By David Waters
In an interview with Newsmax TV, Franklin Graham said the Pentagon’s decision to rescind his invitation to Thursday’s National Prayer Day event was “a slap at all evangelical Christians” and he blamed the Obama administration.
The “slap” is “absolutely part of a pattern of hostility toward Christianity in the federal government,” Graham said. “And I don’t know if it’s exactly from President Obama, but I’m certain that some of the men around him are very much opposed to what we stand for and what we believe.”
Has Franklin Graham decided that if he can’t be the Billy Graham, he can be the next Pat Robertson? Graham’s pattern of hostility toward Islam was the reason the Pentagon disinvited him from a religious event the government shouldn’t even be hosting in the first place.
Graham’s remarks against Islam were “not appropriate,” said Col. Thomas Collins, spokesman for the U.S. Army. “We’re an all-inclusive military. We honor all faiths . . . Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths.”
Graham, who has repeatedly called Islam an “evil and wicked religion,” is president of the Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, a name based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a story Jesus told to instruct his followers on how to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Samaritan’s Purse has shown a lot of love for its neighbors, including its Muslim neighbors. The ministry has established humanitarian relief efforts in such predominantly Muslim countries as Somalia, Sudan, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq — drawing much praise but also some criticism for requiring people to sit through Christian prayer meetings or talks before receiving aid.
In the interview with Newsmax, Graham continued to express his “love” for his Muslim neighbors while condemning their faith and questioning their patriotism.
“It seems as though Muslims are getting a pass,” Graham told Newsmax. “And you look at the violence that they have portrayed against women. It’s just horrific. If you just take women alone … And I just don’t understand why the president would be giving Islam a pass.
“We certainly love the Muslim people,” Graham went on to say. “But that is not the faith of this country. And that is not the religion that built this nation. The people of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith are the ones who built America, and it is not Islam.”
Graham said the “pattern of hostility toward Christianity . . . goes back into the Clinton years. This whole secularization has come in, creeping in, and it’s getting more and more and more. And of course the Bush administration was very friendly toward evangelicals. And [Bush] certainly, I think if he were president … he would have overturned that (Pentagon) decision.”
Given his father’s Nixon-era anti-Semitic statements (for which he graciously apologized), Franklin Graham’s respect for America’s JUDEO-Christian heritage is some sort of progress, I suppose. Perhaps 30 years from now, Franklin Graham’s son will praise America’s multi-faith heritage.
But isn’t Graham’s anti-Muslim crusade a slap at all evangelical Christians?
What about his Baptist brethren? Their ancestors helped build America with the fundamental Baptist principles of demand for religious liberty and respect for what famed Baptist preacher Roger Williams called “the wall of separation” between church and state.
What about his father? “Billy Graham simply will not engage in the demonizing of Islam,” Harvard University professor Harvey Cox told Fox News in 2005. “(He believes) that the real struggle in the clash of civilizations is in poverty and disease.”
And what about Bush? During his presidency he repeatedly characterized Islam as “a religion of peace” that “brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide.” He also repeatedly condemned attempts to demonize Islam.
“America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others,” Bush said in April 2002.
“Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country. Every immigrant can be fully and equally American because we’re one country.”
Isn’t that what Americans stand for and what we believe?
UPDATE: Graham’s disinvitation has prompted a Republican congressman from Georgia to call for a congressional investigation into possible “clerical censorship” by the Pentagon, Religion News Service is reporting.
In a letter to the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Jack Kingston cited recent incidents involving Graham as well as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “It appears the Pentagon is systematically weeding out preachers and leaders of the clergy who give messages and sermons that might ruffle feathers,” Kingston said in a statement.
If by ruffle he means demonize, and if by feathers he means people of other faiths, then I suppose he has a point.
David Corn of Politics Daily saw this coming:
“Imagine if a leading American imam decried Christianity as an “evil” religion and then was invited to participate at a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon. How would conservative pundits, shouting heads, bloggers and politicians react? There would be denunciations, calls for rescinding the invitation, demands for explanations from the Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and questions hurled at the Obama White House,” Corn wrote last week. “But if a prominent Christian evangelist described Islam as an “evil” religion and subsequently received a similar invitation, would the same thing happen?”
Well, as a matter of fact, yes.