Franklin Graham goes the Full Olasky

Bruce Watson of AOL asks “What Would the Rapture Do to Real Estate Prices?

In New York City, for example, a 49% drop would reduce the city’s population to 1910 levels. In the short run, this would cause property values to plummet in the city, but the effects would quickly spread beyond mortgages and rents. …

This is assuming a post-Rapture world in which the political and economic systems would remain relatively stable — admittedly, a somewhat unrealistic expectation. … However, even if everything else stays the same, one thing is clear: The Rapture would have an apocalyptic effect on real estate.

And in one loosely written column, Watson has already spent more time on post-Rapture world-building than Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins spent in the whole of a 16-volume series.

Speaking of the Rapture …

The photo here looks like it might have been taken immediately following some mass vanishing event, but actually it’s from a huge tea party rally planned for South Carolina last week. Well, it was planned to be huge. They expected 2,000 people and wound up with 30. That’s not a rally. That’s barely enough for a soccer game.

Speaking of disappointing and woefully inadequate numbers …

Robert Parham says “‘Let the Churches Do It’ Is a Deceptive Myth.” He quotes Franklin Graham, among others, as a promoter of this deceptive myth. Graham said:

A hundred years ago, the safety net, the social safety net, in the country, was provided by the church. If you didn’t have a job, you’d go to your local church and ask the pastor if he knew somebody that could hire him. If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, ‘I can’t feed my family.’ And the church would help you. That’s not being done. The government took that. And took it away from the church.

That’s got all the hallmarks of Marvin Olasky’s bogus mythmaking:

  • Laughably false and easily disproved claims about the Golden Age of the past? Check.
  • Attempt to spin the church’s abandoning its responsibility as a case of government usurpation? Check.
  • Ridiculously inflated claims about the scale, capacity and expertise of faith-based assistance? Check.
  • Deliberate exclusion of the opinions of those actually providing that assistance, both today and “a hundred years ago”? Check.
  • Fundamental confusion that imagines all duties and obligations as mutually exclusive? Check.

Yep. Graham is five for five. That’s the Full Olasky right there.

Parham then turns to Wayne Flynt to explain what this would mean, for example, for Alabama:

When Flynt started making speeches about a just tax system in Alabama, he was accused of wanting government to solve all the problems.

“When people insisted that I was a socialist, that I wanted government to solve all the problems, I would offer this alternative,” said Flynt. “OK, I accept your argument. There are 10,000 communities of faith – Muslim, Jewish, Baptist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Shintoist – in Alabama… Let’s divide 10,000 communities of faith into the 740,000 [poor] people.”

He asked, “How many does your church get?”

The retired Auburn history professor pointed out that most of those faith communities had about 100 members. That meant that each faith community would get between 50 and 100 poor people to look after.

The “deceptive myth” Parham is addressing was most influentially promoted in a deceptive, mythmaking book by Olasky called The Tragedy of American Compassion. It’s a profoundly misled and misleading work that follows the basic outline above, portraying America before the Roosevelts as a paradise in which generous churches sufficiently cared for the poor with generosity and tough love and no one ever went hungry except lazy people who deserved it. For a useful counterpoint, see Norris Magnuson’s Salvation in the Slums: Evangelical Social Work 1865-1920. Magnuson covers the very same ground, but he provides an honest assessment of the actual scope of the poverty and deprivation of the time — most of which remained beyond the reach of the laudable, but vastly inadequate work being done by the churches.

More importantly, Magnuson cites the same primary sources as Olasky, but he does so in full and in context. That illuminates how selective and misleading Olasky’s use of those sources is. The devout believers Olasky cites to support his claim that the government has no role in helping the poor are nearly all revealed, in Magnuson’s book, to have been advocating and pleading for the larger government role that Olasky is arguing against.

Olasky is a partisan ideologue, but that’s precisely why I don’t think his mendacious book is evidence that he is lying. I think it’s a sad case study in what happens if one is, primarily, a partisan ideologue and the way that can blind one to anything one doesn’t wish to see. The tragedy of The Tragedy of American Compassion isn’t that Marvin Olasky is telling lies, it’s that he’s repeating lies he sincerely believes. (Call them “deceptive myths” if you’d prefer to be more euphemistically polite.) That and he’s trapped in an either-or framework of mutually exclusive responsibilities which prevents him from imagining that both the state and the church are responsible for those in need and that these mutual responsibilities are complementary, not competitive.

Anyway, speaking of Marvin Olasky …

The Randian Calvinist editor of World magazine belatedly weighs in on the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s Love Wins, dubbing Bell an example of the “self-hating evangelical“:

Among the self-haters are those who display virulent opposition to the existence of churches that are not emergent, or don’t meet in a house, or are not radically redistributionist, or are not something other than standard.

Yes, “radically redistributionist.” He really talks like that. He really thinks like that.

And that’s what keeps him from realizing that what he describes here as “self-hatred” is actually pity and sadness for what people like him have become and the shame they’ve thereby brought to our evangelical family. I don’t hate myself, or my evangelical faith or heritage. What I hate is the selfish stupidity that people like Olasky foster in themselves and in their followers by using slogans like “radically redistributionist” as though they were quoting Jesus. I’ve seen how this weird devotion of theirs to an ideology of unbridled greed is a choice that makes smart people dumb, kind people cruel, good people bad.

And to paraphrase Dean Wormer, stupid and cruel is no way to go through life, son.

To be embarrassed by the enthusiastically stupid and cruel members of our evangelical family who have become our most vocal representatives doesn’t make me a “self-hating evangelical.” If Stephen Prothero is right, it puts me in the same camp as the Rev. Billy Graham. The iconic preacher and longtime friend of Jesus and Johnny Cash is now 92 and, Prothero notes, is suffering the indignity of having his eldest son going on TV and dragging the family name through the mud by spouting off the Full Olasky. “Franklin Graham is embarrassing his father“:

If you want to see how American evangelicalism has lost its way, you need look no farther than Billy Graham and his son Franklin. Billy Graham was a powerful preacher of the gospel. Franklin Graham is a political hack.

  • Roland

    Sorry garbled formatting in the previous post. I hope it’s clear what’s meant.

  • hapax

    I think faith of the first kind is rational. I can’t prove the external
    world exists, but I can live as if it does and the results for me so far
    have been OK.

    Translation:

    The untestable faiths that  I accept are “rational.”
    The untestable faiths I don’t accept are “irrational.”

    But why shouldn’t I use the label “irrational” for the
    other beliefs I described? It isn’t pejorative – I’m not saying these
    beliefs are horrible or stupid.

    And the fact that other people find this label insulting just proves how irrational they are!  After all, why should they pay attention to the everyday connotation of the word? I didn’t call them Nazis, so no other insult counts.

    I’m just saying they don’t seem to be
    supported by any evidence and it doesn’t seem to make a difference to
    daily life whether one believes them or not.

    Any evidence that you find convincing doesn’t convince ME, so it doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t make any difference to MY daily life, so any testimony that it might be quite important to you, that it might be the central linchpin of your entire worldview, that you think if it were not true that you “would be the most pitiable of all persons”, is meaningless and irrelevant.

    Have we achieved BINGO yet?

  • Roland

    Translation:

    The untestable faiths that  I accept are “rational.”
    The untestable faiths I don’t accept are “irrational.”

    Please can you provide an argument in favour of this assertion? I tried to be careful to distinguish between the two kinds of faith I described, but if I failed, please can you explain why you think my distinction is wrong?

    Any evidence that you find convincing doesn’t convince ME, so it doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t make any difference to MY daily life, so any testimony that it might be quite important to you, that it might be the central linchpin of your entire worldview, that you think if it were not true that you “would be the most pitiable of all persons”, is meaningless and irrelevant.

    Well, then for some people it obviously does make a difference to daily life. I didn’t assert that it didn’t; I said that from where I was standing it seemed not to. I really honestly do believe that – I’m not just trying to wind you up.

    Have we achieved BINGO yet?

    I’m not sure I understand this.

  • hapax

    Roland, I am going to make one more effort to assume that you are truly arguing in good faith, not just being clueless.

    You are talking like someone protecting yourself from a libel suit, not someone interested in carrying on a civil conversation.  “It seems to me” and “I honestly believe that” placed in front of an assertion that is not only insulting but in direct contradiction to real live people telling you what their real life experiences are does not protect you from being condescending and rude, nor more than placing “alleged” in front of “pedophile axe-murderer.”

    Go back and read your comments in this thread keeping this in mind.  Then ask yourself if all of your carefully-drawn categories are merely distinctions without a difference.

  • Roland

    Then ask yourself if all of your carefully-drawn categories are merely distinctions without a difference.

    Well I don’t think they are, and you disagree.

    You are talking like someone protecting yourself from a libel suit, not someone interested in carrying on a civil conversation

    I’m trying to be precise about what I mean. I think you need to be in this sort of discussion. If this leads to a certain stilted quality in style, then so much the worse for style.

    an assertion that is not only insulting but in direct contradiction to real live people telling you what their real life experiences are

    I’m sorry I called your beliefs “irrational”. I can see that you find that insulting.

    And anyway I don’t have any problem with your beliefs. How could I? I don’t have the right to, and it doesn’t matter what anyone believes anyway. The problem I have is when people act on wrong beliefs in a way that affects others adversely, or try to convince others of them. You’ve never done this to me so I can’t complain.

    condescending and rude

    I have tried really hard not to be condescending and rude. I hope people who read my posts will at least agree I made the effort. I’m sorry I failed.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    I can see that you find that insulting.

    Flag on the play for misuse of the passive voice.  The problem isn’t that she finds that insulting it is that your comment WAS insulting.

  • Roland

    Flag on the play for misuse of the passive voice.  The problem isn’t that she finds that insulting it is that your comment WAS insulting.

    “I can see that you find that insulting” does not use the passive voice.

    I agree that my comment implied the insult was hapax’s fault. It was not, it was mine because I didn’t listen to her and other people who told me it was insulting. I’m sorry about this.

  • Roland

    Bedtime! Will pick up again in the morning if anything needs it. Night night all.

  • hapax

    Well, I think we both agree that bad behavior is the problem, not bad beliefs.

    I think we disagree about the level of correlation between the two.  I don’t know how to resolve this, because it’s hardly a testable proposition (well, except for a very limited subset of beliefs and behaviors, like “I believe that members of X group are not fully human” and oppression, violence, and genocide)

    I’d say that I don’t care what people believe, but it’s not true;  I care passionately, because what people believe is endlessly interesting to me.  I just (for the most part) wouldn’t characterize beliefs as right or wrong, good or bad, rational or irrational, sweet or sour or bacon-flavoured. 

    Note:  I do accept the distinction between objective and subjective beliefs.  Also, of course, people can be wrong, that is, in error about certain matters of fact which are colloquially called “beliefs”  — e.g., I can “believe” all day long that the earth is flat or the moon is made of green cheese, but I would in fact be professing something that is simply Not True.

    Of course, this is complicated by the occasions when holding to Not True assumptions, as I mentioned below, is nonetheless Mind-Bogglingly Useful…

     

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Au contraire your sentence can indeed be considered an instance of the passive voice. The active would have been “I can see that I insulted you.” 

  • Anonymous

    No mmy, I can’t see how it’s in the passive voice, both verbs are associated with and agent, Roland sees and hapax finds. Your correction has a different meaning (one that is more appropriate to an apology, I’d agree), it doesn’t merely recast the original in a different voice.

  • Tonio

    I agree that Roland’s use of the “irrational” label is offensive. And Hapax makes a good point about holding incorrect “beliefs” about matters of fact.

    Still, I’ve often encountered the argument that beliefs in higher powers or afterlives belong in the “subjective” category. I’ve even read that any untestable proposition should be fair game for any belief that someone wants to hold about it. But with a proposition about higher powers or afterlives, there is an objective fact somewhere. An untestable proposition of fact is still true or false even if we cannot know which one.

    My own term for the objective/subjective divide are “facts versus values”. The answer to the question “Who was the greatest guitarist of all time” is unprovable because any answer amounts to personal opinion. In the global sense, yes, the real problem is bad behavior, not bad beliefs. In the personal sense, my goal is to strive for as high degree of accuracy as possible with any propositions of fact that I may hold. My approach is similar to a college exam where one has, say, 10 questions and one can choose to answer any five, and any wrong answer drags down my cumulative grade. I refuse to take positions on untestable propositions because I could hold a mistaken position and not know it.

  • Brightie

     More like… “People’s souls will last eternally. Their bodies are just for right now. It is a greater good to deliver them from hell than from temporary difficulty. It would be irresponsible not to do everything we can to deliver them from hell while attracting the in by alleviating temporary difficulty. This saving business is our first and finest duty in the world. Let’s quietly ignore the fact that Jesus says it’s a service to him on the basis of which you will be judged to give a cup of water to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned, with no mention of preaching to them while you do so…”


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