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Pastor John Hagee on Christian Zionism

John Hagee is the founder of the Christian Zionist group, Christians United for Israel. He is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Church an evangelical church in San Antonio, Texas. He is also the author of a number of books; his most recent is Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World.

27:40

Other segments from the episode on September 18, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 18, 2006: Interview with Gershom Gorenberg; Interview with Max Blumenthal; Interview with John Hagee.

Transcript

DATE September 18, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Journalist Gershom Gorenberg discusses the Christian
Zionist movement from a Jewish perspective
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

When will the world end? My guest, John Hagee, the pastor of a megachurch in
San Antonio, Texas, believes the end of days and the Second Coming are
imminent. There are 10 prophetic signs of the end time world, he says, and
Israel figures into about four of them: plague in the Middle East, the
rebirth of Israel, the Jews returning home, and Jerusalem no longer being
under gentile control. Earlier this year, Hagee founded Christians United for
Israel, an umbrella organization for churches and ministries to support Israel
in matters related to biblical issues. In July the group held a Washington
summit to introduce the organization to senators and congressman. The goal of
the meeting was described on the group's Web site as, quote, "expressing our
concerns for Israel's security and our support of Israel's right to the land
by biblical mandate." Speakers included Ken Mehlman, the chair of the
Republican National Committee, Senator Rick Santorum, and the Israeli
ambassador. President Bush sent a recorded greeting. Today we're going to
talk about the Christian Zionist movement. Here's an excerpt of a sermon from
Pastor Hagee's collection, "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis."

(Soundbite from "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis" by Pastor John Hagee)

Pastor JOHN HAGEE: In May 1948 Israel was reborn. How many of you were alive
on May 15, 1948? It was the most important prophetic day of the 20th century.
Why? Because Jesus said in Matthew 24:32 `when you see the fig tree--national
Israel--begin to bloom again, know that my coming is nigh at the door.
Behold, one generation will not pass away until all things are fulfilled.' We
are racing towards the end of time. We are not living in the last days.
We're not living in the last hours. We're living in the last minutes of the
dispensation of grace. In 1967 the six-day war united Jerusalem under Jewish
control. Why is that important? Because the gospel of Luke says when
Jerusalem is no longer trodden down by the gentiles, then shall the end come.
The Bible says when the Lord builds up Jerusalem, when he builds of Zion, he
will appear in all of his glory. So the Bible is screaming, when you see
Jerusalem united, when you see it beautified, when you see it built up, the
Messiah is coming. And when you see these signs in the heavens and the sun,
the moon and the stars and the waves of the oceans that are roaring, what did
God say? He said `Lift up your heads and rejoice! Your redemption draws
nigh.' I want you to do it, Cornerstone. Rejoice! The King of Glory is on
the way.

(Soundbite of congregation cheering and clapping)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: We'll hear from Pastor Hagee later on the show. My first guest,
Gershom Gorenberg, is an Israeli journalist who wrote about the Christian
Zionist movement in his book "The End of Days." His latest book is "The
Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements." He's also
Jerusalem bureau chief for The Forward and a senior correspondent for the
American Prospect.

Mr. GERSHOM GORENBERG: Well, I would say that, in the first place, it's
something of a contradiction in terms because the people who promote the idea
of Christian Zionism are looking at Israel in mythological terms. They're
seeing the Jews as actors in a Christian drama leading toward the end of days.
Real Zionism, as a Jewish movement, is a movement aimed at taking Jews out of
the mythological realm and making them into normal actors in history,
controlling their fate and acting for pragmatic reasons connected to the here
and now. So what's called Christian Zionism is actually very distant from
Zionism.

GROSS: What are the specific political and territorial goals that you think
Christian Zionists have for Israel?

Mr. GORENBERG: Well, they take a position on Israel and on the Middle East
that would put them at the far age of the radical right within Israeli
politics. They're opposed to any concession whatsoever of land for peace.
They tend to treat any process leading towards peace as an illusion, if not a
conspiracy. Some of their leaders, at various times, have spoken explicitly
of the idea of expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank. These are all
positions that, as I said, would put them on the radical right within Israel.
They're deeply opposed to the idea of a Palestinian state. They tend to
support military action over diplomacy. It's worth stressing that this puts
them far from the mainstream of Israeli politics.

