Christian Zionists flocked to San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church the weekend of October 20 to rally around the Israeli flag and express their undying love for Jews. The 25th-annual “A Night to Honor Israel” is now a three-day extravaganza that includes a fireworks display; an “Israel Marketplace” with vendors hawking books like Dangers of a Palestinian State; and a “Middle East Intelligence Briefing” led by hawks such as former CIA Director Jim Woolsey. Eager to move beyond his working-class congregation of 17,000 and a TV audience of millions who tune into his Sunday sermons, Pastor John Hagee—a porcine man who sits in a wooden throne during church services—launched a lobby organization earlier this year called Christians United for Israel. Quickly dubbed the “Christian AIPAC,” after the powerful pro-Israel lobby, the group aims to tap into a growing movement of American Christians who see Israel and Jews as keys to fulfilling biblical prophecy. Christians United for Israel will “speak up and stand up for the state of Israel,” Hagee said at the final service of the weekend as the collection plates circulated.
Friday’s packed event featured the evangelical leader and wannabe politician Gary Bauer, who ran for president in 2000, and Mac Hammond, a megachurch pastor from Minnesota. Hammond reminded the audience of the biblical basis of their support for Israel, the “only nation founded by God.”
“If you bless Israel, you’re going to be blessed; if you curse Israel, you’re going to be cursed,” he said matter-of-factly.
Later, Bauer criticized the Israeli government for not recognizing the divinity of its country. Rather than bother with the niceties of diplomacy, “I yearn for a prime minister of Israel to simply stand up and say, ‘You know what, this land is ours because God gave it to us.'” At this, the racially diverse audience jumped to its feet and drowned Bauer out with roars of approval.
What of the Palestinians who lay claim to Israeli land? Their existence was hardly acknowledged, although each speaker hinted at a “common enemy”–radical Islam. (Hagee claims there are 200 million “Islamics” who are radical fundamentalists.) On Sunday, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on videotape at Cornerstone and spoke darkly of a “triumphant Islamic empire in which the West would be vanquished.” He thanked Christian Zionists in America for being more fervent about Israel than most Jews. Netanyahu didn’t discuss the idea that a pan-Islamic military force led by Russia’s high command is set to invade Israel. Hagee believes this scenario is the biblical Gog and Magog that will soon hasten the end of time and the rapture that will take the true believers to heaven.
In case you missed it, Gov. Rick Perry has finally weighed in on global warming. He’s dubious.
“There is great debate in the scientific community about whether we are experiencing man-made global warming,” Perry wrote in a recent Dallas Morning News op-ed defending his October 2005 order to “fast-track” permits for most of 19 new coal-fired power plants.
Perry also pilloried the environmentalists providing organizational and scientific muscle for the coalition of ranchers, rural homeowners, city officials, and clean-air agitators opposed to the coal plants in their current form. An “extreme element of the environmental community,” he called them, who “want to return us to the era of horse and buggy—except they would probably complain about the methane gas from horse manure, too.” Amusing, perhaps, but coal critics insist that they are the ones trying to drag Texas into the 21st century.
If built, the 19 proposed plants in Texas would add 120 million tons of global-warming gases to the atmosphere annually, the equivalent of putting 20 million cars on the road. Texas is already, hold your breath, worst in the nation in contributions to global warming.
“People are waking up to health issues, they’re waking up to global warming, cities are waking up to the impact [the plants] will have on their air quality,” said Wendi Hammond, an environmental attorney. Case in point: 21 local governments have joined the Texas Cities for Clean Air Coalition, including such bastions of environmental extremism as Dallas, Houston, Arlington, and El Paso. The coalition wants the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to require power plant companies to use the best available antipollution equipment, which could cut key emissions by 60 to 90 percent. Newer plant designs could also include, or be retrofitted with, devices that capture carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. The coalition is building up a legal fund to intervene in the permitting process.
“Skeptics will say that we could be wrong about global warming and that we will waste resources and time trying to correct it,” Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck writes on his Web site. “But that’s actually the best possible outcome because the worst possible outcome—one that science is pointing to more strongly every day—is that global warming is indeed occurring, and if we stick our heads in the sand, we will pass a point at which we cannot correct it. ”
It’s official: Wal-Mart can now lay claim to the title of World’s Most Hated Retailer. Those on the left have long seen Wal-Mart as evil for its abysmal wages, strident anti-unionism, and mistreatment of female employees. Communities from California to New York have fought the company, the nation’s largest private employer, because it lays waste to mom-and-pop businesses. But now it’s apparently run afoul of God, too.
The leader of Dallas-based Operation Save America, Flip Benham, a man who this past summer oversaw the burning of a Koran and a public memorial service for a formaldehyde-soaked fetus in Mississippi, has launched Operation Save Wal-Mart. According to Benham, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton once “applied biblical principles to run his business,” but now his legacy is under attack from “the radical homosexual agenda.” Proof of this devilish conspiracy can be found in Wal-Mart’s new “partnership” with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. In August, Wal-Mart announced that it would join the Chamber of Commerce “in order to strengthen [Wal-Mart’s] commitment to advancing diversity among all of its associate, supplier, and customer bases.” Benham also castigates Wal-Mart for offering Plan B, the contraceptive morning-after pill recently approved for sale. The Evangelical activist is instructing Christians to “come out of the closet” on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the day after Thanksgiving, to protest at Wal-Mart stores.
In fact, there appears to be an overlap between the right and the left on the issue of Wal-Mart’s Great Satan status. Recently, a group of foreign workers, who toil in the sweatshops that supply Wal-Mart its cheap goods, visited the University of Texas–Austin. The workers said that they are forbidden to unionize, that they are exposed to hazardous chemicals, and that pregnancy is a firing offense. According to Kate Chen, a former Wal-Mart worker from China, this policy leads young women to get back-alley abortions lest they lose their jobs.
Kinky to the Last
Kinky Friedman bounded to the stage a little after 10 p.m. on election night. His supporters had packed Scholz Beer Garten in downtown Austin for an election-night shindig, but were fast growing disappointed. Kinky was running a distant fourth in the governor’s race at a mere 12 percent of the vote. Few supporters at the party had expected Kinky to actually win, but most thought he would reach at least 15 percent, and many said they hoped he would top 20.
By the time Kinky took the stage in a small auditorium behind the bar’s patio, Democrat Chris Bell and independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn had already conceded to incumbent Rick Perry. Kinky’s ride was coming to an end. But he was intent on soaking up every last second of it. Facing a dozen or so news cameras, Kinky began, “I’ve been trying to get down the Iraqi dance—the dance they did when they found out Saddam was going to be hanged.” He then did the dance: a little bounce with hands over his head, palms up. Returning to the mic, he offered, “Allegations that I had sex with a male masseuse are entirely false.” So much for the gracious concession.
Kinky got serious long enough to thank his campaign staff. “The campaign inspired a lot of people, and it certainly inspired me,” he said. Judging from the result, it also may have inspired enough Democrats to defect from Bell, who earned 29 percent, to ensure another term for Perry with just 39 percent. But Kinky and many of his supporters wouldn’t buy the spoiler argument. “There was no way we should have gotten out of this race,” Kinky said. “We gave Texas a choice… [the campaign] may be significant for that thing we call the future.” He didn’t say how exactly.
A few minutes later, Kinky stepped off the stage into a throng of supporters for one more marathon autograph session. In the back of the room, they were still selling Kinky T-shirts, hats, CDs, and the like—the kind of merchandising that had fueled the campaign. It was getting late, though, and, like a store going out of business, everything was being discounted.