A Lively Day at the "Gates of Hell"
Vigil at John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church, October 28, 2007
By Charles E. Carlson
The Project Strait Gate early team of six men and women lined up on an elevated boulevard dividing traffic on Stone Oak Parkway San Antonio, TX, in front of Cornerstone Church at 8:00 AM Sunday, thirty minutes before the start of services. The parking lot was already filling with the thousands that would come. In 15 minutes the street was busy both ways and a uniformed off-duty policeman was directing traffic past us into the church.
Four hours later nine of us departed for our own lunch and devotional. We left with the inescapable feeling that those who own this giant propaganda and entertainment business called Cornerstone Church, with its huge broadcasting network, would stop at very little to prevent the slightest glimmer of what we had to say from filtering through to its patrons. And we all felt that many inside would indelibly remember our message.
We experienced this Hagee attitude of turf protection at Night To Honor Israel in Washington DC in July. One paid attendee contacted me after the event to tell of a Hagee official who tried persistently, but unsuccessfully, to extract a certain Pharisee Watch bulletin she received from one of our volunteers outside the hotel. She was amazed to witness others being pressured to surrender our literature to agents, presumably to be destroyed. The lady did not give in, correctly wondering what this professing Christian organization had to hide?
The Strait Gate team erected 16 square-foot, professionally made signs on the median. A 32 square-foot sign was erected next to the sidewalk closest to the church entrance reading APOSTATE CHURCH, Christ Followers Must Not Kill.
At Cornerstone almost no one walks in, rendering it difficult to leaflet the audience. The content and design of display signs is critical because they must be read with ease from 50-100 yards or more, even from a moving car. Enormous parking lots are common at mega-churches, which have seemingly unlimited money to accumulate land with tax free dollars, on which they pay no local taxes to support the police and other services they require. This was especially true Sunday at The Cornerstone Church "Gates of Hell," where at one time 5 squad cars were lined up between the church and our vigil.
How many of those thousands inside came to hear John Hagee’s message pronouncing prophesy about the “end times,” and how many are there for the plentiful entertainment is hard to guess. Among our own group about half had attended Cornerstone and two had been regular attendees, who told us the entertainment value is a powerful draw.
Robbi was inside, and reported after attending the 8:00 AM service that Pastor Hagee preached a sermon of prophesy, hellfire, and damnation, about the “end times,” with emphasis on the “rapture” coming first, followed by a great war, claiming it is all prophesy in his bible. Hagee justifies his pro-war stand on belief in a prophetic world war to come, a war led by none other than Jesus Christ…Hagee would have one believe he is just co-operating with God’s eternal plan, which plan he clearly understands by virtue of his scholarship.
Robbi said Hagee went further with his audience, explaining to them that the major natural disasters and political events America is suffering today are all prophesied in his bible and are God's judgment on the wicked in America. He specifically mentioned flood, fires, and other natural disasters, as well as the rise of the Hitler-like figure of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, as being among these God sent plagues. Hagee did not name Project Strait Gate, we were sorry to hear, but he alluded to us indirectly as the persecutors of “Christianity,” hell bound, no doubt a subtitle reference to the eight of us delivering our message outside his doors. According to Hagee, America’s evils hasten this divine judgment, which evils specifically include the neglecting the State of Israel, along with lesser evils, abortionists and homosexuality. Hagee always omits any mention of the slaughter by war as evil or sinful. He never approaches our question “Who Would Jesus Bomb”.
Hagee’s charisma comes from a combination of absolute confidence that his every bombastic word is true, combined with a practiced ability to mix in humor and wit. Robbi reported Hagee mentioned Jesus' name about five times in this sermon. Perhaps he heard our criticism that he omitted Jesus entirely in his "Night To Honor Israel" speeches. “Hagee is good, very good,” Robbi said. Anyone who thinks Hagee is a fool is at least 50% dead wrong. Half right, however, because he is a fool to take God's name in vain, as he does. Hagee is schooled in his ability to handle crowds. His organization outside Cornerstone Church revealed his attitude about squashing anyone who comes against him. Mr. Hagee is not waiting for God’s deliverance from his enemies, he hires bodyguards.
Many of the thousands walking into the main south entrance of Cornerstone could read our signs easily, as could many in arriving autos. But most demonstrated an amazing ability to focus their eyes straight ahead and rarely to turn their head toward us. A few departing in autos rolled down windows to tell us what they thought. I heard one that leveled a curse “you will all burn in hell,” but most stared straight ahead with the single mindedness of a West Point cadet at Parade Rest. It was a peer pressure demonstration... peek, but do not look.
Cornerstone’s first line of defense is peer pressure. Only one member walked the 100 plus feet from the church entrances to our manned picket line to get information about why Project Strait Gate was there. From past experience, I attribute this apparent lack of curiosity to peer pressure; to approach us would be a mark of disloyalty, and it might be noted by the ever present big “Men in Black."
Cornerstone's team of at least three Men in Black watched over our vigil from a distance. Each one was portly, more or less in Hagee’s image, and each wore an identical uniform, a black collarless shirt under a black two-piece suit. They watched us, talked to police and to each other, but not one of them said a word to any of us. They could have been the CIA or the Mossad bodyguards speaking another language for all we know.