GROSS: Do you think Christian Zionists have clout politically in Israel, and
if so, with who?

Mr. GORENBERG: Their clout is in their impact on the politics of the United
States, which is Israel's key strategic ally. To the extent that they can
affect the Congress and the administration's attitude toward diplomacy, toward
military action in the Middle East, they have a very strong effect on what
happens to Israel. If they can push the American administration away from
diplomatic effort towards peace because of the so-called "danger" that Israel
would give up land, if they can express support for military moves rather than
diplomatic moves, they will have a strong effect on what happens to Israel.
And therefore, their support and their lobbying activity and their political
activism is encouraged by Israeli politicians on the far right.

GROSS: Christian Zionists have raised millions of dollars for Israel. How
has that money been used and is that money controversial?

Mr. GORENBERG: It has created controversy at times because sometimes the
fund-raising methods used present an image of Israel as a poverty-stricken
country, something which is offensive to Israelis. There was a complaint very
recently by an Israeli diplomat in the United States about fund-raising
methods of that sort. Occasionally there are also complaints that various
Christian Zionist groups have raised money for causes which are more
controversial politically, such as the West Bank settlements or for radical
right groups such as the Temple Mount Faithful, a group which supports the
idea of building the Jewish temple where the Muslim shrines now stand in
Jerusalem and which is a radical fringe group in Israel and which often
appeals for support from Christian Rightists in the United States.

GROSS: I've spoken to some Jewish Americans who consider themselves, you
know, aligned with Christian Zionists and I asked, `Well, do you think it's in
your ultimate best interests to be aligned with groups whose ultimate goal is
the Second Coming of Jesus?' And--to which they've responded, `Well, we as
Jews know that that's not the real truth. That's not going to happen, so why
not have an alliance with people who support the same goals for Israel that we
do?' You know, the same kind of political goals? And why not support people
who just are going to back Israel and back the protection of Israel? What
would you say to that?

Mr. GORENBERG: I think that, first of all, there's a tremendous disrespect
implied here, strange as it may seem, for the beliefs of the Christian
Zionists. These are people who live very much by their theology, and this
attitude says, `Their theology is irrelevant to me. I'm not relating to them
as believing people.' So I find that ironic. The second thing is I think that
there's a misunderstanding here of what an apocalyptic vision is. When
somebody says that they're hoping for the end of history, for God to come and
fix the world, they're saying that they see something broken in the world as
it is today. And the question, when you look at such a vision, is what does
it reflect about what people think about today's world? Part of the end of
days vision of the Christian Zionists is that the Jews will die or convert to
Christianity. So what they're saying about the world today is they don't see
Judaism as a legitimate religion, and I think it's strange for Jewish groups
to align themselves with people who show, shall I say, a theological hostility
for Judaism.

GROSS: When you say that, you know, in this scenario of the Rapture, Jews
will either convert or die, my interpretation of that--my understanding of
that is that, in this version of the Rapture, that all Christian believers
immediately ascend to heaven and everybody else is--they can either convert
and ascend to heaven, too, or they remain on earth for the tribulations, which
is a series of plagues and famines and wars and other catastrophes.

Mr. GORENBERG: Yes, that is true. This is a view of all so-called
nonbelievers, but normally in the documents of this religious stream there's a
particular focus on the Jews because, for this form of theologically
ultra-conservative Christianity, one of the great scandals remains that the
Jews have not accepted Christianity. They believe that a literal reading of
the Bible necessarily, in their eyes, leads to an acceptance of Christianity.
The Jews are the keepers of the Hebrew Bible, and it's stunning that the Jews
continue to refuse to read the Bible in what they consider to be its simple
meaning that would lead to Christianity. This is the cognitive dissonance
which is at the core of their beliefs, and they expect the end of days to
resolve this dissonance.

