Franklin Graham appears intent on making Christianity more unappealing than a Pauly Shore comeback. I’m not saying Franklin Graham isn’t a Christian, but I don’t find his twisted version of Christianity when I read the Gospels.
“What’s he done this time?” you might be wondering.
He gave an interview to The Atlantic in which he sang from his now tired set list of self-indulgent grievances, blissfully unburdened by any debt to the truth: Muslims believe in forced conversions; the Boy Scouts are soon to be responsible for easily avoided cases of pedophilia because they let in the gays; Christians are the target of nefarious anti-baking cabals bent on stamping out the faith; liberal hearts are filled with hate; and U.S. Muslims engage in honor killings and female genital mutilation. Franklin starts in on the first few chords, and you get the sense that many conservative Christians are knocking each other over trying to pull out their lighters for an evangelical encore performance of “Free Bird.”
But let’s be honest, we’ve come to expect this sort of petulant rhetoric from Franklin Graham. He winds it up every so often, and let’s it fly.
In The Atlantic story, however, I found a line that seemed to strain the bonds of credulity—even for a rube like me. He reportedly said to “World” magazine in the author’s presence “that the persecution Christians face in the U.S. is ‘maybe not having your head cut off,’ but ‘there’s not too big of a difference here.’”
You read that correctly. The intense persecution faced by Christians in America may not quite be “having your head cut off” by ISIS, but it’s almost, like, you know, the same thing.
Let that sink in for a moment. Franklin Graham, an evangelical religious leader has just told the Atlantic reporter earlier in the article that he doesn’t like going to Washington, in part, apparently, because he just doesn’t like to “‘hang around looking for opportunities to go to the White House or to go to some senator’s office . . . I don’t have time for that’” (which, interestingly, is what all those Christians in an ISIS video say before somebody starts sawing off their heads with a tactical knife).
Of grave concern to me, I should note at this point, is the realization that fundamentalism has highjacked a UFO, gotten hold of advanced alien technology, brought that ship to earth, broken into Franklin Graham’s house, and sucked his sense of irony right out of him.
How can you, as the article says, “come to Washington to host the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians,” which features “a who’s who of evangelical heavy-hitters and D.C. elites from the Texas megachurch pastor Jack Graham to Vice President Mike Pence,” and then, with a straight face, talk about how you and your white evangelical pals are just one step away from getting whacked by a terrorist (who, presumably, hates you because you love Jesus too much)?
The vice president. That’s right. I’m no political expert, but if you whistle and the vice president comes, tail wagging like a 6-month-old Labrador Retriever, I’m guessing the scheme to frogmarch you to concentration camps is still in the planning stages; which is to say, you’re probably safe for now.
If you go to an American town where a fawning crowd of thousands of fundamentalists anxiously await your every tortured word of biblical interpretation, and nobody sends a roving band of Uruk-hai to round you up and throw you in a dank cell in Isengard, maybe persecution isn’t the most pressing problem you face.
When your darkest nightmare has to do with some militant LGBTQ couple forcing someone you don’t know in another part of the country to bake a wedding cake, I’d like to suggest that your threat detection system is dialed up a little too high.
Because, here’s the thing, being a Christian is still legal in this country. But even if it weren’t, when have Christians ever needed governmental permission to act like Christians? You act faithfully regardless of whether or not your firmly held convictions are popular with the government, because if you don’t (fun fact), they’re not actually firmly held convictions—they’re merely propaganda, useful for whipping the theologically unsophisticated into a frenzy. That is to say, if you’re not at risk of having your literal head cut off for your faith, then whining about the danger faced by your figurative head (as if the two were pretty much the same thing) not only isn’t especially interesting, it’s offensive to all those people who’ve faced actual persecution in the real world, and not just in the grim landscape of Franklin’s twisted imagination.
It’s odd—Graham’s insistence on the tenuous nature of American Christianity—because he goes on to say of the current president:
He did everything wrong, politically . . . he offended gays. He offended women. He offended the military. He offended black people. He offended the Hispanic people. He offended everybody! And he became president of the United States. Only God could do that.
It’s not clear from this, of course, what Graham is saying. Is he suggesting that only God could offend that many people and still be president—which would lead one to conclude that because Donald Trump offended all those people and still became president that Donald Trump must be God?
Or, perhaps more likely, is he trying to say that God found the president’s offensiveness insufficient grounds for refusing to make him the most powerful man in the world—and even knowing what a heavy lift it would be because of the P.R. hit God was likely to suffer, God made Trump president anyway?”
Regardless of which meaning Graham intended, it’s clear that about the only people not offended by Donald Trump are white evangelicals—enabled and incited by religious charlatans like Franklin Graham.
Which is why Franklin Graham continues to be the worst thing to happen to God in a while.