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Monday, Aug. 4, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

His evangelical supporters are scary

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Sen. Barack Obama’s connection to Rev. Jeremiah Wright has dominated the political conversation in recent weeks. But that has blotted out information about Republican nominee John McCain’s support from religious leaders who also hold controversial views.

Take John Hagee, a televangelist from Texas who has called the Roman Catholic Church “the Great Whore” and a “false cult.” He has said that Adolf Hitler learned his anti-Semitism from the Catholic Church, and both conspired to exterminate Jews.

McCain not only accepted Hagee’s endorsement, but actively sought it out, even though Hagee has been a longtime critic of Catholics, a group of voters McCain would love to win over. “I’m very honored by Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement today,” McCain said in triumph.

McCain has tried to distance himself from some of Hagee’s statements, but he has rebuffed criticism of Hagee by saying that the minister is a strong supporter of Israel. But here’s what Hagee said about diplomatic talks with Israel that could lead to a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, policy that most Arabs and Israelis support:

“I want those of you in the State Department and in government in Washington to hear this: If America does not stop pressuring Israel to give up land, believe that God will bring this nation into judgment. Because I believe what this book says,” Hagee said, holding up a Bible during a televised sermon.

“If God brings this nation to judgment, is very likely he will release the terrorists that you’ve already let get here through the ridiculous immigration policy you refuse to stop and this nation is going go through a blood bath that you have permitted because of what you have done.”

Not satisfied with Hagee’s endorsement, in March McCain secured the support of Ohio-based Pentecostal televangelist Rod Parsley, who believes that the United States has a “historical conflict with Islam” and believes that Christians have “no choice” but to confront Muslims. Parsley wrote that “America was founded, part, with the intention of seeing this false religion [Islam] destroyed.”

Parsley has also called for prosecuting people who commit adultery and has compared Planned Parenthood to Nazis.

Most likely, McCain’s embrace of Hagee and Parsley is a bald political stunt meant to garner more support from rightwing evangelicals who distrust him. Back in 2000—when McCain was a straight-talking outsider running against establishment favorite then-Gov. George W. Bush—McCain bashed televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance.”

He certainly had reason to denounce them. The late Falwell had criticized gays, fellow minister Billy Graham (“the chief servant of Satan in America”), feminists, those who are concerned about global warming, anti-war protesters and Teletubbies.

Robertson has compared the Democratic Congress, “liberal-based media” and gays to Nazis. He said that feminism “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” He also called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Most notoriously, on Sept. 13, 2001, Falwell and Robertson agreed that God allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen and blamed feminists, gays, the ACLU, the federal court system and people who believe in the separation of church and state.

While McCain openly criticized these ministers in 2000, six years later McCain spoke at Falwell’s ultra-conservative Liberty University—an institution McCain once denounced—to garner the televangelist’s blessing.

Robertson seems not to have forgiven McCain’s bashing and endorsed prochoice Rudy Giuliani during the Republican primaries. Robertson—a man not known for his moderate views—told Fox News Radio that McCain was too hotheaded to be president.

He explained: “You’ve got a guy who’s commander in chief, who’s got his hand on the red button—I just don’t know. I wouldn’t like to be in World War III. I just have the feeling that he wants to show how macho he is and we might just get ourselves involved in something we don’t want.”

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com

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