Thursday, February 24, 2011

#156: Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham is Billy Graham’s son, and a loon. Now, I was a little torn about whether to include Billy himself – Billy Graham is definitely one of the more influential forces in 20th century America (though he is currently rather elderly and frail, suffering from prostate cancer and Parkinson’s, and has retired from evangelical proselytizing), and one of the very main reasons why fundamentalist, conservative bible-thumping is so widespread in the US (rather than the liberal theology common in Europe). Billy has, for instance, claimed that America’s turning away from religion and God has been one of the main reason for the current surge of violence and crime (when, of course, all research shows that crime rates have dropped markedly). Partially, of course, the fundamentalist turn was due to the need to mark the distance to the godless communists during the Cold War (a point Graham repeatedly emphasized).

But Billy is sometimes viewed as a moderate evangelist (although ‘moderate’ as used of evangelicals seems to be a category mistake by definition – Graham does accept the Bible as the infallible word of God), and has been spiritual counselor to several U.S. presidents (from Harry Truman and onwards). He has a reputation for being apolitical, but has apparently always been a registered Democrat. And his general lunacy is somewhat offset by his admittedly valiant fight for civil rights in the 50s and 60s, his fight against apartheid, and other matters. He also refused to join Falwell’s Moral Majority (though can legitimately be blamed for being responsible for the resurgence of this kind of fundamentalism), and has in general avoided speaking out on matters concerning sexual orientation and suchlike. He also apologized for his meetings with Nixon where they discussed a Jewish "stranglehold" on the media, and I have frankly no reason to think the apology was insincere.

Oh, he is delusional – the extent of his delusions is well illustrated by this one – and he must be held partially responsible for harm (his unerrant fighting for evangelicism is one thing; the upshot of unarguably mad Southern Bapitst characters – Chuck Colson springs to mind – another).

Even if we suspend judgment on Billy, however, his son, Franklin Graham, is obviously a true loon. For instance he claims that Obama is (somewhat) Muslim since his forefathers were (apparently it is a hereditary trait). In fact, all religion is inherited, according to Franklin, apart from Christianity, which you have to choose. And of course, he received some flak for his demon-possession explanation of the VA Tech, uhm, incident.

Franklin has also claimed that God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans because we took God out of schools, and is in general much better aligned with creatures such as Falwell or Pat Robertson.

He also claims that Islam “is a religion of hatred. It's a religion of war.” (which is admittedly plausible in the same manner as it is plausible to claim that Christianity is). Building the cultural center near Ground Zero, he says, means Muslims "will claim now that the World Trade Center property ... is Islamic land." It may be true to the same degree that Graham would probably claim that Baghdad was Christian land if they built a church there. It is still a loony argument to make.

He is also the leader of the Samaritan’s purse, a non-profit proselytizing, evangelical organization posing as a humanitarian aid organization. Franklin also possesses a healthy dose of fringe-loon persecution complex.

Alan Borass associates Franklin (but explicitly not Billy) with Christian nationalism.

Diagnosis: While the jury may be out on Billy (he’s done a lot of good, but is also at least partially to blame for the resurgence of fundamentalism), Franklin’s case is more clear cut. He is, quite simply, a wingnut and a loon. Thereby he also illustrates how easily Billy’s position ends up in bigotry and crankery.

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