This past Sunday evening I took a group from the church I serve to Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA to hear Dr. John Hagee. His speech (notice I did not use the words "sermon" or "message") was on the evils of Islamofascism. Islamofascism is a word that has come into usage just in the past few months. It is a word first used by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and was recently used by President Bush in a recent press conference (11 August 2006). Dr. Hagee has adopted the word and is using it for his own soap box rants.
I believe the term probaly needs a bit of clarification, so let's unpack it. Islam is the monostheistic world religion that claims Allah as its god and Muhammed as its prophet. It has billions of adherents all over the world and is a zealous missionary religion; purely antithetical to Christianity. Fascism is a tyrannically ruled style of government, characterized by stringent socioeconomic controls, oppressive censorship, terror as normative, belligerent nationalism, and race-supremacy. Put the two together and it is indeed a gargantuan two-headed monster.
Against these Islamofascists Dr. Hagee railed. "The real enemy is not terror, it is the Islamofascists!" He thundered from the Thomas Road pulpit, lingering for repeated applause, an occasional standing ovation, and frequent "amens," every preacher's coveted cheer. However, I in no way cheer for this man's communication. There were several failures in Dr. Hagee's diatribe and I feel I must share these.
The people whom Dr. Hagee castigated were not precious souls for whom Christ died, but rather the enemy to be hunted and destroyed. Not once did Dr. Hagee say that the grace, hope, and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was for the Muslim. Not once did he say that God loves the Muslim people, that their eyes are darkened by sin, that they need to know the love of the Savior. Not once did he encourage the congregation to reach out to Muslim adherents with the love of Christ. Rather it was the frequent refrain, "We must win this war at all costs!"
I am not arguing against the United States defending herself; she can and she must. I support and I pray for all our troops serving here and abroad, fighting to secure the very freedom I enjoy. However, the Gospel is not to be marginalized even at the expense of generating patriotism. The blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse Muslims too, even the most radical.
Dr. Hagee engendered fear in the hearts of the people. Christ's return is closer than we think. I have heard that numerous times, yet this is exactly the doctrine of the imminency of Christ; that He might return at any moment. Without it, the church, not that she isn't complacent enough already, would lose all of her evangelistic and missionary zeal. Every generation has believed that Christ will return during their generation. The harbingers of Christ's return are the same in every generation and I believe God has done this on purpose, so that the church would not lose her evangelistic fervor. The signs of the times are characteristic of all times.
But to say that the advent of Islamofascism is one of the clearest indicators of Christ's return? Even Jesus said, "It is not for you to know times or seasons" (Acts 1:7). Whether Islamofascists are indeed a reality and that they are sleeping on my doorstep is yet to be determined, but at supper after the service, one elderly church member asked if all those things Dr. Hagee said were true. Are the Islamofascists already here? According to Dr. Hagee, they are living in our neighborhoods, attending our schools, building their mosques right alongside our churches. Moreover, they are just waiting on a phone call so they can don their military regalia, take up their accoutrements, and join their Islamofascist brothers in their war against America.
Dr. Hagee claims World War III has already begun. If America does not take the first step to eradicate these radical Islamofascists, war will take place on our soil. The staggering irony is that the same tool terrorists are known for, with that same tool Dr. Hagee held his audience spellbound; fear.
Dr. Hagee stimulated hatred for the supposed enemy. What better way to cause one to hate another than to spend a lengthy amount of time teaching how much that people hates you? In no uncertain terms, the Islamofascist, when given the opportunity, he will kill you--why? It is because he hates you. Their children are trained from their mothers' breasts to hate Americans. Boys are taught to use guns by the time they learn to walk. Vast amounts of time are spent in school disparaging America and the freedom she enjoys.
Twice the (fictional?) story was told of an Islamofascist mother who made a liquid bomb out of her baby's bottle and then proceeded to blow herself, her child, and the plane out of the sky. "This is what these people are capable of!" Dr. Hagee painted faces on these people who are out to destroy America; mean, ugly, grim faces, faces that by their sheer ugliness we ought to recognize them. He brought every dark-skinned, dark-haired man, woman, and child in America under suspicion. Hate is yet another tool of the enemy, yet a tool Dr. Hagee seemed to wield with some expertise.
Finally, Dr. Hagee promotes a political activism that I am not sure Christians should prescribe to. Dr. Richard Land has written a new book, Imagine! A God-Blessed America, and it is advertised in the July-August 2006 issue of Faith and Family Values. It runs with this tagline: "Imagine an America where more Christians are radical change agents."
Is it the purpose of a Christian to be a change agent, the type Dr. Hagee and Dr. Land propose? I understand and agree that we should vote and exercise our political liberties. However, there is no precedent in the Bible, either testament, where social or political activism ever changed anything. If a community was changed, it was by the propagation of the Gospel. In Acts 17, a radical group of Jews dragged Jason out in the street, proclaiming him guilty of turning the world upside down. Why was he persecuted? Jason was there when Paul was preaching the Gospel in the synagogues saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ." Some of the Jews were persuaded and a great multitude of Greeks believed the Gospel and repented of their sins. The Gospel turned that world upside down; not the invasion of an army, the eloquence of diplomacy, nor stalwart political activism.
If change is to come about, the church must realize its responsibility not only to its own community, but to the whole world. I appreciate the ministries of men like Dr. Hagee, because in every generation there must be men who will stand head and shoulders above the rest and proclaim things that must be said in the public forum. Attention must be drawn to these issues. However, Osama bin Laden does not really run a government. The terrorists in Iraq do not really constitute a government or a nation. And the hijackers of 9/11 were not fascists. Is my neighbor an Islamofascist? Honestly, I don't know; but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
It is my contention that Dr. Hagee was doing a bit of saber rattling, doom saying, and sounding the tribulational alarm just for the sake of selling a few books and padding his pockets.