Fundamentalist Evangelical Leaders Need to Learn from Billy Graham

Food

The headlines lately have been pretty scary. North Korea–one of the few nations on earth with a bigger wild card of a leader than the U.S.–has been active in publicly flexing its military muscle by advertising their ability to strike anywhere in the continental U.S. with an ICBM toting a nuclear payload. For years, such noise coming from North Korea was laughed off as the rantings of a mad man without any serious punch to back it up–but now, it’s not so funny. Perhaps at no time in the history of the world, with the possible exception of the early 1960s and the Cuban Missile Crisis, has the table been so egregiously set for potential disaster on a cataclysmic scale. The mind reels at the notion that the only thing standing between us and  annihilation could be the cool and calculating heads of Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Here is a question worth asking, one that screams inside my head every time I dare tune in to see what Jim Bakker is ranting about (which is the same thing every day, by the way); If we are standing on the brink of potential disaster, why is it that the people who are working hardest to support this madness and to set themselves up to survive such a scenario are the followers of some of the most visible fundamentalist evangelicals out there? Shouldn’t they, stalwarts of the faith as they claim, be the first in line to say “Take me, Lord Jesus?”

But that is not the message they send. They appear to be hedging their bets, instead.

The infamous Jim Bakker is now making his entire living off of selling survival packs. Send him enough money and he will send you a bunker full of pre-packaged, freeze dried meals–enough to last you years until it’s safe to come back out after the post-nuclear winter. Why, Jim, why?

I’m no stalwart of the faith. I struggle with my faith, like most of us do. If we didn’t struggle, it wouldn’t be called faith–the very word faith implies there is some level of uncertainty that we are constantly battling and trying to put behind us. Yet, if the bombs ever do start to drop while I’m still breathing air, I’ll not be trying to stock pile food–I’ll be hoping for a direct hit screaming, “TAKE ME, LORD JESUS!”

nuke

This is just another in a long series of confusing, mixed messages coming from the far-right, fundamentalist Christian leadership. It’s been going on for years but, since Trump won the election, it seems to have shifted into a whole new series of high gears. It’s one thing to hear such things coming from the likes of Jim Bakker–a man with a well-documented past, so sorted it seems like a bad Lifetime movie plot–we’ve become accustomed to his schtick. At this point, most level headed Christians write him off as a hack carnival barker–although, somehow, he still has a daily platform on Christian television.

But what about those right wing evangelical leaders who have a more pious history who continue to support the mess in the White House?

I once respected Franklin Graham–mostly, I suppose, a result of that which his father, the Reverend Billy Graham, had earned–but that respect has all but eroded away now. Franklin Graham has become nothing much more than a political shill, hawking for the far-right. I don’t remember the last time I read a quote from him that referenced anything resembling the message of Christ.

Billy Graham’s approach toward spreading the gospel was once the standard followed by countless clergymen and women who came after him. He laid out a clear, simple message of the Gospel and an invitation. That was pretty much it. He rarely strayed too far from his tried and true message.

Billy Graham generally stayed above the petty fray of politics–a fact that is borne out by his long history of giving counsel to presidents and leaders of all political parties for decades. Yet, even so, Billy Graham has said that one of his only regrets about his storied career is that he sometimes became too political. In an 2011 interview with Christianity Todaythe then 92 year old Graham was asked if he had any regrets and he replied that he wished he’d been able to spend more time with his family and added;

“I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes cros­sed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

If you’ll pardon me for saying so, that’s one hell of a long way from Franklin Graham’s approach.

Franklin Graham seems to seek headlines by hitching his wagon to the runaway train of the Trump administration. Right from the beginning, Franklin was stumping for candidate Trump and, after the election, he claimed that Trump’s shocking victory was guided by the “hand of God.” Franklin Graham continues to be an ardent Trump supporter, even as the S.S. Trump continues to be beaten and battered by the stormy seas of scandal, controversy, and now the increasingly tenuous relationship with North Korea. One wonders if Franklin Graham and the other far-right fundamentalists are stock piling Jim Bakker’s survival food?

And, if so, one wonders why they’d want to bother.

Billy Graham has been mostly out of the public eye for over a decade. He is 98 and in very poor health.

That’s too bad–we could use him right about now.

 

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Politics Blue
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment