Understanding Franklin Graham's Hate of the "Other"

Why does Franklin Graham follow his dad Billy (who was a fairly moderate Evangelical) with such hatred for gays, Muslims and now President Obama? He was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying:

In an interview with Newsmax Television, Graham was asked if he though there was a "pattern of hostility to traditional Christianity by the Obama administration."

"I don't know if it's exactly from President Obama," Graham responded, "but I'm certain that some of the men around him are very much opposed to what we stand for and what we believe."

Graham continued, "It seems as though Muslims are getting a pass."

As I show in my book Crazy For God (a memoir about why and how I left a key leadership position and family in the Religious Right), the Evangelical ghetto is a series of personality cults operating (as far as leadership succession goes) something like North Korea.

Franklin Graham followed Billy, Oral Roberts' son Richard followed Oral (until Richard was kicked out of the ministry for alleged financial impropriety), many members of James Dobson's family work "with" (read for) him, and so forth.

God seems to call many a child and/or sibling to inherit the fundraising mailing list if not the spirit of the original ministry. And since the evangelical children of professional Christians are raised in what amounts to cocoons and echo chambers they are -- literally -- unequipped to do anything else in life except carry on the family business.

I know. I stumbled into the sidekick role and barely dodged the bullet of wasting my whole life instead of only wasting about ten years of it.

Whatever the correct theological answers to these weighty questions, the Bible is very clear about who God hates! Christian Right Wing Fundamentalists, be they of Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox kind (just like their Jewish and Muslim fundamentalist counterparts) must hate gays, Muslims (and other "sinners") no matter what they say about "hating the sin but loving the sinner."

The reason they have to hate every "deviation" is simple: At some point in their lives most fundamentalists ask questions. At some point they have a choice; listen to their doubts and follow their questions and therefore grow and change their minds by admitting the fact of paradox or deny the reasonable voice of doubt and redouble their efforts to "keep faith."

I think that is why sometimes the sons (or daughters) of some religious leaders are (counter intuitively) harsher and even more extreme in their views than their parents. Take Franklin Graham. I knew him while we both grew up as the sons of famous Evangelical leaders.

Franklin's father, evangelist (and Schaeffer family friend) Billy Graham, became more moderate and non-political as the years passed. In fact, in the 1970s Billy refused to become part of Dad's and my anti-abortion crusade, no matter how often we begged him to join our "call to save babies" (as we did face-to-face many times).

Billy refused us on the grounds that we'd become "too political" and "too harsh." But Franklin (Billy's nepotistic heir) banished his own well-documented youthful "rebellious" doubts and moved dramatically to the Far Right, becoming a leading voice for the shrillest anti-Islamic hysteria, anti-Obama rhetoric, anti-abortion absolutism and gay-bashing.

This year, 2010, Franklin even managed to get his father to sign a pro-Sarah Palin "Graham Family" endorsement that was so out of character with everything the post-political Billy stood for that I can only conclude Franklin was taking advantage of a muddled old man.

Having bet everything on absolute certainty, the die is cast for the Franklin Graham-type fundamentalist who sticks with the program. I remember talking to Franklin's mother Ruth and sister Gigi during his "period of youthful rebellion" (Franklin was in his twenties at the time) when Ruth and her daughter Gigi said how sad they were that Franklin had "fallen so far from the Lord."

Well, whatever those doubts were Franklin was having, he's banished them! He and many like him must therefore keep moving to the Far Right, hating and excluding the "Other" as their only means of reinforcing their own wobbly "certainties." (Maybe Dick Cheney's daughter fits this category too!)

In the 1970s and 80s, I was the Schaeffer version of a Far Right Franklin Graham-type of harsh and absolutist self-reinforcing extremist. The more doubts I had the farther to the Right I moved ideologically, as if shouting loudly and angrily enough could solve my problem.

What was my "problem?" Simple, it boiled down to two issues. 1) My nagging questions about why THE BOOK (the Bible) I was trying to literally believe (and convince others to believe) didn't match reality. 2) Why were the sorts of people I actually liked being with -- my gay acquaintances in the movie business, secularists who'd liked my art, other "non-Christian" artists, lapsed Jews, assorted agnostics and/or the "Wrong" sort of Liberal Christians (even some Democrats!) -- counted as "The Enemy," while the True Believers with Correct Views on everything from the Book of Genesis to who to vote for, were so often mean-spirited Village Idiots that I'd rather be shot than hang out with?

In the same interview quoted in Huffington what Franklin said also showed his well-developed sense of victimhood and paranoia.

Rev. Graham was then asked by the host about mounting "secular oppression" in the United States.

"No question, it's coming," Graham says. "I think when you preach that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light, I think we're going to see, one day, people will say this is hate speech."

Message to Franklin: No, hate speech is the lies you tell about gays and our President. No one is out to get you. Your hate-filled nonsense about Muslims, gays and President Obama is your problem, not theirs. Make a fool of yourself, but please stop acting as if you speak for all Christians. You only speak for yourself and the loopy Far Right.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of
Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.