1. God Damn It!
After coming under fire for insisting that God punished New Orleans with a catastrophic hurricane because of a gay-pride parade, John Hagee finally relented on Friday. Or did he? Here's the statement his public-relations firm put out on his behalf:
As a believing Christian, I see the hand of God in everything that happens here on earth, both the blessings and the curses. But ultimately neither I nor any other person can know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina. I should not have suggested otherwise. No matter what the cause of the storm, my heart goes out to all who suffered in this terrible tragedy. There but for the grace of God go any one of us.
Of course this new statement does not alter Hagee's position that God condemns the "sin" of homosexuality, or even discounts the possibility that God could use a hurricane to curse a city for sinning. He's just saying he can't know what God was thinking when he destroyed New Orleans with a Category 5 hurricane.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright claimed to use the same biblical starting point -- the Book of Deuteronomy -- in his now-infamous "God damn America" sermon. Deuteronomy laid down the law for the Israelites in the Promised Land after they spent 40 years wandering in the desert. It says that God blesses obedience and curses disobedience. Examples of disobedience include the death penalty for drunkenness and homosexuality, and most are largely ignored by even the most traditionalist Christians (but not by the Christian Reconstructionists).
Wright explained his use of the word "damn" on Bill Moyers Journal Friday:
If you look at the damning, condemning, if you look at Deuteronomy, it talks about blessings and curses, how God doesn't bless everything. God does not bless gang-bangers. God does not bless dope dealers. God does not bless young thugs that hit old women upside the head and snatch their purse. God does not bless that. God does not bless the killing of babies. God does not bless the killing of enemies. And when you look at blessings and curses out of that Hebrew tradition from the book of Deuteronomy, that's what the prophets were saying, that God is not blessing this. ... I also think people don't understand condemn, D-E-M-N, D-A-M-N. They don't understand the root, the etymology of the word in terms of God condemning the practices that are against God's people.
Wright is backpedaling here -- because he just as easily could have sermonized, "God's not going to bless America for its aggression; He might just condemn it." It would have had the same theological impact and he might have even found more sympathizers. But as we saw this week, scaled-back rhetoric is not his forte. Nor, for that matter, is it Hagee's.
2. What Says Hagee About Blessings and Curses and War?
While Wright asserts that God condemns the death and destruction wrought by war, Hagee thinks that God just might condemn avoiding war. In his 2006 book, Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee wrote that God would curse America if it stood by as Iran attacked Israel. This is not some random, taken-out-of-context quote. He wrote a whole book on this, preached about it, and founded an organization called Christians United for Israel to mobilize grassroots political support for his ideas. He gets private meetings with members of the president's national security staff, presents former CIA director James Woolsey as a speaker at his "Middle East Intelligence Briefing" (held at his church), and sits down with congressional leaders of both parties to talk about foreign policy. But don't worry, McCain's never even been to Hagee's church!
In Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee explains how the Book of Ezekiel prophesies that an army of Arabs (including Iran, although Hagee doesn't explain that Iran is not an Arab country), led by Russia, will invade Israel, but that God will exterminate all but one-sixth of the "Russian axis of evil." Hagee actually describes God's murderous judgment as "His strategy of war."
Ezekiel also predicts, according to Hagee, that "judgment is coming not only to the invading Russian force but also on the headquarters of that power and upon all who support it or allowed this attack on Israel." Focusing on Ezekiel 39:6, which reads "I will send fire on ... those who live in security in the coastlands," Hagee argues that God could, in the form of hurricanes, tsunamis, or nuclear war, bring judgment on the East and West coasts of the United States if it does not protect Israel from said attack. Why would God allow this? Hagee asks. He explains by quoting Genesis 12:3: "I will bless those who bless you [Israel] and will curse him who curses you."
Keep in mind that McCain says his association with Hagee is different from Obama's association with Wright because he doesn't go to Hagee's church -- he just likes Hagee's politics on Israel. Doesn't that make you feel better?
3. Crazy Preacher Wars, Continued.
Wright may have been Obama's personal pastor, not just some hack Obama sought out to win votes, but the GOP has long worshipped at the church of the religious right, a pew-less church that's everywhere: on television, on the radio, in the halls of Congress, in secret meetings, and on the National Mall this week. The mall events include the ongoing marathon reading of the Bible outside the Capitol and tomorrow's National Day of Prayer, which is run by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. That's the same Focus on the Family that has had such a positive impact on our national discourse.
This pew-less church does not represent all Christians, and certainly does not represent all Americans. But many, many politicians not only attend it, they benefit from it. And although the outlandish statements of some of its self-promoting and provocative demagogues are often fodder for ridicule, they have never once single-handedly derailed a presidential candidacy.
4. The National Day of Prayer
And speaking of tomorrow's National Day of Prayer, it exclusively follows the "Judeo-Christian" tradition, which to the event organizers means, actually, Christian. If you want to pray as part of another tradition, why, you are free to do so on your own time. How magnanimous of the organization that approved of a 2007 National Day of Prayer sermon, "A Nation Abandoned by God," which argued that God could cause destruction of an American city. Why would God -- ahem -- damn America this way? Because "it celebrates lesbian sex."
The event is intended to "preserve America's Christian heritage," so despite the organizers' claim that everyone's invited, don't expect any non-Christian prayer to be going on. The president and 50 governors approve, despite the efforts of interfaith groups to pressure governors to declare an inclusive day of prayer.
5. Will New Books Tell All About Falwell's and Huckabee's Sermons?
In religious-right book news, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's wife, Macel, has a new book about her husband coming out next month. Her publisher says it "will include insight into Falwell's often controversial statements and his relationship with Ronald Reagan." Like his statements two days after 9-11 that "God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," and that "the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'" Will Macel tell us -- gasp -- that her husband was warning that God damned America?
Mike Huckabee will be releasing a book -- after Election Day -- about his failed presidential bid. "There's going to be a lot of untold stories and untold anecdotes," his publisher told the Associated Press. "But the other part is the governor's vision for the future of American politics and society and what should we be working towards? How does the [Republican] party become more unified?" And what about those lost sermons?
Contact me at tapthefundamentalist AT gmail DOT com.