I would add one more thing about these kind of scenarios. If you read their
literature, they inevitably end up with the battle of Armageddon on Israeli
soil. All events are expected to lead to this immense conflict which will
take place in Israel. The verse that's cited over and over again is
the--sorry, `The blood will flow as high as the horse's bridle.' So they're
expecting war and conflict, and they're seeing this as something positive.
Everything that would lead toward Middle East peace, they see as an illusion.
For Israelis looking toward their country's security in future in this world,
in history as it continues, the most necessary step for us is finding the way
to peace. So the people who are proclaiming their support for Israel are
actually working at cross-purposes to Israeli interests and needs.

GROSS: Gershom Gorenberg, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. GORENBERG: It's been my pleasure.

GROSS: Gershom Gorenberg is the author of the books "The End of Days" and
"The Accidental Empire."

Coming up, journalist Max Blumenthal. He's written in The Nation about
Christians United for Israel. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Journalist Max Blumenthal discusses Christians United
for Israel and the Christian Zionist movement
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We're talking about the Christian Zionist movement. Later we'll hear from the
founder of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee, who believes the
rebirth of Israel is a prelude to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

My next guest, Max Blumenthal, is a journalist whose articles about religion
and politics have been published in The Nation. In August he wrote about
Christians United for Israel.

Before we hear from Blumenthal, here's another excerpt of a sermon from Pastor
Hagee's collection, "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis."

(Soundbite from "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis" by Pastor John Hagee)

Pastor HAGEE: Quickly, the seven signs of his coming. The first sign is the
rebirth of Israel. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 24:32, `Now learn the
parable about the fig tree, which is Israel. When you see the branch begin to
bloom again--bloom again means that it was dead for a while--you will know
that my coming is even at the door. Now, in the Bible when you say that, that
means his hand is on the doorknob. When the Romans crushed Jerusalem in 70
AD, diaspora began. The fig tree figuratively died. On May 15, 1948, the fig
tree was reborn in a day, as prophesied by Isaiah 66 and 8. The tree is
blooming again. Israel is alive. Israel is alive. Israel is alive. The
king of glory is on his way. If you listen closely, you can hear the
footsteps of Messiah shuffling through the clouds of heaven. Messiah is
coming! Messiah is coming! Messiah is coming! And he will be King of Kings
and Lord of Lords! Give him praise and glory in the house of God.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Christians United for Israel is a new organization. How would you
describe it?

Mr. MAX BLUMENTHAL: Christians United for Israel is a lobbying organization
created by Pastor John Hagee to advance his Armageddon-based foreign policy
views. It's basically an umbrella group that encompasses some of the leaders
of the largest Christian Zionist megachurchs across the country. They include
Rod Parsley, the Pentecostal faith healer from Ohio who's close to the
gubernatorial candidate there, Ken Blackwell, Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, some
of the major evangelical figures in the country. And they've hired a lobbyist
in Washington named David Brog who's Jewish, and David Brog's the former chief
of staff to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, the Republican.
And Brog has a lot of connections in Washington. He's brought evangelical
Christian Zionists to the White House for meetings, and he is working with
AIPAC, the major pro-Israel lobbying organization there.

GROSS: How would you describe Christians United for Israel's policy goals?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, their policy goals are even more extreme than those of
the right wing of the pro-Israel lobbying community. Their lobbying goals, I
would say, reflect the views that John Hagee has expressed in his books, like
"Jerusalem Countdown," where he calls for a nuclear showdown with Iran, where
he says Israel and America must confront Iran and wage a pre-emptive strike on
Iran and to not do so is to risk committing national suicide. They've lobbied
against the Roadmap to Peace, and I would argue that they've helped torpedo
the Roadmap for Peace. They have--they did an extensive lobbying push during
Israel's offensive against Hezbollah to make sure that a cease-fire was off
the table, and David Brog, their lobbyist, told me that they believe that was
their principal achievement during this war, was keeping a cease-fire off the
table for a month so Israel could do what it wanted in Lebanon.

GROSS: When you say that you think the Christians Zionist Movement is
powerful, how much access do you think the movement actually has to the Bush
administration or to influential members of Congress?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, they have enormous influence in Republican-dominated
Washington. I don't they they have anywhere near the influence of AIPAC,
because AIPAC can work both aisles, you know, of Congress.

GROSS: AIPAC is the American Israeli Public Action Group--the Public Action
Committee.

