Thursday, March 20, 2014

Franklin Graham: Bad Samaritan

When someone prominent in the American religious community speaks out on gay rights, I cringe. I know that whoever is speaking is about to make a complete ass of themselves. Recently I read about Franklin Graham praising Putin’s anti-gay resolutions. To use some of Franklin’s words, he praised Putin’s legislation because “[Putin] has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”
I’m grateful Franklin Graham opened his mouth and said those words.
 He has shown through his article in Decisions magazine (produced by his ministry) that he is a misguided notions of what the LGBTQ community wants. Speaking as a member of the LGBTQ community, I’d like propose the idea that religion can be a far more dangerous for children than any gay or lesbian propaganda.
Let’s face a simple fact: who’s more likely to indoctrinate children to shun other people who aren’t like them? People like Franklin Graham or a gay couple like Dan Savage and his husband?
There’s an implicit concern about protecting children from sexual harm in Graham’s sentiment. The concern has everything to do with controlling children so that they do not see gay people as fellow human beings worthy of respect. Here’s some news for people like Franklin Graham: pedophilia is an unnatural sexual attraction to pubescent or pre-pubescent children. It is currently and has been for quite some time been seen as a mental/sexual disorder. On the other hand, I would suggest anyone who hasn’t taken the time to watch Jesus Camp do so. The film documents how children are trained to be the next generation of Christians through indoctrination. After watching the film, I could only feel like the children in the film (and the millions more out there in the world) are suffering a form of child abuse.
What it sounds like to me is that Franklin Graham is concerned mostly with the non-existent threat homosexuals pose to children. This should show the kind of man Franklin Graham is. Sadly there are people who will hold him up as a paragon of Christian virtue while he uses innuendo and metaphoric language to hide his true reasons for backing such legislation.
Billy Graham, for his faults at times, was a different kind of Christian. I actually met Billy Graham once through my mother. She worked a temp job with his Tampa crusade in September of 1998. He was a genial man, increasingly frail with advanced age. But there was a vibrant energy to him that was undeniable. I was still a Christian back then and can remember being in awe of his presence. Billy Graham softened quite a bit in later life and once stated that he would avoid politics if he’d had to do it all over again. The naiveté of that statement is staggering. Religion and politics are so connected in America they can be seen as two parasites symbiotically feeding off each other.
Franklin on the other hand runs headlong into the culture wars with the chest-thumping bravado of a gorilla. This is a man who still questions whether President Obama is a true Christian; stands bold and proud that his home state has banned marriage equality; and, wholeheartedly endorsed Mitt Romney for President in 2012, despite referring to Mormonism as a cult right up until that endorsement. He is a demagogue, using fear and the lowest common denominator to scare his flock into suborning their natural humanism.
Graham’s comments are ignorant for many reasons. He inflates a tired argument that homosexuals are somehow a danger to children’s welfare, despite numerous studies that speak otherwise. He is also ignorant to the harm caused by Putin’s recent anti-gay legislation, which has seen the LGBTQ community of Russia stripped of many of their civil liberties as if those liberties were pieces of rotten meat, thrown away to avoid contaminating the rest. That is the kind of country Franklin Graham and his ilk want America to be: Land of the Free (so long as you’re straight, white, and Christian*) *Does not apply to all Christians.
What strikes me as a bitter form of irony is the name of Franklin’s charity, Samaritan’s Purse. I’m sure the story’s familiar to everyone but let’s examine it to see the irony in all its ugliness. A man is travelling who becomes accosted by bandits. He is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both walk by but do not lift a finger to help the man. Only a Samaritan, which at the time his people and the Jews were involved in a mutual-hatred society with the Jews, stopped to help the man. The Samaritan tends his wounds and pays for the victim to convalesce at an inn.
Any atheist or believer can see the morality of compassion, regardless of circumstances. Franklin Graham and Christians like him are not the Samaritan. They’re the priest and the Levite, concerned with keeping up the appearance of religious piety. They’ve wrapped themselves in their religiosity so tightly that they’ve forgotten simple human decency and compassion. They look at the beaten robbery victim and blame him for being robbed.
I want to know what gay propaganda Franklin Graham is afraid of? I don’t know what it is. Perhaps he’s frightened future generations might not buy into his dog-and-pony show.

I sincerely want people like Franklin Graham to keep speaking out. This is partly due to my reverence for the Free Speech portion of the 1st Amendment. It is also due to continued pronouncements like this show Graham and his ilk as being dinosaurs of a bygone era. Religious privilege is dying and it should expire completely. To give religion carte blanche over the civil liberties of citizens simply due to their status as the majority is unacceptable. We as a country are moving forward with civil rights, just as we have for the past two centuries. America is not easy to live in at times. We are a proud nation but also a fearful one. Exclamations of the end of our nation have preceded every major shift in civil rights, be it the right for women to vote to the protection of the civil rights of African-Americans to the LGBTQ community fighting to gain civil equality. What Franklin Graham and his version of Christianity should learn from history is that the march moves forward, never backwards. Sooner or later, America lives up to its creed as the Land of the Free. 

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