The Rev. John Hagee speaks during a news conference held at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio on Friday, May 23, 2008.
J. Michael Short/AP Photo

Trump’s other controversial pastor in Jerusalem today

In 2000, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran for president as a moderate, deliberately eschewing the religious right as a group of extremists he saw as “agents of intolerance.” Eight years later, McCain moved sharply to the right and took steps to forge a partnership with radical social conservatives.

It didn’t turn out well. The Republican senator welcomed the support of Pastor John Hagee, for example, right up until McCain was asked whether he agreed with many of Hagee’s extremist comments targeting a variety of faith traditions. Ten years ago this month, the Arizonan found it necessary to denounce his newfound ally and condemn Hagee’s hateful record.

A decade later, guess who Team Trump invited to deliver the benediction at today’s ceremony in Israel at the opening of the new U.S. embassy.

Pastor John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, delivered the benediction at the ceremony.

“We thank you, O Lord, for President Donald Trump’s courage in acknowledging to the world a truth that was established 3,000 years ago – that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Hagee said. […]

A major proponent of the embassy move, Hagee said in a recent interview with conservative news site Breitbart that he told Trump he would win “political immortality” for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.

In case anyone’s forgotten, Hagee’s lengthy record of extremism includes an instance in which he argued that Hitler was executing a divine plan from God. The right-wing pastor is also on record arguing that Jews have been persecuted over the centuries, but it’s their own fault for not converting to Christianity.

This is the guy who was invited to deliver the benediction at the opening of our embassy in Jerusalem.

What’s more, note that Hagee is one of two right-wing American evangelical leaders who participated in today’s ceremony. The other, as we discussed this morning, is Robert Jeffress, who among other things, is on record saying, “[Y]ou can’t be saved by being a Jew.” Jeffress has also insisted that Christians in the United States are persecuted in ways comparable to Germany’s treatment of Jews before the Holocaust.

It’s worth emphasizing a few relevant angles here. First, allies of both Hagee and Jeffress would probably make the case that the pastors haven’t peddled anti-Semitic garbage in the traditional, bigoted sense, so much as they’ve made these ugly comments from a theological perspective. This likely contributed to the Trump White House’s thinking when Hagee and Jeffress were invited to have prominent roles at today’s event.

Second, both far-right pastors have made offensive comments about Jews, but their records are filled with related quotes about other faith traditions. Or put another way, for Hagee and Jeffress, it’s not just Jews.

And third, the White House has not yet explained how and why Hagee and Jeffress were chosen to speak at the U.S. embassy today. That’s a shame; it seems like a question in need of an answer.

Israel and Religious Right

Trump's other controversial pastor in Jerusalem today