What about John Hagee?

Although I subsequently pushed it to the back burner, I began this post last Friday, after listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross (NPR), which re-ran (again) a 2006 interview with San Antonio-based, Pastor John Hagee. Several times during the break, an announcer explained that the segment was especially relevant considering Hagee's endorsement of McCain earlier this year.

Terry Gross's long-held fascination with Hagee centers around her fascination with "Christian Zionism," which purports to see recent Middle East history as the culminating events of a Christian eschatology as described in the apocalyptic writings of the Bible, most notably the Book of Revelation.

Yesterday, after some more recent and less-canonical revelations that Hagee had described Adolph Hitler (and I paraphrase) as part of God's plan to bring the Children of Israel back home to the Promised Land and the scene of the impending Apocalypse (fairly mild by Hagee standards), John McCain renounced the preacher's endorsement. Of course, McCain had previously actively courted Hagee's blessing (and gleefully accepted it when his advances proved fruitful on the eve of the Texas primary back in March).

However, yesterday, McCain announced:

"Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well."

Hagee's retort:

"You can all go to Hell" (again I paraphrase).

What does it mean?

First and foremost, John McCain doesn't know his rear end from his elbow when it comes to matters of faith. If you are looking for somebody that understands that "old time religion," you may need to get yourself another boy. To John McCain, pastors John Hagee, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, James Robison, and James Dobson are all the same guy. Back in 2000, scorning these fellows was part of his political strategy. They were "forces of evil" and "agents of intolerance." But 2008 brought a new game plan: suck up to these "right-wing religious nut balls" (you guessed it--another paraphrase).

The John Hagee benediction was a conquest of expediency--but not the product of much individual forethought.

The conversation might have gone this way back at McCain HQ:

McCain aide: "John Hagee is on the phone ready to endorse your candidacy."

McCain: "Who's he again?"

Aide: "The preacher from Texas who thinks the return of Jesus is imminent."

McCain: "Doesn't help me."

Aide: "He is the guy who thinks Katrina was the judgment of God on New Orleans for condoning homosexuality."

McCain: "Again. You gotta narrow it down some."

Aide: "He has a 19,000 member congregation in San Antonio and can be seen and heard on over 200 TV and radio stations."

McCain: "Praise the Lord. You mean my good friend, Brother Hagee. Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

Bottom Line: the Hagee endorsement does not tell you much about John McCain's theology--but the entire sordid affair probably tells us more about politics than we want to know.

One other thought: for forty-plus years I have been hanging out with right-wing religious zealots--but, in all my life, I have never met one who was actually itching for Armageddon. The only time I ever hear about Christians who are mapping out the Final Cosmic Battle at Megiddo Junction, they are always on shows like Fresh Air. But I meet a lot of liberals who assure me they are ubiquitous.