An off-duty policeman, in his home uniform, was the first to attempt to move our outpost of volunteers off the public sidewalks in front of the church. We know why Hagee wanted them to move this post; it is a thirty-six square foot yellow and black poster that reads:
Christ Followers Must Not Kill*(Apostate Church)
This sign was solidly implanted and attended within clear reading distance of the main entrance door. Cornerstone wanted us all back on the median of the boulevard where people had to deliberately look for us to see our message, the sign on the sidewalk could not be missed. Our team leader, Dave, politely declined the command to move, stating we were on public ground. This brought more discussion between off duty policeman and the Men in Black. Back came the off duty cop to tell us our sign may be a safety hazard, a distraction to passing traffic. Not so we said, we have our backs to the traffic by facing your church the traffic can’t see our sign, only those walking into your church, and we are staying here on public ground.
The off duty policeman then went back to the Men in Black who pay him, and we had a few minutes of peace before the next Hagee attack on our freedom. Next out came the muscle, a burly 40 year old in black suit trousers, white shirt, and tie. He looked like a very healthy Baptist deacon, and he told Dave and I he was “from the church.” But he declined to give a name saying it did not matter he had authority. The “enforcer” issued an ultimatum that we take down the offensive sign, or, he said he would remove it himself. We said “no,” and he made a move for our sign. At this Dave, a decisive past navy pilot, went for his cell phone, hit the 911 buttons, and began to loudly report a threat of assault on our personal property and rights, while an alert Collette, our volunteer photographer, snapped the enforcer. He turned tail and retreated to a nearby auto parked on Hagee’s lot, got in the car, and drove off around the West side of the church, not to be seen again.
In short order five San Antonio squad cars were there, each with red lights flashing further calling attention to our little group. We could not have ordered a better attention-getter for our message. Still the congregation stayed away. In spite of all this action only one man from inside the church braved peer pressure to come out, talk, and take back our literature!
Our team went on with business of holding up signs for them, including:
NO MORE WARS FOR ISRAEL
CHOOSE LIFE, NOT WAR
WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?
The Men in Black next tried telling the San Antonio police (untruthfully) we had been there before and had caused a disturbance, and that the church's attendees might get violent with us, therefore, we should be removed to protect us from the congregation. Dave and I both told the police no thanks; we would trust them to protect us.
San Antonio officers were polite, but firm. We presented them with Dave’s city plat map of the Hagee property, showing every detail including the public property all around it, just enough to show them we knew our rights. The officers talked more with the Men in Black. They also conversed with the Sergeant-in-charge via cell phone, as the red lights continued to flash in front of Cornerstone Church.
Finally a decision came from the San Antonio Police Sergeant; we had every right to be there, we could stay, but must stay on the sidewalks, and no one could bother us. The police would keep an eye on the situation; however, we could not plant signs in the ground on the grass, no matter who owns it because of a fixed sign ordinance someone remembered. Our eight-foot long “APOSTATE CHURCH” billboard remained, manned by Dave.
At 11:30 AM our tired crew retired for our own much deserved rest and lunch in a restaurant fronting on Hagee’s property. We hope he does not own it. Everyone said they were rewarded by their experience and were glad they came, even the four who came from distant Austin, Texas. Absent were the usual accounts of interactions with members of the congregation.
There is a tenancy is to feel discouraged when members do not come out and at least argue, but this is in no way unusual, it shows the power of peer pressure over a congregation of Judeo-Christians. And we know from experience they do not have answers to our simple written messages, except to proclaim, as Hagee tells them, that God will punish us for what we say.
Our Vigil further confirms what we already know, that nine determined men and women is more than enough for any Vigil.
We also confirmed that John Hagee is one of the most dangerous men in America, dangerous because he is currently the acknowledged leader of the radical Christian Zionist political movement, having replaced now dead Jerry Falwell for the honor of being the leader of the more-war-for-Israel-at-any-cost movement.
We again learned that professionally made visual messages, Christ-like acting people (which we can only attempt), and advance preparation, are all indispensable. We must be respectful of authority, but very firm of your rights, as the Apostle Paul was.
We reaffirmed what 60 vigils have taught us, that we must chip away at the falsehood preached in the Judeo-Christian Churches like this one, not through its leaders, who are a lost cause, but through its members.
We must find help, and this means we need to gently help awaken the slumbering mainline churches to pronounce what they already know is true, that political Israel is not the fulfillment of Biblical Prophesy. Mainline churches must regain their courage and compete with Judeo-Christianity.
We learned that the stated Mission Goal of We Hold These Truths, as found on whtt.org is correct:
“Our mission is to rescue followers of Christ from the apostasy called Christian-Zionism. We reach out to the "lost sheep" inside our churches who do not know they are lost.”
I doubt if Jesus was thinking about John Hagee or Jerry Falwell two thousand years ago when, speaking to the 12 who followed him about the false prophets in their lifetime, He said:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Hagee fits the pattern of Apostasy.
Matthew 7: 21-23 American Standard Version
Link to Project Strait Gate: