Well, it looks Aidan Enns of Geez Magazine fame is stirring up some trouble over ol’ Frankie Graham and his impending visit to Winnipeg. I heard about all of this on my drive in to work this morning, on “The Radio” as host Terry McLeod deftly refereed between Aidan Enns and local Pentecostal church Calvary Temple‘s Bruce Martin. I’m probably about to stir up some trouble too with this post, given that a certain local pastor who’s in the same denomination as Bruce Martin is a chap I call a friend. Let me just say that in this case I don’t agree 100% with either side… but mostly, I’m with Aidan on the issue.
Here’s the deal. Aidan is organizing Operation Bless Our Enemies, which is a protest of the Franklin Graham Festival in Winnipeg this weekend. OBOE gathers on The Old Bill’s doorstep to distribute leaflets outside the festival venue. At issue is that Aidan (and others) are suggesting that perhaps Franklin Graham should apologize and retract statements he made following 9/11 in which he called Islam an evil religion and said among other things, “I think weâ€™re going to have to use every — and I hate to say it, hellish weapon in our inventory, if need be, to defeat these people…. letâ€™s use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be and destroy the enemy.” Yeah, he’s actually suggesting that Iraq and Afghanistan should be nuked. Graham, in a move that makes me think he’s not his father’s son (which is to say he’s not Billy Graham: A Generous Modern Evangelist), has refused to retract the statement… I guess he still thinks they should drop the bomb.
He’s coming to Winnipeg to preach the gospel.
So Terry McLeod did a good job with his two interview subjects this morning, though he sounded a little incredulous and had Bruce Martin on the run just a little. (A CBC News story appeared online a few hours later.) For his part, Bruce attempted to avoid defending Graham, choosing instead to emphasize that Franklin Graham was speaking in a different cultural context than ours in Canada (Post-9/11 USA) and that he had been invited here by the churches to preach the gospel and talk about Jesus. And so on, and so forth. He didn’t come out and say he agreed or disagreed with Graham on this issue, just that he seemed to identify with Americans and if anything it sounded like he didn’t like to but almost agreed with Graham in an uneasy way. He’s not a Mennonite anymore, like Aidan Enns. Martin showed bad form in the closing moments when he interrupted Enns, to whom McLeod had given the final word. Martin took that for himself and made his final speech, which had more to do with the Gospel and wasn’t something I disagreed with, except that he shouldn’t have done it. Aidan Enns did a fine job of explaining his unease with the whole thing, pleading for a gospel of peace. He isn’t protesting Graham or his basic message of Christian love… just pleading that it be extended to our enemies, as Jesus said it should be.
So my quibble with Aidan is relatively small… I agree with him on the issues and I agree that it’s good to get it out in the media as it is now, to show that Franklin Graham doesn’t speak for all of us on issues like these — I wish he spoke for none of us on it, but I do know otherwise. My only caveat is that it might be unwise to drag all of the festival attendees into the fray. The christian attendees, yes… all others, I would say the timing is bad even if the message is right. Since you can’t tell the difference between attendees, I’m a bit skeptical about the whole thing… but I do think someone should bring this into the public eye, and I’m glad Aidan’s done it.
I am chocked and dusgusted by Grahams statement. This is asfar from my faith as you can get. If this is what evangelicalism ammounts to, IÂ´m no longer one.
I think I take the same stance as you on this one. I think that the statements were shockingly inappropriate, even coming out of Post 9/11 USA (I know many Republican Evangelicals who were shocked by those statements). I also share your concern about how appropriate this venue is for the OBOE.
On the other hand, we also have to acknowledge that we cannot divorce our politics and/or politicking from the message we “preach”. Especially for someone in as public a position as Franklin Graham. We cannot ignore that, while the Holy Spirit can genuinely work regardless of the messenger, the overall character and example of that messenger plays some part in the DNA of their “converts”.
Further, on this particular issue, his statements go far beyond mere politics or cultural context. As is often said, “In our nuclear age, the greatest enemy is war itself”. The devastating and indiscriminate suffering inflicted by nuclear weapons makes this current campaign in Iraq look insignificant. One may argue that God is a judge who has and will condemn many to eternal suffering and death, but never the innocent to such random and hateful suffering. And neither can we ever dare claim His wisdom or right to exact just justice to the “deserving”.
