ICNY joins other New Yorkers and people around the world in reacting with horror to the loss of at least 58 lives and over 2,700 injuries in Gaza on Monday. We condemn the instrumentalization of religion in the service of terrorism, nationalism, or simply political gain. This condemnation extends to the White House’s invitation to religiously intolerant Dallas mega church Pastor Robert Jeffress and televangelist Rev. John C. Hagee who offered prayers at the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem on the same day.
In his prayer at the US Embassy opening yesterday, Pastor Robert Jeffress said the president “stands on the right side of you, God, when it comes to Israel.” On past occasions, he has declared that Jews, Hindus, Mormons, and Muslims are going to Hell and in a 2010 interview with Trinity Broadcasting insisted that “Islam…is a heresy from the pit of Hell. Mormonism…is a heresy from the pit of Hell.”
Televangelist Rev. John C. Hagee shares the belief of some Christian Zionists that all Jews must return to Israel before the Second Coming of Jesus can occurr. In a 1990s sermon, Hagee said that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan for the Jews …“Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.” According to one of Rev. Hagee’s neighbor in San Antonio Rabbi Barry Block, “Pastor Hagee espouses an end of days theology in which our Jewish people don’t fare well at the end of the story unless we convert to Christianity.” Hagee is the same person who said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s way of punishing New Orleans for planning a gay pride parade.
Rev. Jeffress and Rev. Hagee are religiously-divisive figures capable of stirring discord in any American community, let alone in a part of the world characterized by bloody conflict and religious tribalism. The White House’s overseas invitation to these two incindiary individuals exploits right-wing religious sentiment for political gain at home. It is also an overlooked factor in the president’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in the first place.