Saturday, June 25, 2005


Billy Graham: Speak Pablum To Power

The Reverend Jim A. Siefkes on Billy Graham:

It seems worth raising the question about an evaluation of what his style and message have meant to America. To be sure, they have been a major force in the migration of evangelical Christianity into the American mainstream. Current and past administrations seem no exception. One wonders how much the Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggerts, the Christian coalitions, a variety of politicos, denominations , and church leaders have and do find it comfortable and advantageous to ride on his coattails. In the evaluation process consider: Graham did not stand with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights offensive. Most religious leaders did. Graham criticized: "I am convinced that some Negroes are going too far and too fast." With King in jail he preached civic rectitude. "I do believe we have the responsibility to obey the law. No matter what the law may be -- it may be an unjust law -- I believe we have the responsibility to obey it." In response to King's "I have a dream" speech, Graham critiqued it with, "Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children." After King's death he put King down with: "Yes, he had his demonstrations in the streets, while I had mine in lawful religious services in stadiums." [...] George H.W. Bush had him overnight in the White House when the largest bombing run in history began in Iraq (1991); Graham held a prayer service and interpreted whose side God was on: "There comes a time when we have to fight for peace." Graham also had a liking for corporate executives. In his early days he described paradise as a Garden of Eden with "no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease." In 1954 he wrote in The Nation's Business: "Thousands of businessmen have discovered the satisfaction of having God as a working partner. It puts integrity into their organizations, sincerity into their sales, and spiritual and monetary profits into their hearts and pockets." [...] There have been and are untold and unheralded servants and leaders for the faith community who have and do elect to throw themselves into the dirty messes of this world which model variant paths. There's more than one way to make this world a place in which it is easier for persons to love and be loved. One can't help but wonder what Graham's risk-free style of religion, and the crusades, have in common with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Salvadoran Archbishop Romero? Over the years what has Billy Graham's style and message meant to America? Think it over.
Well, I have thought it over, and I find it no accident that the Billy Grahams and the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells all started out of their Southern strongholds and got onto TV just as the GOP was getting ready to jettison its stance as "the party of Lincoln" and openly embrace institutionalized racism, in the form of the Southern Strategy. UPDATE: I was just reminded that Billy Graham did indeed make one brave stance for civil rights: Since 1953, he has refused to preach before segregated audiences. So there is that to hold to his credit.

He's going to need every dime of credit he can get.

It's ludicrous that any worship service for Jesus Christ could be segregated, whether by design or by neglect. Yet, sadly, churches remain one of the most segregated places in America, which means they are often the most Christ-free zones in the nation.

All that was evident even before Brown v. Board of Education.
Indeed. And it's worth noting that it took Graham's Southern preacher colleagues decades to even pretend to follow his lead in this regard. Falwell didn't allow blacks in his church until the 1970s.
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