Since I have been following the whole Sen. John McCain media drama with the Rev. John Hagee, I thought I'd try to comment on the latest act. However, the coverage has -- for the most part -- been politics and politics and more politics. But then I saw veteran Washington Times religion writer Julia Duin's report on how Hagee's comments about Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust and Israel went down in different corners of the Jewish community. Too make a long story short, Hagee has Jewish friends, which does not amuse his many, many Jewish critics.
Here is Duin's crisp summary of the quotes that sparked the latest hires.
At issue was Mr. Hagee's reference -- in a late 1990s sermon and in his 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown" to Adolf Hitler being a "hunter" used by God to force Jews to emigrate to Israel.
In a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, whose author predicts a scattering of the Jewish people but saying God would bring them back to the promised land, Mr. Hagee says in the sermon: "How did [the Holocaust] 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."
Duin had the key response quotes, of course. To radically understate the matter, there is a "theodicy" issue here.
However, most American news consumers will run into this off-beat story via Eric Gorski of the Associated Press, since he has the big quote too. Here's the key section of his wire report on the Hagee press conference about his split with McCain.
Hagee on Friday said he in no way condones the Holocaust or "that monster Adolf Hitler." ...
Hagee left it to Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg of Congregation Rodfei Shalom, a modern Orthodox synagogue in San Antonio, to provide an explanation of his offending comments. Standing with Hagee at the news conference, Scheinberg called it "ironic and absurd" that Hagee's words were twisted and labeled anti-Semitic when Hagee was lecturing on one Jewish perspective of the Holocaust.
"Pastor interpreted a Biblical verse in a way not very different from several legitimate Jewish authorities," Scheinberg said. "Viewing Hitler as acting completely outside of God's plan is to suggest that God was powerless to stop the Holocaust, a position quite unacceptable to any religious Jew or Christian."
In other words, we are back to questions that have driven many, many debates in post-Holocaust Jewish ethics and theology. Did God allow the Holocaust to happen? Why did God allow the Holocaust to happen? Is the birth of Israel a sign of God's mercy following a Holocaust rooted in human freedom? Etc., etc.
Here's my question: Did you see these religion-angle quotes in your local media? For a fuller treatment of the controversy behind this debate, check out the Crunchy Con discussion of an early flare up, courtesy of Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher.