The National Catholic Review
John McCain threw evangelical pastor John Hagee overboard yesterday. Finally. Months ago, when anti-Catholic comments by the pastor came to light, McCain said he did not support the claims and Hagee did one of those faux-mea culpas in which he did not apologize for what he said but for any offense that might have been taken. Can’t imagine why anyone would be offended to have their church called the "whore of Babylon." He had also earlier claimed that Hurricane Katrina was visited by God upon New Orleans to disrupt a planned gay parade. Now, Hagee is in hot water for comments about the role of Adolf Hitler in the salvation of Israel. The comments were, as McCain correctly noted, "crazy." But, just because such views are crazy does not mean that they are rare. In the middle of Hagee’s rant about the prophet Jeremiah predicting Hitler’s role in bringing the Jews back to Israel, he said: "And that will be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth." Not too long ago, I sat through a tirade by a pastor at a large mega-church outside Washington, D.C. He used almost the exact same wording to defend the proposition that anyone who has not been baptized will be consigned to eternal hellfire, that there was no such condition as invincible ignorance, that God’s mercy could not extend to those who, through no fault of their own, had never been evangelized. "This is not my theory, this is God’s Holy Word," he assured his nodding audience. The combination of ferocity and fake-humility put one in mind of John Calvin. Well, Rev. Hagee, you have offended me, not just my heart but my mind. If you believe that God used Hitler to advance Zionism, if you believe that Catholicism is a "false cult system," or that God would rather destroy a city than permit a parade, I am not interested in anything else you have to say. But, millions of Americans sit through this kind of theological nonsense week in and week out. Too many evangelical Christians are not conservative at all. They are radical. And they are radically wrong. It is especially troubling that a group of Catholics have been trying to team up with evangelical Christians in an effort begun in the 1990s by Father Richard John Neuhaus and ex-Watergate convict Charles Colson. "Evangelical and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium" was issued in 1994, and a statement was signed by a group of leading Catholic and evangelical theologians in 1998 that noted points of agreement and continuing disagreement between the groups. One of the continuing points of disagreement was the issue of "the possibility of salvation for those not evangelized." This is not a mere theological trifle. A theologian once asked me if I thought the view of God revealed in the Koran was not so different from that revealed in the Christian scriptures that it was wrong to say we worshipped the same God. I confessed near-total ignorance of Islamic theology. But, I can say that the mean, capricious God of John Hagee bears little resemblance to the God whom I worship. And while I support most efforts at ecumenism, some leave me fearful that the ecumenical movement will be hijacked by Catholics who care more about political alliances with evangelicals than they do with confronting the hatefulness at the heart of Hagee’s worldview. John McCain distanced himself from Hagee’s craziness yesterday. He was right to do so. And, I would encourage Catholics charged with pursuing ecumenical endeavors to steer clear of those who think Katrina was God’s punishment or that Hitler was an agent of God’s will. If we are serious about Pope Benedict’s call to unite faith and reason, there is not much to say to the John Hagee’s of the world. Michael Sean Winters

Comments

Anonymous | 5/24/2008 - 6:19am
Very interesting article. Sean reminds us all of our sins when he describes Chuck Colson as the "ex-Watergate convict." Father James Martin's comments on Catholic votes are interesting. Yes, Catholic votes are important! Do Catholics practice a double standard when they support people who have clear records in support of the abortion business? Please see blackgenocide.org.
Anonymous | 5/24/2008 - 3:46am
The Article highlights some very imporatnt problems but does so in a very tendentious way.It is not enough to go through a history of Evangelical mistakes without recognizing the many things that Catholics and Evangelicals have in common.Also you failed to mention the hatred that comes from the other brand of American Church which has been supported by another presidential candidate for twenty years.Given that McCain had never worshipped with these people and the other candidate had it is baffling your concern is so one-sided. The other failing of the article is that you leave the reader exactly where you found him.Confronted with a type of hatred ,and this is shown by the air of superiority that the other comments exhibit. You state that you find it "troubling" that some catholics and evangelicals have been trying to unite but you give no evidence of why you would be troubled as they seem to have come together on theological ground and in the sense of shared values.I agree with you that there can be really no common ground with people who hold such a real contempt for human life but I wonder would you agree with me that the Catholics would also be well advised to steer clear of those who also do not share the catholic vision of lifes sacredness and who spread a message of indifference towards what Mother Teresa called the greatest Moral tragedy of our time?.Abortion. You will get top points if you do so and renounce that handshake with Mr Obama in the cause of deeper principles if not it will seem that the principles you advocate are not based on Faith but political expediency. Sincerely,
Anonymous | 5/23/2008 - 10:18am
Fantastic article indeed! Happy to see that McCain will not tolerate Hagee's crazy brand of anti-Semitism. Too bad McCain didn't see fit to reject Hagee's endorsement three months ago when his equally crazy brand of anti-Catholicism was exposed.
Anonymous | 5/23/2008 - 10:29am
Frankly, the thing that has surprised me the most, and has gone largely unnoticed--except by Michael Sean Winters here--is that when Hagee excoriates the Catholic church as the 'Whore of Babylon' and calls Catholicism a 'false cult,' Mr. McCain continues to accept his support. But when Hagee insults Jews and Muslims, McCain immediately severs all ties with the man. Is there a double-standard at work here? Are Jewish and Muslim votes more important, or is it not as bothersome when Catholics are offended?
Anonymous | 5/23/2008 - 9:16am
Fantastic article...I have a bumper sticker that states ...I am for the separation of church and hate! I like to dream.
Anonymous | 5/23/2008 - 8:42pm
Vert good take, Michael. However, I fail to see why you are troubled by the initiative, spear-headed by Fr. Neuhaus and Chuck Colson, to bring Catholics and Evangelicals together. I also think it unfair to characterize Colson by what he did some thirty-five years ago. He has admitted his errors and, literally, done his time. Like you, I disagree with Colson on a lot of issues, especially political issues, but would not lump him in with the likes of Hagee, et. al. Also, 'Nostra Aetate' indicates that Muslims worship, along with Jews and Christians, ''the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God'' ('Nostre Aetate', par. 3). I agree that it is necessary to distance ourselves from those, like Hagee, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, as well as from the likes of Pastor Wright. Right or left, they are agents of discord, not prophets with a divine mandate. John McCain's pastor, Rod Parsley, is equally troubling, especially as regards Muslims. I listened to an interview John Hagee did with Terry Gross back in 2006. It was a re-broadcast of an interview conducted in 2006. Frankly, it is chilling. It is all the more so due to what you point out, namely that tens of millions of our fellow citizens get a heavy does of this each week.
Anonymous | 5/23/2008 - 12:57pm
Separation of church and state? – not so much. http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/05/religious-political-endorsements.html Perhaps McCain is learning.