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Stateside With Rosalea: Death of a Rabbi

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Death of a Rabbi

As me dear old Dad was fond of saying wryly: the Lord moves in mysterious ways. And so it was that on Easter Sunday, I woke up so late I caught just the closing credits for “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and had to bunny-hop across the channels to find something else to watch.

Lo! Waiting for me on Channel 20 was John Hagee about to preach his Easter sermon at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee’s name and weird sermons have been brought up often as a counterpoint to Jeremiah Wright’s YouTube debut on the news circuit this week, so I thought I’d better settle in and see for myself what the fuss is about.

Now, I confess that I know so little about Judaism that it was only five years ago I learned that the New Testament isn’t recognized by that faith. So you can imagine my surprise when Hagee started referring to Jesus Christ as a rabbi. Isn’t the New Testament about Jesus Christ, and isn’t it rejected by Judaism because that religion doesn’t acknowledge that Jesus was a Messiah? I guess JC must’ve come bottom of the class at rabbinical school.

Later in the sermon, Hagee donned a large blue and white prayer shawl, explaining that the early translators of the Bible erroneously used the word “shroud” to describe what Christ’s body was wrapped in when it was placed in the tomb. “The flag of Israel is a prayer shawl with a star on it,” the good pastor said, lest we had not gotten where this was going. Of Christ’s ascension to heaven, Hagee intoned: “You saw him leave personally as a Jewish rabbi. He’s coming back as a Jewish rabbi.”

Just so you know where I stand about religion, another favorite saying of me dear old Dad was that organized religion caused more death and destruction in the world than it had ever done good, and I’m with him on that. Organized religion becomes an institution and any institution necessarily is run by people, and wheresoever gatherest people in the name of An Institution, soon follows politics and strife.

But, far be it for me to criticize how a bloke makes his living. The poor guy’s sermons are syndicated to only 220 nations outside the U.S. and his latest money-spinner—a conference called Christians United for Israel Summit—is but a pup at three years old. That’s on top of the DVDs and CDs advertised during breaks in the sermon, with titles like “Eternity Lasts Forever” (who knew?!) and “The 10 Commandments in the Workplace”.

Some things did bother me. Hagee said that the psalmist was able to write “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil” because Christ’s sacrifice had turned death into just a shadow for all those who believed in him. Ummm, weren’t the psalms written several hundred years BCE? And he also said, “For those of you who are agnostic—you don’t believe because you’re terrified.” That was just before the promo for an evangelical action movie entitled, “Escape from Hell”. Dream on, Hagee.

And by the way, you need to hire someone who can spell to type your closing graphics. “God Bless You on this Ressurection Sunday” was how the program signed off. Isn’t Ressurection one of those erectile dysfunction drugs?



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