Mr. MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right. It's the major face of the so-called Israel
lobby, and, you know, AIPAC can even work with third-party candidates like
Joseph Lieberman now. Christians United for Israel comprises, you know, a
major component of the Christian right, which also has, you know, gay marriage
and abortion as major issues. So the question is how much, you know, to what
extend is Israel on the radar of right wing evangelicals? And Christians
United for Israel is trying to elevate that, trying to cultivate evangelicals
to become more interested in Israel and more interested in, you know, foreign
affairs. And, you know, to that extent they do have some influence in the
Bush administration because they are--they do comprise the major constituency
of the Bush administration, and they do comprise probably the only sector of
American society that still supports Bush's war in Iraq without question. And
so, over the past few months, the White House has convened a series of
off-the-record meetings through CUFI's lobbyist, David Brog with, you know,
CUFI board members like Falwell and like Hagee.

GROSS: What are some of the ways that current events in the Middle East fit
into the end times theology of Christian Zionists?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: In terms of the book of Ezekial, specifically chapters 38
and 39, and, you know, this book predicts an inferno that will explode across
the Middle East, plunging the world toward Armageddon. At least that's how
Hagee explained it in his book "Jerusalem Countdown." And he has said, you
know, `We're living in the last days. These are the most exciting times in
church history' when explaining the book of Ezekial. Now, it's sort of a
bizarre scenario that he's predicted. Now, first, Middle Eastern armies are
going to have to come against Israel. They're going to attack Israel in this
scenario, in their explanation of the book of Ezekial. Then Russia will join
the invasion, and they will attempt to, you know, attack Israel with their air
force, but God, according to Hagee, will wipe out all but one-sixth of the
Russian-led Army, and the world will watch, as he says, with shock and awe.
What will happen after Russia's army is destroyed is that he predicts that
Americans who live on the coastlands who refuse to defend Israel from the
Russian invasion will experience nuclear warfare. And in the void that's left
after the destruction of Russia, he predicts a one-world government, a one
world currency, and a one-world religion that will last for almost four years,
and then the Antichrist will be confronted by a false prophet, and they'll
wage battle on the Mount of Megiddo, where he takes his followers each year in
Israel. And this is, you know, obviously, the anti-Christ will lose the
battle, will usher int he reign of, you know, the kingdom of Christ, the
Rapture and--so this is how he has explained, you know, the current conflict
and many conflicts in the Middle East. You know, obviously, you have US
troops walking along the river Euphrates, which is of enormous biblical
significance to Christian Zionists. Sounds bizarre, but many people accept
these explanations and they, you know, in the context of these explanations,
they celebrate wars in the Middle East.

GROSS: Where would you say that John Hagee fits in terms of the larger
Christian Zionist movement and in terms of just the larger evangelical
movement in the United States?

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: I would consider John Hagee one of the 10 most influential
evangelical political leaders in the United States, just because of the size
of his congregation and his influence within the Republican Party. I mean,
you know, one example of his influence is that he was able to hire the top
lobbyist in Texas to exempt his ranch from water restrictions in Texas. And
he, you know, in terms of the Christian Zionist movement, is obviously vying
for, you know, vying to be at the helm of this movement with Christians United
for Israel. He's an enormous--he's a best-selling author, and so I think he's
someone to watch in the future. Even though he doesn't have the same name
recognition as Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, he's arguably more influential
from a political point of view.

GROSS: Well, Max Blumenthal, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BLUMENTHAL: Well, thanks for having me.

GROSS: Max Blumenthal has written for The Nation and Salon. He's a research
fellow at Media Matters for America. We'll talk with Pastor John Hagee in the
second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Pastor John Hagee discusses his foundation Christians
United for Israel and his beliefs for the last days
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, John Hagee, believes the end
of days, the Rapture, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ are imminent. He
says the rebirth of Israel, the restoration of Jerusalem, is a prelude to the
return of the Lord. His best-selling book, "Jerusalem Countdown" describes
what else needs to happen in Israel before Jesus returns. Earlier this year,
Hagee founded the group Christians United for Israel. It supports Israel's
right to the land by biblical mandate. At its kickoff banquet in July
speakers included Ken Mehlman, chair of the Republican National Committee, and
Senators Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback. President Bush sent recorded
greetings. John Hagee is the pastor of a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas,
and has his own television ministry. Here's an excerpt from his collection of
sermons "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis," describing what will happen just
before the end of days and the Second Coming.

