Pastor John Hagee said on Thursday that his controversial sermon, in which he said Hitler was fulfilling God's will for a state of Israel, had been "intentionally mischaracterized" and constituted a "gross example of bias." In a statement to The Huffington Post, he did not apologize for or distance himself from the sermon, saying simply that he had long grappled with how God "who controls what happens here on earth" could allow the Holocaust.
"To assert that I in any way condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler is the biggest and ugliest of lies," Hagee wrote. "I have always condemned the horrors of the Holocaust in the strongest of terms. But even more importantly, my abhorrence of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism has never stopped with mere words."
The Huffington Post, which reported the story after it was first revealed by Talk To Action's Bruce Wilson, never wrote that Hagee condoned the Holocaust. Rather, the story, highlighting a more than two-minute section from the Reverend's sermon, The Battle of Jerusalem, noted that Hagee had posited that Adolph Hitler had been a "hunter" who was tasked with expediting God's will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.
In the passage in question, Hagee used biblical verse to make the argument that God's will had its influence on Nazism. His own words are below:
"'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.
"Theodore Hertzel 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."
In his statement, which was provided by Hagee's New York-based PR firm, 5W Public Relations, the pastor cited his career devotion "to ensuring that there will never be a second Holocaust."
"I have traveled the country teaching Christians to love the Jewish people and stand with Israel," he wrote. "Our ministry has given over $30 million for humanitarian causes in Israel. I founded Christians United for Israel to bring together all pro-Israel Christians into a movement that can support Israel during these very challenging times."
But Hagee, in the past, has made equally controversial remarks regarding Hitler and the Holocaust. As Wilson noted, in Hagee's 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown," the Reverend 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's end-of-days evangelicalism, which holds that the Armageddon will come only when the Kingdom of Israel is established, has made him one of the country's most strident proponents of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. He has advocated for an aggressive war with Iran and has opposed any Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank.
In his statement, Hagee noted that: "I have traveled the country teaching Christians to love the Jewish people and stand with Israel. Our ministry has given over $30 million for humanitarian causes in Israel. I founded Christians United for Israel to bring together all pro-Israel Christians into a movement that can support Israel during these very challenging times.
"Many people have responded to the horrors of the Holocaust by abandoning their faith in a sovereign God. I, like many other Christians and Jews, have maintained my faith while seeking answers in the Bible for why this atrocity happened."
Also on Thursday, the Interfaith Alliance, a religious group claiming nearly 200,000 members, released a statement calling on Sen. John McCain to reject Hagee's remarks. "Senator McCain needs to tell the American people that he refutes these absurd and offensive comments that breed hate and send the wrong signal about America to the international community," the statement reads. "There is no place in public discourse for religious or political leaders to espouse this narrow-minded thinking and hatred."