BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Why should you be interested in the ongoing prattling of the Rev. Franklin Graham? Let me count the ways: 1) He’s the son of Billy Graham, the world-renowned evangelist, and that gives him access to a multitude of media platforms; 2) He desperately wants to inherit his father’s unofficial title of “America’s Pastor”; and, 3) He is considered a highly respected player in the world of conservative Christian evangelicalism.
Graham is also a mean-spirited Christian nationalist, and one of the most consistent voices arguing that Christians in this country are being persecuted, victimized and “excluded from the public square.” And, over the past few years, he has carved out a well-deserved reputation as one of the United States' leading religious-based Islamophobes.
Instead of inheriting his father’s mantle, Franklin Graham seems to be on the road to occupying the space left by the death of Topeka’s anti-gay madman, Fred Phelps.
Franklin Graham’s latest sortie into Islamophobia occurred recently, when he vigorously opposed a decision by Duke University to allow the Adhaan, i.e. the Muslim call to prayer, to be announced from the bell tower of the campus’s Christian chapel. Graham took to Facebook to exclaim: "As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn't submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.“
Soon after Graham’s intervention, the university reversed its decision. University officials claimed that the cancellation was based on a "credible and serious security threat."
“Graham's hypocrisy is glaring,” Qasim Rashid, a lawyer, speaker and author of Extremist, recently pointed out in a column at the Huffington Post.
“Here he is preventing Muslims from worshiping freely at Duke, while complaining (rightfully might I add) that Christians can't worship freely in several Muslim majority nations. If he wants to show these despotic regimes how they should behave, he's failed. Instead, he's provided extremists more fodder to show how intolerant Christian leaders are. Graham mimics what he claims to hate.”
Graham later told WNCN News that while he “agree[s] with diversity … what’s happening with this country is all these religions are getting front row and Christians are being pushed -- and we’re the majority -- are being pushed back to the back of the room,” cnsnews.com recently reported.
“This country was built on Christian principles, it was men and women who believed in God and believed in His Son Jesus Christ who built this country,” said Rev. Graham. “We’re the greatest nation in the history of the world. It wasn’t built by Islam, and it wasn’t built by any other group. It was those who supported and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Graham added, “[W]e’re the greatest nation in the history of the Earth,” he said, “and we have people today that want to destroy what we believe and what we stand for. I think the university needs to understand that the world in which we live today, we’ve been at war now 10 years against terrorists and the terrorists we’ve been fighting are people who support and believe in the Islamic faith.”
Graham is the president of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and the international aid group Samaritan’s Purse. He is also, as Qasim Rashid noted in his Huffington Post piece, “no stranger to anti-Islam bigotry.”
During a 2010 televised town hall meeting, Graham called Islam “wicked” and “evil.” “They want to build as many mosques and cultural centers as they possibly can so they can convert as many Americans as they can to Islam,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week,” politico.com reported at the time.
Graham also drew scads of media attention last year when he wrote a column title “Putin’s Olympic Controversy,” in which he praised the Russian leader’s anti-gay crusade. In response to the Obama administration’s embrace of gay rights and same-sex marriage, Graham wrote: "It's obvious that President Obama and his administration are pushing the gay-lesbian agenda in America today and have sold themselves completely to that which is contrary to God's teaching.
"In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation's children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda."
Graham added: "Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration's lead. This is shameful."
In December of last year, Christian Today’s Ruth Gledhill reported that “More recently, he criticized The Episcopal Church's National Cathedral in Washington for permitting its first Muslim prayer service. On his Facebook page he wrote: "It's sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins."
Graham told Christian Today that his own views on Islam remained the same as in 2001.
"I have not changed my opinion at all." Viewing the activities of the Islamic State, the Taliban and Boko Haram he concluded: "This is Islam. It has not been hijacked by radicals. This is the faith, this is the religion. It is what it is. It speaks for itself."
"I think it is very important that we do all that we can to try to share God's love with Muslims because they have no hope outside of dying in Jihad. I want them to know, you do not have to die for God. God died for us. He sent His Son to die for us. We do not have to kill ourselves to please God. I want them to know that they can have eternal life."
Franklin Graham is a pot-stirring opportunist. To score political points with his conservative Christian followers, he has lambasted President Obama on numerous occasions, including questioning the President’s faith and the country of his birth. Therefore, it is not surprising that when an opportunity presented itself at Duke University, “Graham’s Facebook fulminations,” as Religion News Service’s Aaron Griffith recently pointed out, “transformed what could have been a nuanced campus debate about religious establishment, sacred space, and pluralism into a countrywide fracas that calls to mind 1980s culture wars.”