(Soundbite from "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis" by Pastor John Hagee)

Pastor HAGEE: In two minutes, let me tell you where we're going from here.
This prophetic portrait paints the following sequence of event for the future.
America and Europe become weakened and cannot respond to Israel in the time
that Russia and the Arab invasion begins against Israel. This is God's plan.
Why? Because he wants the Jewish people in Israel and around the world to
know that he, the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob saved them, not America.

Secondly, Russia with Arab allies will plot and plan Israel's destruction.
That's happening right now. It has been happening for 10 years. Iran's
nuclear weapons have been produced with Russian scientists. The Islamic Arabs
are using the Roadmap to Peace to get all of the land of Israel they can get.
And when Israel finally says, `Enough!' you're going to see the beginning of
the implementation of Ezekial's war in 38:39. The critical point is the
church is raptured before this war begins. I am telling you that makes this
message one of the most thrilling prophetic messages you've ever heard in your
life. You could get raptured out of this building before I get through
finished preaching. We are that close to the coming of the Son of Man.

(Soundbite of cheers, clapping)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Pastor Hagee, you say that when Israel finally says `Enough!' to
attempts to take its land, you'll see the beginning of the implementation of
Ezekial's war. What is Ezekial's war?

Pastor HAGEE: Ezekial's war in chapters 38 and 39, it's known in the Bible as
the war of Gog and Magog. And in Ezekial 36, God gives the promise to the
Jewish people that he's going to bring them out of their gentile graves. This
was given through the prophet Ezekial when the Jewish people were in
captivity. In 37 there is the dramatic presentation of the Valley of Dry
Bones that come together to become an exceeding great army. This is a
physical portrait of the nation of Israel that has been, if you will, in Death
Valley for almost 2,000 years because, from the diaspora of 70 AD until the
re-entrance into Israel May 15th, 1948, they were in gentile graves. And then
in Ezekial 38 and 39, the prophet Ezekial very explicitly describes the war
that's going to happen at some point in our future where Russia organizes
Islamic nations to come against the state of Israel, and the end result of
that war is that God himself is going to stand up and defend Israel, and the
enemies of Israel are going to be crushed in such a dynamic fashion, quite
similar to pharaoh and the Red Sea, that all of Israel will recognize that God
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is indeed the Lord.

GROSS: In your interpretation of biblical prophecy, what has to happen in
Israel before the Rapture.

Pastor HAGEE: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is no Bible prophecy that
needs to be fulfilled before the Rapture of the church.

GROSS: But there's things you don't want to happen. You've said that you
don't want Jerusalem to be divided as any part of any peace plan. You didn't
want Israel to withdraw from Gaza, and you don't want it to give up any
territory in the West Bank. Why not?

Pastor HAGEE: Because the Bible has a very specific verse in Joel, the third
chapter and the second verse that says almost verbatim what I'm going to quote
to you based on which translation you will be reading, and the Bible says,
that `I the Lord will cause the nations to come down to the valley of
Jehosaphat for judgment, and the reason that I'm going to judge the nations is
because they have divided up my land and my heritage, the people of Israel.'
So that verse very clearly says that any nation that forces Israel to divide
up their land will experience the judgment of God.

GROSS: And what will happen during the Rapture?

Pastor HAGEE: What will happen during the Rapture is that Paul writes in the
New Testament that in a moment in the twinkling of an eye the dead in Christ
shall rise and we which are alive and remain shall be caught up to be with the
Lord in the air. That means instantaneously every believer will leave this
earth.

GROSS: Now, most Christians who believe in the Rapture believe that the
believers who will be raptured are Christian believers.

Pastor HAGEE: It's a misnomer for the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the
Catholics, the Pentecostals, the Methodists, whomever. I know when you hear
their preachers preach, you get the idea they're the only ones going to
heaven. That's one of the reasons I have a nondenominational church. I was
raised in a denomination, and many times I heard the exploits of the
denominations being touted more highly than the exploits of God himself, but
there is no market on who's going to heaven, only God himself knows who those
people are who are walking and living as they should.

