A story broke last week that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (where I worked about a decade ago) had removed mentions of Mormonism as a cult from its website following a meeting between the 93-year-old Billy Graham and Republican presidential candidate (and Mormon) Mitt Romney. Then a spokesman said they did it because “we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.” Uh, I think you just politicized it.
If you’re a Christian and you want to vote for Mitt Romney, go for it. But don’t suddenly change your views on Mormonism and say it’s not political. Not three weeks before the election. Can we at least be honest enough to admit this is politically motivated? And for what? Who’s going to change their vote over this? (Maybe people will vote the other way!)
It’s basic communication. And it’s why I’m plenty busy at Church Marketing Sucks (and now my long quiet Billy Graham blog, Billyspot).
Let me be clear: I don’t think Mormonism is a cult. It’s probably a good change the BGEA made. But the timing is just horrible. And the explanation is ridiculous. It seems unfair to call a religion of 14 million people a cult. That’s a loaded term and it has no place in the kind of loving outreach that’s defined Billy Graham’s ministry. Though we should also be clear that Mormonism is not Christianity.
Let me also say: I don’t think it should matter. The fact that we have to ask whether or not a Christian can vote for a Mormon is kind of disturbing. As Franklin Graham says, “Americans must remember that while our nation was founded upon godly principles, we do not have a state religion.” Of course then he goes on to say, “We need something like what Jerry Falwell did in the 1980s. We need a ‘moral majority'” Sigh.
Apparently evangelicals like Graham (Which one? Good question: Christianity Today explores Billy Graham’s recent politicism and Steve Knight wonders if Franklin is speaking for his father) will choose politics over theology when it works for them. All so they can somehow wiggle around the language and support a candidate who supports “God’s principles.” Never mind that it’s a rather different view of God. But not too different… we’re not supporting Muslims. Or atheists. Egads, no!
Meanwhile my generation has grown tired of religion constantly warring with politics. We’ve recognized that in the pluralistic society we’ve grown up in, it’s OK to work with, befriend, even vote for somebody who is different than you. And most of us don’t need to scrub our websites or write editorials to do so.
Newsweek has an interesting Q&A with Franklin Graham, published last December but pushed last week with all the news of Billy Graham’s last crusade. Maybe I’m just sick, but I have a morbid fascination with hearing the latest Franklin has to say (though this isn’t really the latest).
I think it’s funny how Franklin comes up with the same stories and tells them all the time. When asked about AIDS, he gives his “God’s parameters” speech, which always starts with, “I’m a pilot.” Bono does the exact same thing, as I suppose there’s something to it. Come up with something smart and quotable, and you’ll be quoted. It’s just funny when you hear the same quote over and over and over again.
The last question gets into those loose cannon judges, and the reporter asks if the judges who decided Brown vs. Board of Education were activist judges. Franklin sidesteps the question, claiming not to be familiar with the case (I’ll assume he means not familiar with the specifics, as opposed to not knowing of the case). It’s an intersting question for everyone railing on about activist judges. Is there precedent for what they’re talking about? I’ll have to side with Franklin on this one and plead ignorance, though I wish someone with more legal and political insight would write that article.
Interesting article from The Guardian about Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child: The evangelicals who like to giftwrap Islamophobia (link via jordoncooper)
Having been laid-off by Franklin’s plans to relocate the BGEA, I am a bit biased, but this story is a bit over the top. Franklin certainly deserves a verbal spanking for his insensitivity to Islam given the current political climate (heck, Franklin deserves a verbal spanking for a lot of things), but I think it’s overstating the case to say that you can’t give humanitarian and spiritual
relief at the same time. One shouldn’t be a prerequisite for the other, but at the same time when someone asks why, you have little recourse but to tell them.
Though I did find myself agreeing with this comment: “US evangelicals employ a selective biblical literalism to support a theology that systematically confuses the kingdom of God with the US’s burgeoning empire.”
I certainly wouldn’t say evangelicals in general do that, but some Christians do equate U.S. power with the kingdom of God. We are a growing empire/superpower, but like every nation we will come to an end.
P.O.D. and Franklin Graham? Believe it. Franklin Graham and Greg Laurie stopped in the studio while P.O.D. was recording a track for the new Matrix movie (picture via CM Central).