporting.
On the other hand,  while respecting  freedom of speech, some of us Jews, both religious and secular, don’t want or need to see Hagee and will not be in attendance the evening he delivers his talk…although we might be outside protesting or making our opposition this alliance known in non-violent and legal ways. And we’re embarrassed for Rabbi Franklin – and for the Denver Rabbinate that he represents, that he (and they) would stoop so low – once again – and politically embrace John Hagee…and all he represents… which only goes to prove the old adage of about politics making strange bedfellows… strange indeed.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Les Canges permalink
    October 6, 2011 8:04 am

    Thanks for writing this and putting everything so succinctly into context. If there are protesters, I’ll greet them warmly…Les

    • July 22, 2014 8:15 am

      Rev Jones…

      This piece was written several years ago.No matter.

      For you all this is “about Israel’s survival”…well, that is more than a bit disingenuous.
      Hagee’s views are about building a base for Christian fundamentalist thinking/causes…the views expressed by him repeated are, to use an overused but in this case accurate expression, anti-semitic, “loving” Israel while disparaging Jews in the most bigoted of fashions…
      As for “Israel’s survival”…I don’t really think Hagee gives a rat’s shit about Israel or Jews. … his pronouncements just fit into the messianic post apocalyptic nonsense he (and you?) spouses. Israel’s survival will be based primarily on making peace with its Arab neighbors and more importantly, ending its occupation of Palestinian territories and recognizing the right of the Palestinians people to a viable independent state. I would say at the moment Israel is rather far from understanding this as they bomb Gaza to smitherenes.

      Cheers, RJP

  2. Rev. E. Leonard Jones permalink
    July 20, 2014 11:29 am

    Dear Rob,

    You write well – as you know. Interesting thoughts regarding the interactions of Jewish and Christian people. If I may, respectfully, suggest one thought to you that so many people (in both faiths) miss.

    It’s not about what Jewish people believe in their faith, and it is not about what Christians believe in their faith (especially with regard to Israel and Bible prophecy – OR sociological issues). It’s about Israel’s survival !!

    As a conservative pastor in 1975, I implemented an annual event in Denver known as “Israel Awareness Day”. The tradition carries on to this day, with the Christians United For Israel (cufi.org) carrying forward the tradition. It was NOT about conversion or hatred for any segment of world society….it was about support for the ONLY DEMOCRACY in the Middle East – Israel.

    Patricia Schroeder was a House of Representative member from Colorado at the time. She espoused the Roe v Wade ruling and the “Women’s Lib Movement”. Our Church was theologically and sociologically opposed to most of the positions that Ms. Schroeder took. However, one day Ms. Schroeder broke away from the US delegation on a tour to the Soviet Union. Her purpose was to deliver a message from the Colorado Committee of Concern for Soviet Jewry to a member’s family. She was threatened seriously by the Soviet government for her actions, and censured by the U.S. government.

    Our Church had adopted Ida Nudel, Anatoly Scharansky, and the Goldshstien twins in a letter writing effort to see them be able to leave Russia. We had a distinct interest in their welfare – not their conversion.

    I invited Rep. Schroeder to speak (at the pulpit) of our Church (an Evangelical Church) regarding the plight of the Russian Jewish people. On most issues our Church opposed Ms. Schroeder. On the issue of Israel, Russian Jewry – and World Jewry really, we opened wide our hearts to her thoughts, urgings and advice. It was an inspiring and highly productive event….so much so, that Scharansky went on to be the Minister of Defense in Israel and is now mentioned often in the next race for Prime Minister of Israel.

    The Jewish Community of the Rocky Mountains….AND the Evangelical Christians with their prophetic bias about Israel, BOTH need to lay aside their differences for the sake of providing a powerful and unified force on behalf of Israel living within safe and defensible borders. If Israel ceases to exist in the Middle East there won’t be any human rights.

    Thank you again for your writings,
    Sincerely and Shalom,
    Rev. E. Leonard Jones

  3. Lucretia permalink
    September 28, 2015 8:51 pm

    I suppose all you Liberal Jews are willing to take a hand out from Rev John Hagee. That sounds real Godly to me. Jews might be the apple of God’s eye but most trees have a few rotten apples. May God have mercy on you.

    • September 29, 2015 4:46 am

      Lucretia: I will answer you once and will post your comment. First, I wouldn’t take a penny from John Hagee or any group associated with him. That some Jewish groups (admittedly large and with influence) have made the decision to work closely with him and Christians United For Israel, is a big strategic error that they, these Jewish organizations, will come to regret. Such cooperation comes with a political price (as usual). As for your religious drivel, it means little to me and smacks of anti-semitism.

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  1. To: Rabbi Moshe Levin, Congregation Ner Tamid – A Vigil for Peace, with Justice for Palestine | We Hold These Truths

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