By Herbert Dyer, Jr.
The Rev. Franklin Graham is the son of the world-renowned 94-year-old Rev. Billy Graham. Like his father, Franklin is a Republican, an “evangelical,” and a leader of the “religious right” of America. Franklin, therefore, views the American political landscape through the prism of religion. His post-election analysis is simple and straight forward, if not simplistic.
In a Newsmax TV interview, Graham declared that President Obama was re-elected despite the country’s “deep economic quagmire” because as a country “we have turned our backs on God.”
“The more we turn our backs on God, the bigger our problem becomes. I didn’t hear any of the candidates say that we needed to call our nation to prayer. I didn’t hear any of the candidates say that we needed to ask God for help.
“We still think that we can work our way out of this problem – and I don’t think we can,” Graham added. “I don’t have confidence in the Republican Party right now, and I don’t have confidence in the Democratic Party.
“I don’t believe there is leadership in Washington that can solve this problem. We just deal with it as issues for the day, and it kicks the can further and further down the road. We need God’s help to solve this problem – we can’t go without God.”
According to Graham, then, America’s re-election of Obama was confirmation that America is doomed. She has been damned by God himself to skip happily along the “path of destruction,” Graham said.
“There is no question that America has been a nation that has been blessed by almighty God. There is no other nation in the history of mankind that has done what his nation has done – and it’s because of God’s hand and his blessing.
“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God. We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.
“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”
But, for me, here is the meat of Graham’s complaint, which borders on treason: “[M]aybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse. Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”
Interestingly, Rev. Franklin Graham is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The Internal Revenue Service is investigating the Association for violations of it tax-exempt status. The investigation was prompted by complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They aver that Graham’s group supports advertisements which urged people to “vote biblical values” throughout this election cycle, thereby contravening IRS rules covering religious groups and political campaigning. Rev. Graham’s response to both Freedom From Religion and the IRS?
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “The African-American churches do this all the time. Candidates go to their churches and stand in the pulpits and give political messages and sermons. Why can’t we do the same?
“We didn’t tell anybody how to vote for a candidate. We told them how to choose candidates – and made that plural – who backed biblical principles. There are a lot of Republicans, Tea Party people, Democrats that we focused these ads on.
“We wanted people to remember that, as they were going into the voting booth, that there were political decisions, no question, but there also were moral issues. At every level, we need to think about who we are voting for and encourage Christians, especially, to vote for candidates who support biblical values.
“They want to shut the mouths of evangelicals. They want to shut the mouths of Christians.
“One hundred years ago, political leaders in every community were the pastors. They were the voices that were heard. They were the voices that had the influence. Politicians know that and the government knows that – and they are trying to shut the mouths of especially evangelicals.
“I’m going to continue to speak out,” Graham vowed. “I’m not afraid. I’m not worried.”
Because of space limits, I’ll only address one aspect of Rev. Graham’s diatribe:
America’s modern civil rights movement began in the black church because the church was the only place black people could gather in significant numbers – usually – unmolested by bosses and government authorities. It was within the sanctity of the church that blacks could meet, strategize, complain and develop the methods and means of defeating Old Jim Crow. Thus, Rev. Graham’s assertion that black churches “do this [politics] all the time” assumes that there is, and always has been, a “level playing field” for the conduct of political activity between white and black churches. He ignores the 400-year history of repression of black political conduct. He pretends to not know this history, this restriction of black politics to one, and only one, area of socio-political life.
Finally, I travel to Ghana on Africa’s West Coast every year. On my first trip in 1998, I toured the dungeons where captured Africans were held before being shipped to “The New World.” I walked across the cold stone floors of these deep pits of pain and agony. At the very deepest, darkest point of the Cape Coast dungeon, our tour guide, using only candle light, pointed upwards toward the ceiling. He then said, “Just above you, ladies and gentlemen, sits the very first Catholic Church built in the whole continent of Africa in 1482.” That’s all he said.
He left it to us to ponder what must have been going through the minds of those earnest Catholics so long ago as they sat in comfort atop thousands of suffering and dying people.