John Charles Hagee (born April 12, 1940) is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee is also the CEO of his non-profit corporation, Global Evangelism Television (GETV). He is the 5th of 6 pastors in his family, all of whom were named John Hagee, dating back to the colonial era.
Hagee is the President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry carried in the United States on ten television networks, including 62 high-power stations aired to more than 150 million households. He is shown on networks around the globe, including The Inspiration Network (INSP), Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and Inspiration Now TV. John Hagee Ministries is in Canada on the Miracle Channel and CTS and can be seen in places including Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Hagee is the founder and National Chairman of the Christian-Zionist organization Christians United for Israel, incorporated on February 7, 2006.
Hagee has been both praised and criticized for his support for Israel. He has also attracted controversy over his comments on Islam and Catholicism.
Hagee was born in Goose Creek, Texas, now part of Baytown, to the Reverend William Bythel Hagee and Vada Mildred Swick Hagee. He graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with a Bachelor of Science in History and Education in 1964. He was on a football scholarship and appeared on the academic dean's List. Hagee received a master's degree in educational administration from the University of North Texas in Denton in 1966 and completed his theological training at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie. In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2005, he received another honorary doctorate from Netanya Academic College in Israel. Hagee served on the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents from 1989 to January 2008.
In 1960, he married Martha Downing, they had two children John Christopher and Tish. In 1966 Hagee founded the Trinity Church in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee resigned as senior pastor of Trinity Church in May 1975. He also divorced his first wife Martha Downing in 1975. In 1976 Hagee married Diana Castro, they have three children Cristina, Matthew and Sandy.
Hagee founded The Church at Castle Hills, on Mother's Day, May 11, 1975. The church started with 25 members, but within two years, had to build a new sanctuary seating 1,600 people. The church continued to grow. On October 4, 1987, Hagee dedicated a 5,000+-seat sanctuary and named it Cornerstone Church. Dr. W. A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, anointed Hagee and Diana Hagee, Pastor Hagee's second wife, before the congregation.
Because the land now known as Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank was ruled by the Ottoman Turks prior to World War I, then controlled by the British, and later partitioned under United Nations mandate, Hagee argues that the land does not belong to the Palestinian people, and that the name "Palestine" (deriving from that of the ancient Philistines) was imposed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to punish the Jews for their revolt against the Roman Empire. Hagee has commented that there is no Palestinian language and no historic Palestinian nation.
In 2007, Hagee stated that he does not believe in global warming, and he also said that he sees the Kyoto Protocol as a conspiracy aimed at manipulating the U.S. economy. Also, Hagee has condemned the Evangelical Climate Initiative, an initiative "signed by 86 evangelical leaders acknowledging the seriousness of global warming and pledging to press for legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions."
In his 2005 book Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, Hagee interprets the Bible to predict that Russia and the Islamic states will invade Israel and will be destroyed by God. This will cause the antichrist, the head of the European Union, to create a confrontation over Israel between China and the West. The book echoes predictions made in The Late, Great Planet Earth, the best-selling 1970 book co-authored by Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson.
The Christian Research Institute (among others) has strongly criticized Hagee's 2007 book, In Defense of Israel, for apparently arguing that Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah for the Jews, only the Savior for the Christian Church, and therefore, that attempts should not be made to convert Jews. Hagee issued a statement denying the first of these allegations and promises to revise one chapter in a new edition to make his views clearer.
The San Antonio B'nai B'rith Council awarded Hagee with its "Humanitarian of the Year" award. It was the first time this award was given to a non-Jew. Hagee was presented the Zionist Organization of America's Israel Award by U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. This award was given by the Jewish Community of Dallas, Texas. He was presented the ZOA Service Award by Texas Governor Mark White.
Hagee has been to Israel more than two dozen times and has met with every Prime Minister of Israel since Menachem Begin. John Hagee Ministries has given several million dollars to bring Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel, as well as millions to support Jewish orphanages and other worthy causes for the Jewish people in Israel and around the globe. Hagee is the Founder and Executive Director of "A Night to Honor Israel", an event that expresses solidarity between Christians and Jews on behalf of Jerusalem, the State of Israel, and the United States.
On February 7, 2006, Hagee and some 400 leaders from across the Christian and Jewish communities formed a new national organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI). This organization addresses members of the United States Congress, professing a Biblical justification for the defense of Israel. Around this time he received death threats for supporting Israel, and has since had bodyguards standing by while preaching at his church or at speaking engagements.
Hagee has been criticized for his statements about Israel, the Roman Catholic Church, and Islam. One notable critic is journalist Bill Moyers, who claims that Hagee and other evangelicals are working toward supporting the religious right. He states, "Someone who didn't know better could imagine from the very name Christians United For Israel—CUFI—that pastor John Hagee speaks for all Christians. Well, he doesn't ... What these fellows have forged is a close connection between the [George W. Bush] White House and the religious right."
After Hagee's 2008 endorsement of U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain, a furor arose over comments, broadcasts, and writings made by Hagee that were seen as anti-Catholic. After discussions with Catholic leaders, Hagee made an apology, which was publicly accepted by Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights president William A. Donohue. When Hagee made the endorsement, Donohue issued the following remarks regarding McCain's ties to Hagee:
Now that he has secured the Republican nomination for president, and has received the endorsement of President Bush, McCain will now embark on a series of fundraising events.
When he meets with Catholics, he is going to be asked about his ties to Hagee. He should also be asked whether he approves of comments like this: "A Godless theology of hate that no one dared try to stop for a thousand years produced a harvest of hate."
That quote is proudly cited by David Brog in his recent book, Standing with Israel. Both Brog and Hagee clearly identify the Roman Catholic Church as spawning a "theology of hate".This is nothing if not hate speech. There are so many good evangelical leaders in this country — Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Richard Land, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, Dr. Al Mohler, Chuck Colson — and none has ever insulted Catholicism.
The "Godless theology" quotation is taken from Hagee's 1987 work Should Christians Support Israel? (p. 4).
Hagee's attack against Christian antisemitism in his book Jerusalem Countdown claimed that Adolf Hitler's antisemitism derived especially from his Catholic background, and that the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII encouraged Nazism instead of denouncing it (pp. 79–81). In his 1998 book he called Hitler "a spiritual leader in the Catholic Church", despite there being no evidence Hitler even attended Mass after 1918. He also states that the Roman Catholic Church "plunged the world into the Dark Ages," allowed for the Crusaders to rape and murder with impunity, and called for Jews to be treated as "Christ killers". (p. 73) Later in the book (pp. 81–2), however, he praises Pope John Paul II for repudiating past antisemitism in the Roman Catholic Church.
Hagee claimed in March 2008, "I've learned that some have accused me of referring to the Catholic Church as the 'great whore,' of Revelation. This is a serious misinterpretation of my words. When I refer to the 'great whore', I am referring to the apostate church, namely those Christians who embrace the false cult system of Jew-hatred and antisemitism."
Donohue rejected Hagee's explanation as disingenuous: "Anti-Catholic Protestants have long labeled the Catholic Church 'The Great Whore', and no amount of spin can change that reality. No one who knows anything about the term would suggest otherwise." Furthermore, Hagee did identify [the Great Whore of] Babylon as Rome in his book From Daniel to Doomsday (1999), in a way that it became inherent to the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church: "The evidence would point to Rome ... It was Rome where Nero wrapped Christians in oily rags and hung them on lampposts, setting them ablaze to light his gardens. It was Rome that orchestrated the Crusades where Jews were slaughtered ... It was Rome that orchestrated the Inquisitions throughout the known world where "heretics" were burned at the stake or pulled in half on torture racks because they were not Roman Catholic." (pp. 10–11)
Hagee further responded to the charge in a videotaped statement and press release, categorically denying that he was anti-Catholic, on the grounds that his church runs a "social services center" that serves a largely Catholic constituency, that he supported a convent personally, that he had often denounced Martin Luther, not just the Catholic Church, for antisemitism, and that he did not interpret the Whore of Babylon as a reference to the Catholic Church.
