Two ministers noted for bigotry against LGBT people, Jews, and many other groups delivered prayers at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem today.
Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a major supporter of Donald Trump, offered the opening prayer at the ceremony. He has made many outrageous statements over the course of his career. He has connected homosexuality with pedophilia and said being gay is “filthy” and “miserable,” and that 70 percent of gay people have AIDS. He has also said President Obama was “paving the way” for the Antichrist, that Jews are going to hell, that Islam and Mormonism are “heresies,” and that the Catholic Church was led astray by the devil.
The closing prayer was delivered by John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who has said Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for LGBT people, as New Orleans was about to hold its Southern Decadence celebration when the city suffered the storm’s effects in 2005, and that Adolf Hitler was a “hunter” sent by God in order to get Jews back to Israel. In the 2008 presidential race, Republican candidate John McCain rejected the endorsement of Hagee.
Another onetime Republican presidential aspirant, 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, particularly criticized the choice of Jeffress. Romney, who is Mormon, tweeted about Jeffress Sunday night:
Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 14, 2018
Both ministers’ prayers today were pretty much boilerplate, although filled with praise for Trump. "We come before you, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thanking you for bringing us to this momentous occasion in the life of your people and in the history of our world," Jeffress said, according to CNN. He also thanked Trump for his “tremendous leadership” in moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial action because of conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims to the latter city.
Hagee said, "We thank you, O Lord, for President Donald Trump's courage in acknowledging to the world a truth that was established 3,000 years ago — that Jerusalem is and always shall be the eternal capital of the Jewish people."
Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, holds a special place in evangelical and fundamentalist Christian theology. Some followers of this theology believe that a major Jewish religious revival in Jerusalem will bring about the battle of Armageddon — humanity’s last great war — as well as the second coming of Jesus Christ and the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity.
“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is one way [for Trump] to affirm his commitment to these evangelicals — reminding them that he, Donald J. Trump, is pressing biblical history forward to its conclusion and that he is God's man in the unfolding of these last days,” Diana Butler Bass, a former evangelical, wrote on CNN’s website.
“I may not believe it — anymore, at least. You may not believe it. Donald Trump might not even truly believe it. But millions do. That matters. Not only for American politics, of course. For the peace of Jerusalem. And for peace for the rest of us as well.”