Hebrew Theology is Anti-Semitic?

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John McCain has ditched the support of John Hagee. Hagee has some pretty wacky views. I'll be the first to say that. They don't compare in offensiveness with those of Jeremiah Wright, but they are weird. The fact that Hagee supported him also doesn't compare with Obama's 20-year commitment (with lots of money given), since McCain didn't invite anything from Hagee, never mind attend his church or announce him as his spiritual adviser (before pretending the media had invented that term when it came back to haunt him).

But one complaint did seem to get a foothold. Hagee has a reputation for being anti-Semitic, and McCain finally gave in when a particular statement (from about a decade ago) surfaced. This statement, which can be found here, basically amounts to saying that God had a purpose for allowing the Holocaust, and that purpose was to bring his people Israel back to the Holy Land. This statement was labeled anti-Semitic, and because of it McCain ended up withdrawing his acceptance of Hagee's support of it.

This completely baffles me. Hagee's statement is unfounded biblically. It's a stupid inference to draw given that we're not in a position to know much about what purposes God might have had for allowing Hitler to do what he did. Nevertheless, it's neither innovative nor anti-Jewish to think God had purposes for Jews through what happened in the Holocaust. It's parallel to many things said throughout the Hebrew Bible, including the way the Bible speaks of Jacob's ordeals with Laban, Joseph's trials with his brothers and in Egypt, all Israel's captivity in Egypt, and their much later captivity in Babylon.

Certainly anyone who accepts Christian teaching will find it hard to deny that the Holocaust is part of all things, since it did happen, and Christian teaching includes Paul's statements about all things working together for good. But you don't need the New Testament to see that the basic thesis that the Holocaust must have served some ultimate purpose in God's plans is perfectly representative of the theology of the Hebrew Bible, i.e. what contemporary Jews recognize as the Bible. There's plenty of criticism of Jews among their own prophets, though it's not criticism of Jews as Jews but of particular Jews or the majority of particular generations of Jews at a time. Hagee would surely agree with all that as part of the Christian Bible. But the main claim here is simply that it's anti-Semitic to think that God had a purpose for the Holocaust. That's completely and totally crazy.

Senator McCain should not have given in on this for the reason he seems to have given in on it. Hagee has weird views, and proposing the particular purpose he did goes way beyond anything a Christian should conclude from the theology the biblical authors assume. But the element that's being called anti-Semitic simply is not. The idea that a basic premise of Hebrew theology is anti-Semitic would be funny if large numbers of people didn't somehow get themselves to believe it and to smear public figures for believing it (or accepting support from those who believe it). McCain's description of this as deeply offensive should be seriously alienating to any Jews or Christians who hold to the traditional theology of both religions. This probably won't backfire for him politically, because most voters are as ignorant of the Bible as McCain apparently is, but evangelicals don't need another excuse to feel alienated by McCain.


I find it interesting that Hagee, who has been accused of "judaiolatry" (I think that's spelled right), would be accused of anti-semitism. That man is so pro-Judaism that many Messianic Jews have separated themselves from him.

I know that this is not the main point of your post, but why do you say that Hagee's views don't compare in offensiveness to Wright's? I don't have a firm grip on what "offensiveness" amounts to, but in so far as it has to do with being stupid and insensitive, Hagee's remarks about Katrina are offensive in the extreme. "Wacky" and "weird" just don't cut it.

Hagee weirdly thinks he can know the specific purposes that God sends natural disasters. I do think that's a little weird when God hasn't revealed those purposes and as far as I can tell has no reason to reveal them to Hagee. But if the idea of God judging people for sin with a hurricane is offensive, then it's not because it's immoral to believe God might do such things. It's because our sinfulness is offended at our sin to the point where we won't accept that God can rightly judge it via natural disasters. This is another issue where any significant reflection on the biblical texts should reveal the strangeness of some of the objections. God uses natural disasters throughout the Bible to judge sin, and while it's often after pleading through prophets that people repent, nevertheless it's judgment on sin, and it's judgment on sin that many of us would prefer to justify as not being all that bad.

So it is indeed weird that Hagee thinks he knows the specifics of such details in the mind of God. It's not like suggesting that a large part of God's people are not God's people and are undeserving of fellowship. That sort of divisiveness is treated in the pages of the New Testament as on the level of apostasy. Yet it's exactly what Wright's theology involves. I do think that's more offensive, biblically. Hagee's statement is stupid. Wright's, by implication, denies the gospel itself.

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