GROSS: But everyone else who I've heard talk about the Rapture believes that
it's Christian believers who will go to heaven. Jews, Muslims, nonbelievers
will be left behind to face the tribulations on earth.

Pastor HAGEE: Well, there are Jewish people who believe in Jesus Christ, and
there are Arabs who believe in Jesus Christ, so you don't have to be a gentile
to be a believer.

GROSS: But you do have to believe in Jesus Christ.

Pastor HAGEE: Yes you do, to be a part of the Rapture.

GROSS: So where does that leave the Israeli Jews who don't believe in Jesus
Christ when the Rapture comes?

Pastor HAGEE: Where that leaves them is that during the tribulation, the book
of Revelation says in the 14th chapter that God is going to send angels who
will preach the everlasting gospel across the face of the earth so that
everyone will have the opportunity of knowing who Jesus Christ is. Now, when
it comes to the Jesus people, Zechariah very clearly says that they are not
going to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah until they see him.
Zechariah says in the 14th chapter `and when they, the Jewish people, see him
whom they have pierced'--and the word pierced there actually refers to his rib
and side--`when they see him whom they have pierced, they will weep as one
weeps for his only son for a period of one week. They're simply not going to
believe he is the Messiah until they actually see him, and that's at the
Second Coming. Then, at that point in time, there is the judgment of the
nations in which all nations are judged for the way in which they have treated
the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, and the Jewish people are front
and center in the kingdom of God that will be an eternal kingdom.

GROSS: Now, your group, Christian Zionists for Israel, supports Israel, but
your critics say that you don't really have Israel's best interest at heart
because your agenda is the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ, and you
believe that Christ's Second Coming is imminent, and when it happens, Jews
will see the truth of that and will convert to Christianity. So again, your
critics say that scenario does not have the best interests of the Jewish
people or of Israel at heart. What would your response be to that?

Pastor HAGEE: My response is that they're mistaken. For 25 years I have been
doing an event called A Night to Honor Israel, and the total purpose of the
Night to Honor Israel is to bring Christians and Jews together in a municipal
auditorium--now they meet at my church here in the city--and to present a
message of hope, a message of appreciation from Christians to Jews for the
Jewish contribution to Christianity, which I mentioned to you earlier. There
is nothing said or done in that service that targets Jews for conversion or
trying to bring them into the church, and the total purpose of the Night to
Honor Israel is to raise funds to benefit orphans, to bring Jewish people from
around the world to Israel who wish to immigrate to Israel, to help build
absorption centers where the Jewish people coming from around the world can
learn the Hebrew language and be taught a trade, the giving to hospitals and
to organizations throughout the state of Israel that benefit the Jewish
people. We have given millions of dollars over 25 years and brought over
12,000 people to Israel from the four corners of the earth who would not have
gotten there. So people who say that our objective is not to help Israel are
simply mistaken.

GROSS: You opposed the Roadmap for Peace which required land for peace.
You've said that giving up the West Bank or part of Jerusalem violates the
word of God. How does it?

Pastor HAGEE: Joel 3:2 says do not do it. Those who divide up the land of
Israel will come under the judgment of God. Therefore, don't do it. It's
just that simple.

GROSS: What about Israelis who want a practical solution to living in peace
in the Middle East and who believe that land for peace might be a viable,
perhaps the only really viable solution. Would you say you can't do that
because of what the Bible says?

Pastor HAGEE: No. No. I'm not saying I'm forcing my beliefs on you. But
look at it from a basic analysis of common intelligence. You only do
something because it benefits you. You negotiate something because you get
something from the negotiation. Show me one time in Israel's history in the
past 58 years when giving land has brought them peace, and I'll say that they
would have point in logic. But at this point in time, they've given away
Jordan, they've given away the Sinai Peninsula, they have given away Gaza,
they have backed out of Lebanon. It has benefited them not one iota. It
hasn't brought them one day of peace. It has brought them nothing but
additional military confrontation. And I am predicting on this telecast that
the cease-fire that now exists will collapse and crumble as soon as Hamas and
Hezbollah are re-armed from Iran through Syria and through Egypt, and the war
will start again with more violence than we've ever seen in the Middle East,
and principally because we've given these land bases away to become nothing
but a base for global terrorism, 1,000 yards from the walls of Jerusalem.

