MCCAIN, HAGEE, AND SYMPATHY FOR THE ASSASSIN.

As Sarah Posner has noted, one reason that that Texas pastor and popularizer-of-the-apocalypse John Hagee gave for endorsing John McCain was the latter's "support of the state of Israel." Hagee also claimed that he personally backs Israel because it is a democracy, not because of its place in apocalyptic scenarios.

To believe this, you have to avoid reading anything Hagee has ever written about Israel -- particularly his 1996 giga-seller, Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Coming Antichrist. In most ways, Beginning is a standard popularization of the fundamentalist theology known as dispensational premillennialism: To prove that the final seven years of history are about to begin, Hagee presented a list of verses and a collection of headlines that supposedly fulfill scriptural predictions. Hagee's innovation was to fit the murder of Yitzhak Rabin into his scheme.

But before getting to the End, Hagee expressed uncommon sympathy for Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir. Israeli society, Hagee explained, is divided between Jews "who put more faith in man than in the God of their fathers" and those "motivated by a Biblical imperative to redeem the Land of Israel." Hagee spent several pages quoting scripture to support the latter group. Then he indicated that Amir acted because he belonged to the believers. If you follow his argument, there's no doubt whose side he's on. The implications roar.

So far, McCain has mostly taken heat from Catholics for cuddling up with Hagee. The minister has called Catholicism "the great whore of Babylon" -- which is also pretty standard dispensationalist fare. (Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind books, as I’ve written in TAP, have long, wild riffs against Catholicism as handmaiden of the antichrist.)
But Jews should be joining Catholics on this one. If McCain were as pro-Israel as Hagee says he is, the candidate would want nothing to do with Hagee. You don’t back a democracy by siding with someone who regards a handgun as the means to change policy. There is a certain dissonance between supporting a country and giving theological justifications for the murder of its elected leader. We don’t even have to talk about Hagee's earnest hopes for war on Israeli soil, or his classic theological delegitimization of Judaism.

Mr. McCain, do you know how to say "denounce and reject"?

--Gershom Gorenberg

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