- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In a particularly harsh New York Times column, Frank Rich recently painted a persuasive portrayal of high-profile evangelical Christian minister John Hagee as a nutty anti-Catholic bigot who does not like Jews, either. Simply put, it is a lie. Certain facts cited are, in fact, true. The most damning “facts,” however, are not. Therein lies the problem.

Mr. Rich flipped the truth on its head — and it would stretch credulity to think he made an honest mistake. In the YouTube video the Times columnist parades as evidence of bigotry, Mr. Hagee is actually doing what he has done for decades: combating anti-Semitism. In other words, Mr. Rich branded Mr. Hagee a bigot when, in fact, he was actually fighting bigotry.

Describing a now-infamous YouTube video clip — which lasts all of one minute and 17 seconds — Mr. Rich wrote: “Wielding a pointer, [Mr. Hagee] pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is ‘the Great Whore,’ Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking ‘the blood of the Jewish people.’ The Great Whore represents ‘the Roman Church,’ which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.” What the columnist neglects to note is that “the Great Whore” is not Mr. Hagee’s term, but rather the Bible’s. And suffice it to say that if Pamela Anderson had the same breast size as the rather plain-looking “Great Whore,” then the iconic blond never would have become, well, iconic.

But those are simply deceptive tactics. This is the big lie: Mr. Hagee never said that “the Great Whore” was the “Roman Church.” Certainly not in the video, and it appears, not ever. Mr. Hagee quite clearly said that she represented “the Apostate Church.”

Later in his monologue, Mr. Hagee cited Adolf Hitler’s boast that he was merely following in the footsteps of the “Roman Church.” (Many Protestants have used the “Great Whore” to further anti-Catholicism, but Mr. Hagee has not.) So shoddy was Mr. Rich’s research that not only did he not call for comment, but he even declined an offer from Mr. Hagee’s publicist to answer any questions — an e-mail that was only sent the day before publication, because the publicist had heard that the column was in the works. (Mr. Rich did not respond to a request for an interview for this column.)

Were Mr. Rich interested in being fair, he would have noted that Mr. Hagee, for over a decade, personally supported a San Antonio-area Catholic convent which provided free housing for retired nuns. (Mr. Rich knew this, as it was referenced in the publicist’s e-mail.) His failure to adhere to basic journalistic standards might explain why Mr. Rich (perhaps unintentionally) created the impression that Mr. Hagee is, at best, no friend of Jews, or at worst, an anti-Semite. It’s an ugly implication — and dead wrong.

Theologically, Mr. Hagee believes that one of the greatest sins a Christian can commit is anti-Semitism — hence the reference in the video to the drinking of the blood of the Jews. He was reminding Christians, as he often does, of the long history of Christian anti-Semitism. Mr. Hagee wastes no opportunity to teach Christians that one of the surest ways for a Christian to become a member of the “apostate church” is to engage in anti-Semitism.

For decades, Mr. Hagee has easily been one of the most prominent Christian leaders fighting anti-Semitism. To him, loving Jews as much as one’s Christian neighbors is a core tenet of his faith. In his book “In Defense of Israel,” Mr. Hagee wrote, “Show me an anti-Semitic Christian, and I’ll show you a spiritually dead Christian whose hatred for other human beings has strangled his faith.”

If anything, Mr. Hagee is obsessed with purging anti-Semitism from Christendom. Thus, the book contains a lengthy discussion of the history of Christian anti-Semitism. (It is from this section that his critics have pulled quotes to argue that Mr. Hagee is anti-Catholic. The leading critic, though, the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, this week announced a truce with Mr. Hagee.)

If only Mr. Rich had spent roughly 20 minutes to peruse the relevant chapter, he would have learned two important tidbits: 1) Mr. Hagee’s criticism was directed solely at the Catholic Church’s past deeds, and 2) Mr. Hagee also attacked Protestant anti-Semitism, with an in-depth exploration of Martin Luther’s considerable influence on Nazi ideology.

Throwing stones from inside his glass house, Mr. Rich wrote, “Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.” Given how far off the mark he was, it is only fair to ask of Mr. Rich: Could he not find a “12-year-old with a laptop”?

Joel Mowbray occasionally writes for The Washington Times.

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