GROSS: My guest is John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel.
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Pastor John Hagee, the founder
of Christians United for Israel. He believes the rebirth of Israel is a
prelude to the Second Coming. Here's an excerpt of a sermon from Pastor
Hagee's collection "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis."

(Soundbite from "Jerusalem: Countdown to Crisis" by Pastor John Hagee)

Pastor HAGEE: For those of you who are in Washington, Jerusalem is not up for
negotiation with anyone for any reason at any time in the future, regardless
of what your Roadmap of Peace calls for. There are people in this nation who
still believe the Bible takes precedent over Washington, DC.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Pastor Hagee, if you believe that the Bible takes precedence over
Washington, DC, I would assume maybe you'd think the Bible takes precedence
over the Israeli government as well. If you use the Bible as the basis of
policy, is there any room for compromise? And if you use the Bible as the
basis for policy, then should Muslims be using the Quran as the basis of their
policy? And again, what possible room for compromise is there at that point?

Pastor HAGEE: There's really no room for compromise between radical Islam
and...

GROSS: I'm not talking about radical Islam. I'm just talking about Islam in
general.

Pastor HAGEE: Well, Islam in general, those who live by the Quran have a
scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews. Now, I had an Islamic on my
television show last week. His name was Walid Shoebat. He was raised as a
Palestinian terrorist and, at one time, was--placed a bomb and was supposed to
walk into a bank. And I said, `Walid, I'm trying to understand the definition
of what is a radical Islamic person because I've read many books, many
magazines and I can't come up with a good definition of what constitutes a
radical Islamic.' And he says these words, and I'll quote them, he said,
`Anyone who truly believes the Quran is willing to kill Christians or Jews.
That's waging jihad.' He said now, `Those people who are willing to go into
another country and start a war will only be about 15 to 20 percent of Islam.'

There are 1.3 billion people who follow the Islamic faith, so if you're saying
there's only 15 percent that want to come to America or invade Israel to crush
it, you're only talking about 200 million people. That's far more than Hitler
and Japan and Italy and all of the axis powers in World War II had under arms.
That is a massive number of people. So while we may define radical Islam as a
minority, because there are so many, it is still an overpowering military
potential.

GROSS: But what you said is that all Muslims have a mandate to kill
Christians and Jews. Do you believe that?

Pastor HAGEE: Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very
clearly.

GROSS: So, for you, there's absolutely no way of tolerating Islam at all.
I'm not talking about extreme Islam. I'm just talking about the Muslim
religion.

Pastor HAGEE: No, there are Islamics who want peace, but they don't have
center stage right now. And whenever Islam, radical Islam, does things that
make the headlines, like getting on a bus with a bomb strapped around them and
killing people, the moderates do not speak up because they're afraid that they
will be killed by the radicals. So it gives the appearance that there are
no--there is--there are no moderate Islamic people. I've been to Israel 21
times. I've gone to visit Islamic people who I consider to be peaceful. They
want peace as much as I do, and they're terrified. The particular businessman
that I talked to has sent his five children to California because he's afraid
that he will be burned out of his business because he's not extreme enough.
And he asked me if I would pray with him, but would I please come into his
office, shut the door, and put the blind down before I did so because he's
afraid of being seen in any kind of association with a Christian. Now, that's
not what you call an environment of tranquility.

GROSS: Are there wars in the Middle East prophesied in the Bible, do you
think, before the Rapture and the Second Coming?

Pastor HAGEE: The Bible makes a very general statement that there will be
wars and rumors of wars, and then, in another instance, it refers to the wars
as being like a woman who is in the process of having a baby. In other words,
where the contracts begin and once the contractions begin in these series of
wars, just as in having a baby, the contractions become more severe until the
baby is born, so will the contractions--so will these military wards become
more severe before the end of the age. So I believe that we have entered into
this point of time and where there will be one war that follows another and
each one of them will be more severe than the other until we finally reach the
battle of Armageddon, where there is a massive military entourage fighting for
global supremacy in the Middle East.

