BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In 2008, Senator John McCain, the Republican Party's presidential nominee, was forced to renounce his much sought after endorsement from Pastor John Hagee after video was discovered in which Hagee claimed God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews in order to get them to Israel.
Flash forward almost eight years, and on January 21, Pastor Mike Bickle, another evangelical preacher who has used the same Hitler hunting the Jews meme, endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz's bid for the White House. This time, however, instead of distancing himself from Bickle, Cruz embraced the controversial head of the International House of Prayer, a Kansa City-based ministry that partners “with Messianic Jews for the salvation of the Jewish people.”
On the day of Bickle’s endorsement, a banner headline at tedcruz.org read “Cruz For President Announces Endorsement Of Mike Bickle.” A Cruz statement declared: “Through prayer, the Lord has changed my life and altered my family’s story. I am grateful for Mike’s dedication to call a generation of young people to prayer and spiritual commitment. Heidi and I are grateful to have his prayers and support. With the support of Mike and many other people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”
It is no secret that Cruz has built his campaign around soliciting, and receiving endorsements from evangelical leaders, a strategy that he believes will convince evangelical voters that he is their man. Mike Bickle is only the latest evangelical leader to be embraced by Cruz. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported earlier this month that “Last Fall, Cruz appeared in Iowa alongside a pastor who has called for the government to use the death penalty to punish homosexuality. Not stung from the criticism he received for courting the radical pastor, Kevin Swanson, Cruz later released a statement touting the support of an anti-abortion extremist, Troy Newman, who has said that a just government would punish abortion providers with death.”
Tony Perkins, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, David Barton, the pseudo-historian who heads up the Cruz super PAC called Keep the Promise PAC, media mogul Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, have all hopped aboard the Cruz locomotive.
According to Right Wing Watch, Mike Bickle is a key leader “of the New Apostolic Reformation, a collection of self-proclaimed modern day apostles and prophets who believe that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they are capable of performing greater miracles than even Jesus himself.”
Over the years, Bickle has stated that gay marriage is "rooted in the depths of hell," that homosexuality "opens the door to the demonic realm" and that Oprah Winfrey is "a forerunner of the Antichrist,” Right Wing Watch pointed out.
After touting Bickle’s endorsement, Team Cruz later responded to the commotion it has caused by doing a half turn; condemning Bickle’s Hitler hunting comments, while still embracing Bickle’s support. A statement sent to The Times of Israel (a Sheldon Adelson owned newspaper) “declar[ed] that the Texas senator objected to Bickle’s views while at the same time praising Bickle’s service and the work of his ministry,” the newspaper’s Eric Cortellessa pointed out in a column headlined “Cruz rejects evangelical backer’s controversial Hitler comments.”
The controversy over Bickle’s remarks emerged earlier this week: The website Breaking Israel News reported: “Since the endorsement, videos of Bickle making three controversial claims regarding Israel and the Jewish people have surfaced.” In the videos, which date back to an Israel Mandate conference in 2004, Bickle maintained that “the Jews will be given a chance to accept Jesus ‘with grace’ and if they refuse, God will send hunters to persecute them. ‘And the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler.’” said Bickle.
Other video has Bickle claiming that “Two-thirds of Jews in Israel will be killed and the other third will convert to Christianity at the End of Days,” and, “Half the Jews in Israel will end up in prison camps.”
Bickle’s statements are extremely insulting and insensitive to Jewish people, and have been roundly condemned. “Mike Bickle’s views about why God allowed Jews to be killed in the Holocaust, as expressed in a 2011 speech, are abhorrent, intolerant and unacceptable,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “We assume that Senator Cruz accepted Bickle’s endorsement without knowing about these comments. We hope that when these comments are called to the Senator’s attention, he will clearly and forcefully reject Bickle’s hateful ideas.”
On February 11, Bickle issued a statement claiming that he only made the above comments “to stir the American church to stand with Israel in time of a future persecution as foretold by most of the Jewish prophets in the Bible.”
Bickle also stated that he endorsed Cruz because “his record on Israel was central” to his decision. Bickle said he appreciated “the way Cruz brought evangelical leaders and Jewish organizations together in a valiant effort to stop the Iran nuclear deal” and that “no candidate for president has a stronger record than Cruz on standing with Israel, fighting radical Islamic terrorism, and combating anti-Semitism in the world. I could not and would not have supported Ted Cruz unless I were confident that he supported Israel.”
Bickle pointed out that while Cruz “thanked” him for the endorsement, “he did not endorse everything I have said during my lifetime, and I do not expect him to.” He then went on to apologize for his poor communication skills.
What is fascinating about Pastor Hagee and Mike Bickle and many of the other evangelical Christian leaders who profess undying support for Israel and see Israel as the staging ground for the End Times, is that while they seem to love the idea of Israel, but individual Jews, not so much.