Apocalyptic Preacher John Hagee's Son Ready to Continue in Father's Footsteps
As a number of older Religious Right leaders pass on, retire, and/or slip reluctantly into history, many of their sons are heeding the call, and are stepping in to take their place. Jerry Jr. and Jonathan Falwell have succeeded their father, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, in the running of Liberty University and in the pulpit at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., where their father had presided for 40 years before his death; Gordon Robertson has taken on a major role at Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network; and for the past several years, Tim Wildmon has been playing a significant role in the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association.
Now, it's closing in on Matthew Hagee time.
He's a preacher, a talented singer, an author, the host of his own television program, and he's waiting in the wings for his father, Pastor John Hagee -- who late last year underwent open heart surgery -- to ride off into the sunset.
Does Matthew have his dad's fire in his belly? Will he be as controversial a figure as his father? Is he ready for prime time?
In the blood
Matthew Hagee is the Executive Pastor at his father's San Antonio, Texas-based Cornerstone Church. According to his bio posted at website of the John Hagee Ministries, he "is the sixth generation to carry the mantel of Gospel ministry in the Hagee family."
A graduate of Oral Roberts University, Matthew has just written his first book, titled "Shaken Not Shattered: Finding the Purpose, Passion, and Power to Stand Firm When Your World Falls Apart" (Charisma House).
According to the book's promotional materials posted at Charismamag.com, "In sermonlike fashion, Hagee surveys the modern social landscape and the deterioration of morality in American culture. He presents crucial points for believers to focus on to build a foundation of faith, including consistent prayer, discovering purpose, personal integrity, and financial stewardship. Additionally, he illustrates the points with stories from his own life and his father's that include a memorable account of how his father was called into ministry."
Writing for saWorship.com, Linda Owen pointed out that Matthew is "The 48th Hagee to work for the Lord's harvest. ... 'I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't want to be a preacher. People passed it off as me wanting to be like my father, but it's more than that. I associate my calling with Jeremiah 1:5: 'Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you--' There was no one moment when I said, 'Yes, Lord, I'll follow.' But my calling is very real. It's always been in my blood.'"
Last October, while his father was recovering from open-heart surgery, Matthew filled in for him at Hagee's annual "A Night to Honor Israel." Jewish Federation of Greater Houston president and CEO Lee Wunsch pointed out that "It was nice to know that there is a next generation with a similar strong commitment to Israel." John Hagee is the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a pro-Israeli Christian Zionist lobbying group that has modeled itself the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
In late August, CUFI held its annual conference in Washington, DC. When introducing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appeared via satellite, John Hagee told Netanyahu that "50 million Christians" support "Israel's sovereign right to grow and develop the settlements of Israel as you see fit and not yield to the pressure of the United States government."
A longtime advocate of dealing with Iran in a more muscular fashion, Hagee has also been an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration. "America is singling out Israel" in the Middle East, the pastor said several hours after Netanyahu's appearance. "Despite all of the risks Israel has taken for peace, our government is pressuring Israel to take more risks. Hello Congress, we're putting pressure on the wrong people here. You want to get tough, get tough with the terrorists, not the only democracy in the Middle East."
Big shoes to fill
I recently watched a video of Matthew Hagee preaching, and I visited his Facebook page. I couldn't help but noticing that the Matthew in the video, and the Matthew on his Facebook page seemed to be two different people. The latter-day Matthew is but a shadow of his former self. Where once he had the girth of his father, he now was almost sylph-like in his appearance. Was he ill? Had he undergone a medical procedure? Had he made a significant nutritional adjustment and started exercising?
Earlier this year, the ever alert blog Right to Think noticed the same thing and had some fun (good-natured for the most part) with this conundrum. In a post titled "The Amazing Shrinking Hagee," yunshui grappled with the younger Hagee's weight loss:
"I figured I should investigate the Cornerstone pastor and his dietary habits a little more closely," yunshui writes, "to see why so many people were interested in" in Hagee's weight loss. "He clearly has lost a whole bunch of weight in the last few years." See "The Amazing Shrinking Hagee" @ http://yunshui.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/the-amazing-shrinking-hag ee/. for photos of Matthew in 2004, and "a more recent photo showing the all-new, slimline, sexy Hagee ...
"He still seems to be wearing the same suit, though. It's evident that Hagee has shed some pounds, but as to how he did it -- well, that's more of a mystery. You see, I'm not the only person to have noticed the intertubes' fascination with the fluctuating waistline of Pastor Hagee, and so any search regarding his miraculous shrinkage hits a wall of "matthew hagee weight loss" meta tags which have been thrown up on canny dieting websites to pull in the traffic. Nowhere can I find any record of Matthew Hagee's actual story -- in fact, the man is surprisingly under-represented online.
"His dad, oh yes -- John "Nazis are God's police force" Hagee is all over the web like 2004 Matthew on an all-you-can-eat buffet, but when you try and hunt down information on the amazing size-changing Hagee Junior you'll find there's not much out there. The younger Hagee's astounding journey from gut-bucket to toned and honed Adonis will thus continue to remain a mystery to me, and to you as well, loyal readers. I will assume the hand of divine providence, or perhaps a gastric band, until someone can tell me different..."
And there you have it. We know that John Hagee Ministries is a tremendously successful religious/political/financial empire. We know that Matthew Hagee is the heir apparent to at least a reasonable chunk of that enterprise. And, we know that he enthusiastically embraces his father's calling. Will he become as outspoken or controversial as his father? Will he maintain the family's high-powered political connections?
Many of the sons of Religious Right leaders have opted not to be as publicly provocative as their fathers. How Matthew navigates his way out of his father's formidable shadow remains to be seen.