Dear Billy Graham's Son: I'm Not Your Kind of Christian

I can't honestly say that Billy Graham is my kind of guy, theologically.  I have no doubt we would find all sorts of things to disagree about.  But one of the things I've always admired about Graham is the kindness he exudes, the grace he speaks, and his ability to go his entire life without any nasty controversies (this, I acknowledge, is partly due to his refusal to allow women into his circle of close friends and confidantes - a measured move to avoid scandal that inevitably marginalizes women and prevents them from empowered, horizontal relationships... but that's another article for another time).  He's even said some relatively nice things about Buddhists and homosexuals (comments that have gotten him in trouble with his fundamentalist base).

But FRANKLIN Graham?  He's a whole different story.  From his attacks on Islam in general, to his indictment of President Obama, to his attempts at undermining criminal efforts against the war criminal, Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, to his problematic attitudes toward LGBT communities, Graham has not managed to achieve the public perception of grace his father maintained.

NOW Frank G. has launched a massive web campaign focused on getting Christians to PROCLAIM they are Christian... www.ibelieve.com - because if there's one thing that's wrong with Christian-America, it's that Christians aren't standing up and making sure, if there's any doubt, that they are indeed adherents to the Judeo-Christian religion.

His site proclaims:
IN A CULTURE WHERE PEOPLE ARE LOUDLY PROCLAIMING THEY ARE "GOOD WITHOUT GOD" IT'S TIME TO STAND UP AND SAY... "I AM A CHRISTIAN" 
That's what the world needs, now.  That's what'll fix America.  The video of Graham, featured at www.ibelieve.com is a brief bit of trite, nonsensical statements and religious catch phrases strung together as quickly as possible without time to take a breath:
"I am a Christian.  You know, for a lot of people, I can be honest with you: it doesn't mean a lot.  Because they think that to be Christian means to be like the culture.  NO, that's a lie.  That's wrong.  Don't you be like the culture!  That's what the Devil wants you to be."
I hate to sound unkind, but it's the sort of rhetoric that makes me want to NOT "proclaim" I'm a Christian at all, even though I generally have no problem doing so in the right context.  I don't want to align myself with this kind of desperate attempt at reviving 1950s-style revivalism.

Calling yourself a Christian doesn't mean much.  Telling the world that you're a Christian doesn't mean a whole lot, either.  And if we're in a culture where people are loudly proclaiming they are "good without God," maybe that has less to do with God, and more to do with Christians.  I know a LOT of people who are doing just fine without Christians.

Graham says that being a Christian means following Jesus Christ.  I'd like to see the American Evangelical church practically wrestle with what that might actually look like apart from the externalized culture wars and political entanglements it's come to mean.  What does it mean FOR THE CHURCH?  For starters, it won't involve filling out an online pseudo-petition, proclaiming your religious affiliation.  Christians say all the time that Christianity means living differently, but then we use that statement to justify being obnoxious, self-righteous assholes.  Wrong kind of "different."  We can do better.

Franklin, you've diagnosed a problem for Christians in America, but your prescription is all wrong.

1 comment:

WKen said...

Yeah ... this is another stunt. If Franklin Graham would stick to Samaritan's Purse, no one would even question whether he's a Christian.

But instead, he has to go show-boating around, rooting out those of us who don't fit his model of what Christians should be, and thus bragging about how good he is.

Inevitably, this means politics.

The analogy is used a lot that Jerry Falwell presided over the marriage between the Religious Right and political right in the 80's. Given that the church is supposed to be the Bride of Christ, wouldn't that be bigamy?

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