On May 12, 2008, Hagee issued a letter of apology to William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, expressing regret for "any comments that Catholics have found hurtful." He apologized for condemning Catholics for what he viewed was their persecution of Jews, and outright stated that he did not believe that, and many other previously held views, any longer. He also said that the "great whore" comments were taken out of context and were not directed at the Catholic Church. He went on to explain that his comments about the Catholic Church were made "[i]n my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms. I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews." Bill Donohue told Fox News, "I'm absolutely delighted ... I haven't seen such a quick turnaround in the 15 years that I have been president of the Catholic League ... The tone of Hagee's letter is sincere. He wants reconciliation and he has achieved it." "Indeed, the Catholic League welcomes his apology," Donohue wrote in a press release. "What Hagee has done takes courage and quite frankly I never expected him to demonstrate such sensitivity to our concerns. But he has done just that. Now Catholics, along with Jews, can work with Pastor Hagee in making interfaith relations stronger than ever. Whatever problems we had before are now history."
On the September 20, 2006, edition of National Public Radio's Fresh Air, Hagee discussed Islam, stating, "those who live by the Qur'an have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews ... it teaches that very clearly." He then proceeded to characterize the military threat posed by those who follow Islamic scripture: "There are 1.3 billion people who follow the Islamic faith, so if you're saying there's only 15 percent that want to come to America or invade Israel to crush it, you're only talking about 200 million people. That's far more than Hitler and Japan and Italy and all of the Axis powers in World War II had under arms."
Despite Hagee's professed "Christian Zionist" beliefs and public support for the state of Israel, Hagee has made statements that some have interpreted as antisemitic. In his book Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee claims that Adolf Hitler was born from a lineage of "accursed, genocidally murderous half-breed Jews." On page 149 in a chapter with the title 'Who Is a Jew?', Hagee writes:
Hagee has attributed the persecution of Jews throughout history, implicitly including the Holocaust, to disobedience, thereby attracting accusations of antisemitism:
"It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day ... Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of antisemitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come ... it rises from the judgment of God upon his rebellious chosen people."
In 2008, in response to a question about this matter, he differentiated between his interpretation of the Bible and his understanding of modern history: "I learn from the Bible that the children of Israel were punished by God for their iniquities. But I do not presume to explain Jewish suffering in modern times. I only seek to alleviate it."
Hagee's interpretation of the historical role of Hitler and the Holocaust in relation to the foundation of the state of Israel has also caused offense. Hagee interprets a reference in Jeremiah 16:16 to "fishers" and "hunters" as symbols of positive motivation (Herzl and Zionism) and negative motivation (Hitler and Nazism) respectively, both sent by God for the purpose of having Jews return to the land of Israel, even suggesting that the Holocaust was willed by God because most Jews ignored Herzl's Zionist call. Following the broadcast of Hagee's remarks in late May 2008, some orthodox and conservative Jews have come forward to defend Hagee against charges of antisemitism, although other Jews have applauded McCain for distancing himself from Hagee.
Hagee, along with pastor Mark Biltz, promoted the Blood moon prophecy. Hagee wrote about the prediction in his 2013 book, "Four Blood Moons: Something Is About To Change." The prophecy stated that a tetrad which began with the April 2014 lunar eclipse was a sign of the end times as described in the Bible. The tetrad ended with the lunar eclipse on September 27-28, 2015, with none of Hagee's predictions materializing. Hagee and Biltz's speculations did gain mainstream media attention in publications such as USA Today and The Washington Post. The prediction was criticized by both scientific sources and other Christians.
In 2002, Hagee endorsed the conservative State Representative John Shields in the latter's unsuccessful bid for the Republican primary for the District 25 seat in the Texas Senate. Hagee dubbed Shields's opponent, incumbent Jeff Wentworth, "the most pro-abortion" of 181 legislators in both houses of the Texas legislature.