When dealing with the issues of John Hagee and his endorsement of John McCain, I am delving into waters of which I am, for the most part, ignorant. I have no real experience with the Catholic faith and very limited exposure to Hagee, which is composed of a few seconds of his television program as I flip channels and one visit to his church while I was in San Antonio last year.
Hagee will stay in the news as a counter-weight to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But after reading an account of a Catholic meeting with Hagee, there seems to be some differences between the two.
A leading conservative Catholic commentator Deal W. Hudson, wrote of his initial reaction to Hagee’s endorsement of McCain. He said he, along with Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, called on McCain to repudiate the anti-Catholicism of Hagee’s writings.
Being a conservative, Hudson is going to be looking for a way to make Hagee look better than he did because of his endorsement of McCain. But being a Catholic is more important to Hudson than being a Republican. I’m sure he values the image of his faith much more than he values the image of a politician, even if it is one for which he plans to vote.
After describing his initial trepidation with Hagee, Hudson becomes a bit more accepting of the evangelical pastor after his conversation with him. He described Hagee as genuine and not defensive in their discussion.
Hagee actually gave reasoned answers for much of the controversy swirling around him. In dealing with his calling the Catholic Church anti-Semitic, he explained that he had written extensively about the same issues with prominent protestants such as Martin Luther and had praised statements by Pope John Paul II. He also said that the reason why his examples seemed to be so one-sided is that his main source was a book written by Rev. Edward Flannery, the first director of Catholic-Jewish relations at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In discussing the “Great Whore” from the Book of Revelation, Hagee explained that according to his eschatology the Catholic Church would not fit. After the rapture of all Christians (including Catholics), the remaining members of churches who did not have a real faith will form the apostate church and become the “Great Whore.”
Hudson also relayed a story about how Hagee helped nuns at a Catholic school which was closing down. Hagee’s church bought the campus and invited the nuns to his church the following Sunday. He sat them in the front row at both services and publicly thanked them for their “lives of sacrifice and devotion to Jesus Christ.” The congregations gave them standing ovations. The nuns went on to live on the campus for 12 years with no cost.
Contrast that with Rev. Wright, while people claimed that context would give a better picture of who he was, the more sermons that came out, the worse he looked. When given the national stage to clarify his statements and provide the much needed context, Rev. Wright resorted again to anti-American, conspiracy theory, racist rants.
While Hagee points out that he has helped Catholics and has publicly expressed his appreciation for their work, Wright’s defenders can only point to the work he has done for “his own.” I hate using that terminology, but that is how Wright frames it. All of his good work has been done, admittedly, for the black community, which does nothing to explain away his verbal tirades against whites or Europeans.
It is curious that those who clamored for more context to better explain or understand Wright have not offered that same courtesy to Hagee. Wright went after America and white people, I’m part of those groups so I can describe how his words misleading and are blatant lies in some cases. I’m not a Catholic, so I did not want to suppose how Hagee should be defended from changes of anti-Catholicism. For those of us who aren’t Catholic, we should value the opinion of one who is concerning these issues.
Until Wright has a meeting with President Bush or any prominent non-minority evangelical Christian leader where he provides context that demonstrates he was misrepresented and expresses concern that he is being misunderstood instead of taking a national audience and doubling down on his lunacy, I will give no credence to any comparisons between he and Hagee.