John Hagee, the controversial evangelical leader and endorser of Sen. John McCain, argued in a late 1990s sermon that the Nazis had operated on God's behalf to chase the Jews from Europe and shepherd them to Palestine. According to the Reverend, Adolph Hitler was a "hunter," sent by God, who was tasked with expediting God's will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.
Going in and out of biblical verse, Hagee preached: "'And they the hunters should hunt them,' that will be the Jews. 'From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.' If that doesn't describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can't see that."
He goes on: "Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said 'I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.' So few went that Hertzel went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the holocaust.
"Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says -- Jeremiah writing -- 'They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,' meaning there's no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don't let your heart be offended. I didn't write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel." (Listen to the audio below.)
The sermon, which was first posted by Bruce Wilson on his site, Talk To Action, adds another element to Hagee's controversial stance on the state and history of Israel. It also may provide a new round of political headaches for McCain who has admitted that seeking out Hagee's endorsement was a mistake, but still declared himself "glad to have" it.
A spokesman for Hagee confirmed the authenticity of the remark, which can be found at around the 1:08 mark of his sermon "Battle For Jerusalem."
Since McCain secured the endorsement, both his campaign and Hagee have been pressed to explain a series of derogatory remarks the Reverend made about the Catholic Church, including his reference to the institution as "the Great Whore."
Hagee has since apologized for those remarks. But his interpretation of the role of the Nazis could be harder to dismiss, in part because McCain and Sen. Barack Obama are expected to compete heavily over the Jewish vote come the general election, in part because McCain has said he admires Hagee's commitment to Israel, but mainly because similar theories have found their way into much of the Reverend's writings.
As Wilson notes, in his 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown", Hagee proposed the theory that "anti-Semitism, and thus the Holocaust, was the fault of Jews themselves -- the result of an age old divine curse incurred by the ancient Hebrews through worshiping idols and passed, down the ages, to all Jews now alive." He also wrote that "Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews."
Hagee is considered, in many political circles, to be one of the most passionate and strident supporters of Israel. He has spoken at AIPAC conferences and leads the evangelical group Christians United for Israel. But his views of the country, while possibly shared by others in the evangelical community, can be, at times, startling. Holding to the belief that Armageddon will come to earth following the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Israel, Hagee has advocated an aggressive war against Iran and has opposed any Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank.
McCain, at least in the public record, has sought to thread the needle with the Hagee association: distancing himself from the controversial comment while reaping the political benefits of the Reverend's endorsement. Appearing on ABC's "'This Week" in late April 2008, McCain criticized Hagee's past remarks on the Catholic Church, but said that, "I admire and appreciate his advocacy for the state of Israel, the independence of the state of Israel."