In the end, I think the venue will not benefit greatly enough to merit this approach, but then again, I am not sure how else to stir the pot enough to get people engage with this issue. At any rate, I am in BC this weekend and am far enough not to have to take sides (wink).
The question I would have is whether Aiden et al has spoken directly with Franklin Graham. It seems that att 18 requires at least a god faith effort to talk directly with the person. Also, there is an even higher standard with rebuking “elders” or people with more of a platform and more responsibility. So I would wonder if Aiden et al have really spoken directly to franklin graham or have they dilegently attempted to do so. If not they are in the wrong.
I think Aiden et al achieved a great deal – there was nearly as much media attention given to the protest as to the crusade – and, for once at least, we don’t all get lumped in with the socalled Christian Right. btw the worship was quite lovely, a quiet unassuming deal. Also i really loved the idea of handing out tracts to people going into a not-quite-Billy Graham crusade.
I’ve done a second post on this subject now, partly to further the conversation here and largely based on my further thoughts on the subject as I watch what the local and national media is doing with the story.
Brad — I doubt that there’s been direct contact between FGraham and Aidan Enns or the local group. I think FGraham is on the record as saying he won’t retract his statements, and I think BGraham is on the record as saying he disapproves of them. I’m not entirely sure that Matt 18 applies here, but if one took the same principles and applied them, FGraham has been approached on this issue by others and hasn’t changed his stance. The point of going public here, at least as I see its advantages, is partly to challenge FGraham to retract the statements and apologize, but also and perhaps more importantly to communicate to the public that his statements do not represent as a whole the views of christendom, nor of evangelicals, nor even of the christian right. It’s imperative that people see this, as the world cannot reconcile christian love and the use of nukes. Neither can I, for that matter.
Bill — I agree, Aidan has been quite successful in putting the issue forward… and I do get the irony of passing out tracts ;^)
Jamie — Way to sidestep! BC, eh? If you’re in the Okanagan, please greet the clan McAlpine in my name.
Hey Bro…you wrote:
“local Pentecostal church Calvary Templeâ€™s Bruce Martin. Iâ€™m probably about to stir up some trouble too with this post, given that a certain local pastor whoâ€™s in the same denomination as Bruce Martin is a chap I call a friend.”
I hope you call me friend! BUT, Calvary Temple is a part of a “fellowship” and not a “Denomination.” The PAOC is a FELLOWSHIP of churches, there is a big difference at least in my opinion…..Great post BTW….
And proud to, SP! I’m curious about the fellowship/denomination thing though. Where I came from, the church insisted they weren’t part of a denomination, but a “stream” or “family” of churches. At one time I would have defended that distinction, but now it looks more like symantics to me. Not being fond of denominations, I’d be curious to hear more about the distinction in your fellowship.
Hey, we’re way overdue for lunch one of these days, too.
Years ago I was part of the intercessory movement that was going on in some Christian circles, and learned a lot. But I think I mostly learned from the Holy Spirit, and He seemed to stress to me the need in the church for peacemaking, like it is a lost art or more a neglected area of faith.
In prayer, this translates to praying for our “enemies.” While many prayed for Jews frequently, I found myself praying for Muslims. This seems to rankle some of my Christian friends. So I no longer understand that nuke-’em attitude.
While many emergents may be understandably critical of George Bush, there is another side, perhaps, in the whole post-911 struggle. There was a sense of the miraculous in Dubya’s strange capture and retaining of the Presidency, something that may have fueled his own hubris. That is, was God opening a door of democracy to the theocracies of the Middle East and a missional window of opportunity to the church, kind of like Perestroika did in the USSR?
The question now seems to be can the Muslim ever shed theocracy and remain true to their comprehension of Islam as God’s preferred religion? But many do desire the Western systems. A democratic media in the Middle East would mean that the Christian version of Christ could be presented.
It might be scary, though, if that presentation were to be made by Franklin Graham. Graham, like the extremist Muslims, is fundamentalist in his approach to scripture. This causes the mind to draw clear(modernist)lines of polarization. Once that is done, peacemaking is out the window.