On the final Sunday of November, the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio held its 21st evangelical extravaganza, “A Night to Honor Israel.” Cornerstone is the creation of John Hagee, whose company, John Hagee Ministries & Global Evangelism Television, Inc., simulcasts his sermons on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Hagee proudly declared that 26 interconnecting satellites were beaming his show throughout the world. It would be seen by 210 million households in America. Television viewers in Bethlehem would also be glued to their sets.
The catch phase of the evening was “moral clarity.” Most often the words accompanied praise for George W. Bush. As when keynote speaker, U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay said: “President Bush’s moral clarity has swept aside years of appeasement.”
No gray areas were allowed in the brightly lit television church. DeLay underscored the point when he concluded his remarks by saying, “What has been spoken here tonight is the truth from God.”
At the climax of the evening, Hagee presented a giant cardboard check for $1.5 million to the President and CEO of the United Jewish Communities. The stated purpose of the money is to relocate Russian Jews to Israel. Hagee believes that bringing Jews to Israel will help to fulfill the biblical prophecy of “the beginning of the end.”
“There’s absolute reason for confidence in knowing that, yes, the world is getting ready to go through the birth pains of sorrow,” Hagee states in a special “Christians Supporting Israel” edition of his JHMagazine. “But on the other side of the birth pains will be the Messianic era of Jesus Christ and a thousand years of peace in the millennial reign.”
Russian Jews are particularly important in this scenario, for reasons self-evident to Hagee. “If you draw an arrow straight up from Jerusalem, it goes through Moscow,” he notes. “You cannot miss it.”
But during A Night to Honor Israel, the apocalypse was downplayed. After all, a hundred or so Jewish visitors were amongst the 4000 Evangelical Christians filling the Cornerstone church. And not only was DeLay in attendance, but a videotape featured Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli prime minister, who is again a candidate for the office.
Instead of the Book of Revelations, talk of statecraft–radical Christian Republican-style–dominated. Together Hagee, DeLay, and Netanyahu hit similar points: Jerusalem belongs to Israel; the west bank belongs to Israel; the Temple Mount belongs to Israel; the U.S. Embassy should be in Jerusalem not Tel Aviv; Yasser Arafat is a terrorist with whom one cannot negotiate; and unconditional support for Israel is the only option. As Hagee repeatedly noted, “Israel is the only nation on earth created by a sovereign act of God.”
“To those who will ask America to put pressure on Israel to show restraint: America doesn’t run out on its friends,” declared DeLay. “We should reject that the U.S. be some disinterested negotiator,” he continued. “I commend the President for framing it as a moral struggle. The Bush doctrine is principled. Clearly with Israel, it’s the same moral clarity.”
The subtext for DeLay’s remarks, made explicit by Hagee and Netanyahu, is that Israel and America are united together in a titanic struggle against much of the Islamic world. “The first order, the first duty, is to destroy the regime of Yasser Arafat,” said Netanyahu. “[He] is the same evil you will face with Saddam Hussein.”
The next step on the path to the apocalypse loomed large. It’s well documented Russian scientists are building long-range missiles in Iraq to destroy the United States, the reverend claimed. Hagee clearly reveled in his center-stage role as herald of the End. Even in Iraq, they are watching, declared the portly pastor, conveying an image of a riveted Saddam Hussein, his remote control held in a white-knuckled grip. On cue, the camera zoomed in on Hagee’s soft, pudgy face. “Listen Saddam,” he intoned. “There is a Texan in the White House, and he’s going to take you down.”
TULIA LAW WORKS
On November 14, a Houston-area appellate court acquitted a man in the first successful appeal using the state’s new corroboration law for police informants, one of the so-called Tulia bills passed last session. The bill, codified in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.141, requires corroboration of the testimony of confidential informants–unlicensed persons recruited by the police to help set up drug deals–in order to obtain a conviction. In this case, the prosecution presented as corroboration an audio recording allegedly made during the transaction, but offered nobody other than the informant to testify that the voice on the tape belonged to the defendant. That’s not good enough anymore, the judges said. Houston attorney Greg Gladden, president of the ACLU in Texas, successfully argued Young’s appeal. This session, the ACLU will lobby lawmakers to extend the corroboration requirement to licensed officers as well (the narc in the Tulia case was a licensed cop.) Another Tulia-related note: In a hopeful sign for organizers, Ed Self, the hard-line judge in the original Tulia cases, has recused himself from evidentiary hearings ordered by an appellate court for two of those convicted in the bust. No word yet if District Attorney Terry McEachern will do the same, as appellate attorneys have requested.