I’ve been thinking about my earlier post concerning Franklin Graham and his unwise words concerning Islam, the war on terror, and his favorable stance toward the use of “WMD’s” by the USA. My stance hasn’t changed much, but I’ve something to add.
To recap, I still think Graham should apologize, and should recant. I still think that someone needs to step into the public eye and voice the fact that his comments are not speaking for christendom, or even for evangelicals… his views on this issue are his. It needs to be said that a good many people whom he represents are seriously at odds with these statements.
This past week I’ve spoken critically of George Bush’s stance on the war, and I’ve been critical of Franklin Graham’s. I’m concerned that these two men who can dine together casually in friendship are public with a profession of Christ includes such an outspoken unjust violence. Of course I believe they profess the same Christ that I do, but evidently we have such divergent ideas on Jesus and war that on this issue our common ground can become hard to spot. I’m concerned that this view expressed by two professing christians in so public a forum with such great spheres of influence that it’s hard to overcome the idea that they’re speaking for all rather than just a very few.
There’s a grave danger… in the criticism and fear of Islam and the terrorists who proclaim their minority view of it, who do violence in the name of their faith, I’m wary of a pattern. I’m wary of people who see America as the hand of God, of those who would wage war against any identifiable group in the name of God, with religous fervour. After all, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction” (Pascal).
The news coverage has been interesting… Franklin Graham is presented as a “controversial” figure, and mention is regularly made of Immigration Minister Monte Solberg’s denial of entry into Canada last year of a Muslim cleric who was charged with making hateful comments toward Jews. I’m not certain those comments were any more hateful than the ones Graham has made toward Muslims, and a double standard is being questioned.
I have this, though. I like the work that Samaritan’s Purse does. It’s nonpolitical relief, it’s caring…. and I like that. One might say it’s genrous. In the interviews running on the television coverage, Franklin Graham sidesteps the question, saying he doesn’t talk about Muslims or Islam and so forth. He says, “I’m a gospel preacher.” The idea is that he’s got a gospel message, and he’s sticking with that, and he isn’t going to be sidetracked by discussing Islam. He said, “The only time I talk about that is when you people (the media) ask me about it.”
I finally saw shades of his father in him. One thing that was always admirable about Billy Graham was the way he didn’t comment about what he didn’t feel was his core message, the gospel. Abortion? Didn’t have much to say, he just wanted to talk about Jesus. Name the issue, he would rather just talk about Jesus, because that was his message… he was a gospel preacher, and he wasn’t going to be moved from that message, especially onto political topics.
I’ve thought about Billy Graham’s legacy, about how there were so many issues he could have gotten sidetracked on, but didn’t. He just stuck with the gospel. There was this one thing, though… he learned a difficult lesson early in his public career, and it had to do with politics. It’s well-known enough that most of my readers may immediately be familiar with it, or might easily find it with some digging. I understand that Billy Graham later identified this as his biggest regret in his ministry, an error in judgement.
I’ve thought about that, and about Franklin Graham. I think this error in judgement on his part is probably much greater than his Father’s, and as I’ve said, I think he should recant… but as I consider it, any comment on it now may strain the close ties he has with the Bush family and as such, it’s not a simple matter for him to just rescind the words he spoke and apologize for them. But while I recognize the difficulty, I still think he should. Perhaps after January 2009 it’ll be different. Until then, I wish he’d at least say publicly that he regrets his earlier statements. But I am willing to cut him some slack in the long haul, I suppose. His expressed views are not generous… but I’ve decided I’m still going to hope.