Franklin Graham and Christian Bigotry

Our prejudices and bigotry require very little attention. Only radical Muslims make the news and peace-loving Muslims do not. Few of us have Muslim friends. But lack of information is bigotry's best friend -- bigotry feeds on precious little (biased) information.
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165,533 people liked, 57,084 shared and 19,016 commented on Franklin Graham's shameful and bigoted July 17 Facebook post:

Four innocent Marines (United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in #Chattanooga yesterday including a policeman and another Marine--all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized--and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we've got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.

Graham's bigoted rant was affirmed by many of his followers; thousands replied, "Amen!" Others added their own forms of bigotry:

  • Thank you Mr. Graham, & may God protect you and give you favor in this sinful world. Muslims have their own leader.....SATAN!!! Wake up you spoiled Americans, these Muslims hate us and they will murder all over this earth, until Jesus comes.
  • There is no reason for Muslims to be in America. When it comes to Muslims, it's either them or us.
  • I do agree with you Reverend Graham! Desperate times require desperate measures! I have even heard that our government gives preference to Islamic people coming to our country right now.
  • How would u like to live next door to a muslem?
  • I not only agree, but I think the ones already here should be sent to where they came from.
  • This is war! Kick the Muslims OUT!
Graham's sentiments are textbook bigotry -- intolerance toward those who hold different creeds or beliefs from oneself. He supposes his judgments are well-founded in the horrific attack in Chattanooga (and other attacks by radical Muslims in the US and around the world). But Graham bases his judgment of Muslims on the actions of a few radical Muslims. Notice his slide from talk of a radical Muslim to talk of Muslims simpliciter. Big and unwarranted (and vicious) leap (one he makes because

Most Muslims, like most Christians, want to live in peace; only a small percentage of Islam's 1.6 billion adherents are radical. Moreover, Islam doesn't radicalize Muslims, injustice and oppression are the major factors (to which the U.S.'s unjust and destabilizing attack on Iraq, with its hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, contributed dramatically). Turn off Fox "News" and listen to Scott Atran, the world's leading researcher on religion and violence, discuss the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism. Victims of oppression and injustice have the tendency to be radicalized, Christian and Muslim alike.

We need to fight our natural tendency to judge all Muslims by the actions of a few.

We have an innate tendency to quickly identify those who are in-group (those who can be trusted) and those who are out-group (those who cannot). The prehistoric shift from human family groups to larger, cohesive communal groups required shared deep commitments, usually religious, that cultivated a sense of mutual trust among otherwise competitive non-kin. But the tendency to quickly identify those who are in-group has a dark side: we likewise make hasty and harsh judgments about those in the out-group. On the plains of the Serengeti, quick and hasty judgments about who was in one's tribe and who was not often meant the difference between life and death. The cognitive faculties for making speedy in-group/out-group judgments (with the latter based on little and even shallow information) are innate in every human being. Our cultures, then, fill in the in-group/out-group blanks -- telling who we can and who we cannot trust. These are the roots of prejudice, which manifests in Franklin-like bigotry.

We spend most of our time with people who are like us -- same color, same religion, same political beliefs, and same values. They make us feel comfortable, certain, good about ourselves; and the set the limits of trust. Those who aren't like us -- different color, religion, politics, values -- are viewed as threats (so we think they can't be trusted).

Our prejudices and bigotry require very little attention. Only radical Muslims make the news and peace-loving Muslims do not. Few of us have Muslim friends. But lack of information is bigotry's best friend -- bigotry feeds on precious little (biased) information.

Christians should be leading the resistance to hasty and prejudicial judgments about those who are not like them. "Love your enemy," Jesus told his disciples. Thank God, some of Franklin's "friends" were eager to condemn his deeply anti-Christian bigotry:

"Please stop posting such hateful messages. From the Old Testament on, God commands his people to welcome the stranger. Your words have no biblical basis and are very far from the heart of God."

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