GROSS: Did the war between Israel and Hezbollah fit into those contractions
that you were talking about?

Pastor HAGEE: I'd certainly say yes to that. I certainly do, and I believe
that they are going to continue. As I said earlier, I am absolutely sure that
this cease-fire will fail, and then, in a matter of months, they'll be back at
war. As soon as Iran re-arms Hezbollah and re-arms Hamas, they will come
after Israel one more time.

GROSS: My guest is John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel.
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is pastor John Hagee. He's the
founder of Christians United for Israel.

How much influence do you think your group has now within the Bush
administration or in Congress?

Pastor HAGEE: Well, let me say that we organized on February the 7th of this
year, and we met together with 400 leading evangelicals that I invited from
across the nation to come to Cornerstone Church, and we wanted, together, to
establish that Israel needed for the Christians of America to speak with one
voice, to speak very clearly, to speak intelligently and to speak decisively.
And so we organized and went to Washington for the first time July the 18th
and 19th, just five short months after we organized, and we took 3500 people
with us. And actually 3700 people came, but we didn't have room for them.
They just came, quote, "in faith" that they could find a chair. But the next
day we went to Congress and we met with senators and we met with congressmen,
and we told them that the Christians of America were coming together in an
organized fashion to speak with one voice, that they would be coming back from
year to year, and that we would be coming back to express our concerns on
behalf of the state of Israel. They were quite glad to receive us. They were
surprised that we came--so many of us came, but they very gladly received us.

GROSS: Would you like to convince American Christian groups that Israel
should be a more important part of their agenda?

Pastor HAGEE: I would like to convince American Christians that they have
Bible mandate to support Israel, to pray for Israel, to speak up for the peace
of Israel, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and to be a blessing to the
Jewish people because that is the biblical mandate that we have. We may have
a political difference with the prime minister, and I have made this very
clear to Prime Minister Olmert. I wrote him a letter shortly after he was
elected and wished him well and told him that he would be in my prayers and my
thoughts, and I wished him every success and this was before the war began.
But I said in that letter very specifically that `I must disagree with your
policy of giving land away to the terrorists organizations,' and he has a
political philosophy that disagrees with the biblical position that we have,
and we'll just agree to disagree. But meantime, we're going forward, we're
doing everything that we can to benefit the people of Israel, to bless the
people of Israel, because they are, in fact, the nation.

GROSS: I just want to ask you one question based on one of your sermons
that--and this isn't about Israel. You said after Hurricane Katrina that it
was an act of God, and you said "when you violate God's will long enough, the
judgment of God comes to you. Katrina is an act of God for a society that is
becoming Sodom and Gomorrah reborn." Do you still think that Katrina is
punishment from God for a society that's becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Pastor HAGEE: All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the
heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to
God, and they are--were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The
newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally
that there was to be a homosexual parade on the Monday that the Katrina came,
and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of
sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So
I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there
are people who demure from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that
when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before
the day of judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact,
the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.

GROSS: So I know you're very opposed to homosexuality, but you think that the
whole city was punished because of things like the forthcoming Gay Pride
parade.

Pastor HAGEE: This is true. All of the city was punished because of the sin
that happened there in that city.

GROSS: You said that we could get raptured any second. In one of your
sermons you basically said we could get raptured before this sermon is even
over. What are you doing to prepare?

Pastor HAGEE: I'm doing what I do every day. I live right. I read the
Bible. I pray. I try to treat other people like I would like to be treated.
And I'm going to leave the rest to the grace of God.

GROSS: And do you still believe it's imminent?

Pastor HAGEE: Oh, I do. I do. I do, I do.

GROSS: And my imminent, any second? Any moment?

Pastor HAGEE: I would not be at all surprised if I saw the Lord before the
day ended today, but if he doesn't come today, 10 years from now I'll be
looking for him with the same intensity.

GROSS: Pastor Hagee, thank you very much for talking with us.

Pastor HAGEE: Thank you, Terry. Thank you for the opportunity.

GROSS: John Hagee is founder of Christians United for Israel and the pastor
of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Earlier in the show we
talked about Christian Zionism with two journalists critical of the movement,
Gershom Gorenberg and Max Blumenthal.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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