Franklin Graham seems possessed by the evil spirit of the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. Either that, or he carries some kind of childhood trauma that causes him to consistently embarrass his daddy. The prodigal son’s latest episode is raising doubts about President Obama’s religion during an interview with MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough. Challenged by Scarborough—a former Republican congressman—Graham used the old “wink, wink” guise of saying President Obama claims to be a Christian and maybe so, etc.
Franklin Graham supports his moronic doubts by claiming that Obama has gone easy on Muslims. Tell that to Osama Bin Laden, other al-Qaeda leaders who had bombs dropped on their turbans, and the Taliban. Whatever Franklin’s motives for making a fool of himself, it must cause his father to cringe.
Although our spiritual beliefs are slightly different, I’m an admirer of the Reverend Billy Graham—mainly because of his willingness to challenge tenets of his own fundamentalist theology. He preached vigorously about Jesus being the only path to salvation. But in the later years of his ministry, he became much more moderate in his spiritual views toward non-Christian religions—even conceding that he did not know if non-Christians would be excluded from his concept of Heaven.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, I tried to embarrass Graham many years ago. Prior to a 1970 Billy Graham crusade in Baton Rouge, I was radio talk show host on the city’s leading station. My liberal politics were then in the formative stages and often aimed at provoking rather informing. Come to think of it, talk radio has not changed much in forty years. The rhetoric is just more inflammatory in the aftermath of the takeover of the airwaves by right-wing lunatics like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and their ilk.
Anyway, I was a knee-jerk liberal easily influenced by my friends on the left—most of whom were civil rights activists. Before a pre-crusade news conference, my friends urged me to asked Graham about the absence of African American members in Baton Rouge’s mainline congregations—First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First Methodist, etc.
He deflected the question saying, ”I don’t comment on affairs of local churches in cities where I hold crusades.” I sort of sunk in my seat and kept quiet. Later, I attended a Press Club dinner attended byDr. Graham and then Governor John McKeithen. The evangelist gave no signs of recognizing me and I made no effort to remind him of our earlier encounter.
While gathering material for a 1983 Peabody award winning exposé about the ministry of Brother Jimmy Lee Swaggart, I became acquainted with Rice University sociologist Wiliam Martin. He subsequently authored a Prophet with Honor, the first definitive biography in which a writer was given unlimited access to the famed preacher.
During Martin’s research, he developed a great deal of respect for Graham and discussed with me what made the world’s most renowned preacher different from Swaggart and a lot of other television evangelists, many of whom fell into the trap of becoming drunk on their own sense of omnipotence. According to Martin, Graham avoided the this pitfall by surrounding himself with longtime associates. Their primary role was keep his ego in check. Without fear of being fired, they could say “Billy, you’re full of shit” (a non-religious term that he and all of us should hear now and then).
Loudmouth Franklin needs the same kind of advisors. He stumbles frequently, especially in condemning the Muslim religion and other forms of worship that don’t meet his approval. A year ago, he criticized a Native American prayer delivered at Tucson, Arizona memorial services featuring President Obama.
Following reports accusing him of intolerance, Graham crawfished, saying his remarks were about the length of the prayer, rather than its inclusion in a memorial that quoted both Christian and Jewish texts.
Unfortunately, Franklin Graham seems to be auditioning for a job as a Fox “News” commentator. Instead of preaching his daddy’s message of brotherhood, he preaches a message of intolerance and doubt—acting as a propagandist for fringe Republicans, who cannot get past their blind hatred for Barack Obama.
The Reverend Billy Graham is too old and feeble to give Franklin a good paddling. So I can only wonder about the evangelist’s reaction to his son’s efforts to give aid and comfort to the likes of presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has his eyes set on becoming the world’s first Christian Ayatollah.
No doubt, Franklin is the kind of pain in the ass that no amount of Preparation H can relieve.
My memoir, Odyssey of a Derelict Gunslinger, is available at amazon.com and independent bookstores. It offers $19.99 worth of laughs and much more. The book is an account of my illustrious (I choose the adjectives) 30-year career as a prize-winning investigative reporter.