LA evangelical leader: Iran confrontation 'inevitable'

Pastor Jack W. Hayford calls Islamic extremism "the greatest force of evil" existing today.

jack w. hayford 88 (photo credit: )
jack w. hayford 88
(photo credit: )
A military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear weapons program appears increasingly inevitable, a senior American evangelical leader said on Tuesday. "The horrible terror of the almost wild-eyed behavior of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is enough to cause any thinking person to ask: Is there another way than some military intervention?" Pastor Jack W. Hayford, president of the International Church of Foursquare Gospel, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. "Confrontation seems inevitable," he said. The 73-year-old Los Angeles-based Hayford is heading a four-day conference of more than 3,000 church leaders and laymen from around the world in Jerusalem, in what is his 34th trip to Israel. Islamic extremism was "the greatest force of evil" that exists in the world today, Hayford said, adding that it has been tolerated to a surprising degree by the mainstream media. Hayford also said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been exploited by Arab and Islamic regimes in the Middle East as an excuse for their extremist ideology. "The Palestinians are often used as an excuse, especially in this part of the world, for extremist ideology that is a ruse," Hayford said. "They would oppose Israel in any way on any terms." Christians and Jews also shared a common struggle against another threat, he said, "a spiritual or moral war" against a liberal culture that undercut basic moral values. "The growing challenge of the Jewish and Christian community globally [comes] in the face of the increasingly secularist and liberal attitude of a culture which so readily" opposes "moral values and spiritual pursuits," he said. Hayford shied away from commenting on any of the candidates for US president, only saying that his congregation had a "sizable" number of Democrats. At the same time, he said he was "very gratified" when President George W. Bush was elected, given his unwavering commitment to Israel's interests and in his antiterror policies. Hayford criticized the growing opposition of American politicians to the US-led war in Iraq, which he attributed to an insufficient understanding of the depth of evil. "There is a tendency for populist politicians to play to the weariness of the American public with [regard to] the war in Iraq because clarity is somewhat absent when you don't have the depth of convictions regarding the essence of evil manifest in the agenda of terrorists," he said. "There is a moral war taking place, and the absence of moral conviction is directly related to the absence of absolutes in people's value systems," he said. Hayford's church, which he established in 1969, is the largest Foursquare Church in the US with 9,000 members. The movement has 50,000 churches around the world. The Foursquare movement was founded in Los Angeles in 1923 by Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson. The decision to hold the movement's first international conference in Jerusalem was quite natural, Hayford said. "Can you imagine a better site?" he asked. "You cannot be a serious student of scripture and not realize that Israel plays big in this." He said his church's location in Los Angeles, in the heart of a Jewish community of 350,000, was "a challenging walk at times," because of his congregation's support for Jews and Israel, and his followers' belief "in those coming to faith in Jesus." "Whether evangelicals have a Zionist-based or Biblical-based agenda, Israel does have its best supporters among evangelicals," he said.