Back in May, I asked “Is Billy Graham being exploited for political gain?”
Following that post — and then again following my post earlier this week, “Billy Graham did not go to Chick-fil-A (and he didn’t tell you to go there either)” — a few people wrote comments or emails “defending” Billy Graham.
“Defending” is in scare quotes there, because they offer a very odd “defense.”
They insist that I am in no position to think I may know anything about what Billy Graham is really like because I am only able to view his decades of public statements, his books, sermons and articles, and his remarks in dozens of interviews over many years.
Based on only that, they insist, one cannot claim to have any idea who Graham really is or what he really thinks about anything. The real Billy Graham, they say, can be known only by those personally acquainted with him who are thus privy to the vast difference between his private views and character and the views and character he has pretended to have all these many years.We’re dupes, you see, the rest of us. Billy Graham has had us all fooled by pretending to be one person while “really” maintaining an altogether different identity and perspective we cannot begin to guess at because we’re not included in the inner circle of people who are able to know his true views.
This argument strikes me not as a “defense” of Billy Graham, but as a rather nasty accusation of duplicity and hypocrisy. It’s not a defense of Billy Graham at all, but a defense of Franklin Graham.
And if Franklin Graham welcomes such a defense at the expense of his father, well, that further confirms my suspicion that he has been cruelly exploiting his ailing dad.
Which is why I’ve taken to referring to him as “Hophni Phineas Graham.”
The allusion there is to the story of the righteous priest, Eli, in the book of 1 Samuel. Hophni and Phineas were his sons:
Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord or for the duties of the priests to the people.
They were charlatans and offering-skimmers. They are also, in evangelical circles, proverbially infamous — cited in many a sermon on “the family” as examples of how even a righteous person can wind up with a rotten kid.
Their story, by the way, did not end well.
I believe the nickname is apt.