(JTA) — Kansas evangelical pastor Mike Bickle, whose controversial endorsement of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign has raised hackles in the Jewish community, reiterated his support for Israel and the Jewish people.
“I have been and remain committed to the spiritual and material defense of Israel and the Jewish people, as is my ministry,” Bickle, founder and director of the International House of Prayer, said in an Op-Ed published over the weekend on the website of The Times of Israel.
“The false statements circulating in the media distort what I said,” he wrote.
Bickle, whose endorsement the Cruz campaign publicized last month, runs a project called Israel Mandate, one of whose goals is “partnering with Messianic Jews for the salvation of the Jewish people.”
In a sermon in 2011, Bickle said God would give Jews a chance to convert to Christianity and “raise up the hunters” against those who refuse. Bickle called Hitler “the most famous hunter in recent history.” In 2005, Bickle said in a sermon that before Jesus’ coming, “a significant number of Jews will be in work camps, prison camps or death camps.”
Bickle said over the weekend that he made such statements in order “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. Various Old Testament prophets prophesy dark days for Israel before the Messiah returns, and I read these prophecies with dread.”
“Some have misrepresented my remarks on Hitler being among the ‘hunters’ mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 16:16), but let me make clear: what Hitler did was evil, an utter atrocity to the Jewish people and to all of mankind. The creation of the modern state of Israel after the Holocaust is a testament to God’s enduring love for His beloved people,” Bickle said.
Bickle said Cruz’s record on Israel was central to his decision to endorse the candidate.
Both the Anti-Defamation League and National Jewish Democratic Council had called on Cruz to clarify his opinion on Bickle’s views.
The campaign said in a statement issued to The Times of Israel late on Saturday night that it does not agree with all of Bickle’s statements, singling out his comments on Hitler.
“Our campaign has been endorsed by hundreds of pastors, priests, and rabbis, and we are proud to have the support of faith leaders across the country,” the Cruz campaign statement said. “Collectively, those faith leaders have given thousands, if not tens of thousands, of sermons, which the media are only happy to scrutinize and attack.”