Worth 1,000 words: The awful state of American evangelical Christianity after Billy Graham

This is a picture taken this week at the celebration Franklin Graham held for the 95th birthday of his father, Billy Graham. It is also a parable, a metaphor, an astonishingly revealing snapshot of the sorry state of evangelical Christianity in America in 2013.

Seated in the middle there is Billy Graham, the world-famous evangelist who was, for more than 50 years, the face of white evangelical Christianity in America and the second-most influential Baptist pastor of the 20th century.

At 95, Graham is frail and in ill health. His image and his legacy have been usurped as political tools used by his son Franklin Graham, who seems desperate to be a political player and kingmaker. Not content with living off the interest of his father’s legacy, Franklin has been burning through the capital.

Just look at how Franklin has exploited his father here. The famous preacher is silent now, a voiceless prop called upon to lend a sheen of respectability to the likes of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Rupert Murdoch and his Fox News lackeys.

To his credit, Billy Graham looks uncomfortable being dragged out to offer his apparent blessing to a gaggle of dishonest strangers and charlatans that includes two racist billionaires. The scowl on the old preacher’s face may reveal his recognition that this is what has become of his legacy — that everything he did and worked for has led only to this, to the empowerment of lying hucksters and the politics of resentful privilege. Perhaps he’s even realizing that something like this was bound to happen — that the intensely otherworldly focus of his lifelong ministry meant that it couldn’t plant deep roots in earthly soil.

But just look at that horrifying photograph. Soak it in.

This is evangelical Christianity in America in 2013.

White. Rich. Right-wing. Dishonest. Predatory. Outwardly pious, inwardly corrupt.

It’s all about political tribalism. Jesus simply isn’t in the picture.

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  • Bucky

    All you see are your preconceived notions.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    No, I’d call it a fetus. Which it is.

    If you keep insisting that the hindenberg was a train, I think the pilot’s credentials trump yours

    Also, would you like me to send you pictures of the scar on my dad’s chest so you can tell me how disgusting and horrible bypass surgery is and how it should be banned?

    Medical doctors agree that abortion isn’t infantcide. The bible agrees that abortion isn’t infantcide. I would like you to demonstrate some greater credential than “It’s just obvious because I say so”.

    And posting medical pictures for cheap shock value is an incredibly dishonest way to argue.

    So what punishment should a woman get for seeking an abortion?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    No, I agree with the actual experts about what it is. Unlike you, who, I assume, insists that it’s obviously a baby.

  • Nordog6561

    >>If you keep insisting that the hindenberg was a train,<<

    You really are out of your mind.

    No really, I'm starting the think that for real.

    It would make perfect sense.

    At first I just thought you were throwing out all these wacky things to be diversionary.

    But this last one about the Hindenburg as a train?

    I think you have been so immersed in the Culture of Death for so long that you really have slipped the bonds of rationality.

    I feel sorry for you.

    You should see a doctor, but not one of those doctors that can't recognize a baby. Just saying.

  • Nordog6561

    Only a Culture of Death warrior appeals to imaginary “actual” medical experts to argue that babies aren’t babies.

    Only a ghoul like you would say whatever idiotic thing that pops into your mind in your vain efforts to obfuscate the reality that what you advocate is the slaughter of innocent, healthy, human babies.

  • cadillac

    So… you’ve never heard of “Samaritans Purse”?… the global relief effort run by Franklin Graham that raises and distributes well over $250,000,000 worldwide? You know, I’d bet that in that one photo, half a billion a year in charitable contributions is represented. What did YOU give this year?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

  • Dean Jameson

    The author of this piece is not an atheist. It was HIS use of “inwardly corrupt” with which I was taking issue.

  • Dean Jameson

    Are you saying you gave all you had, ASam?

  • Dean Jameson

    No, I don’t mean that at all. I mean that you (and the vast majority of people posting here) act just like they do. Period, full stop. You’re doing so in defense of different ideals–ones with which I happen to (mostly) agree–but the general atmosphere is not even one iota different.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I frequently do. It’s not hard when I live in poverty and my wealth can frequently be measured by the change I have in my pockets.

  • Veleda_k

    Oh, please. No one here has delighted in the idea of Palin or Murdoch’s death as so many Tea Partiers have done for Obama. No one has stated that Franklin Graham should be denied civil rights, like Conservative Christians believe of LGBTQ people. And no one here has done anything to increase Trump’s chances of dying of a preventable disease, unlike Republican’s fight against healthcare.

    People saying things you don’t like about Christians is not actually the same as oppression or bigotry. But a lot of Christians refuse to see that.

  • Veleda_k

    Ah man, you totally ruined his moral superiority.

    (I don’t give all that I have, but at least you don’t see me running around, crowing about how much I give, and how much God loves me, and how you should send me even more money.)

  • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples
  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    “This is a public school. We don’t focus on religion,” Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the Basuki school, told Vause. “In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment. [...] “It’s not (an) Islamic school. It’s general,” Winadijanto said. “There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. … So that’s a mixed school.”

    - Snopes

  • Baby_Raptor

    Please refrain from citing Fox as a source. They’ve been busted in one too many lies for anyone but the most biased of people to trust them.

  • EdinburghEye

    Oh goodness no. I am absolutely opposed to slaughtering babies. Thank goodness, the bad old prolife days in which infanticide was so common are – in my country and in yours – a thing of the past. With the advent of accessible contraception and safe legal abortion, and state support for single mothers that doesn’t involve taking children to be warehoused in “orphanages”, infanticide rates diminish vastly.

    Of course, if the prolifers succeed in bringing back the rigid laws to control women’s uteruses, and force unwanted babies to be born while taking away family support, slaughtering babies will become a present evil in the US rather than a long past one.

  • EdinburghEye

    Only a Culture of Death warrior argues that women should die pregnant in order to force more unwanted babies to be born in order that the US’s infant mortality rate should rise. Ghouls like you, in other words, who clearly relish dead babies….

  • TheBCow

    1) The only sources you could dredge up are from 6 years ago* before the situation was clarified?

    2)Even if those sources weren’t sketchy, Madrassa still doesn’t mean the thing you want it to mean. In Arabic, Madrassa refers to any school, religious or secular. I’m uncertain if that is meaning that is used in Indonesia (but don’t really give a crap either way), but it almost certainly can’t be used to mean “ooh scary terrorist training camp!”

    3) You didn’t even get close to my point that, even if it was a religious school, that religious schools are frequently open to people not of that religion and there is no reason to believe that many Islamic schools wouldn’t follow the same practice.

    *Back when Republicans were willing to point out that there was freedom of religion for Muslims, so long as they could make a nasty point about Hillary Clinton.

  • Carstonio

    Even if Obama’s alma mater were a religious school, there’s still the double standard. No one accuses, say, graduates of Catholic high schools of being abortion clinic bombers. Or when non-Catholics attend those schools, no one accuses them of being secretly Catholic. The term “Muslim” where Obama is concerned is merely a euphemism for his ethnicity.

  • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples

    “Secular” and “Madrassa” go together like meatloaf and uranium. Guess you didn’t read his books. I did. If he’s not a Muslim now, he was at one time, and Islam still considers him to be one …. several Islamic political and religious leaders have said so, including the late Colonel Khadafi. Might want to do a little research, or are you relying on those two old hippies in their California mobile home (Snopes) to do all your thinking for you?

  • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples

    Links to substantiated “tea partiers” wishing death on Mr. Obama or it didn’t happen, just like the bogus catcalls and insults that Nancy Pelosi and the CBC “suffered” that day. If you’ll remember, the late Andrew Breitbart offered a $10,000 reward to anyone able to show that racial slurs were hurled by anyone that day. That money is still available!

  • TheBCow

    Very true, somehow I have managed to have attended an SDA high school and a (technically) Baptist university and never been accused of being a secret Branch Davidian or Dominionist. Yet, oddly, a Muslim friend of mine who also attended the same Baptist college doesn’t get the privilege associated with assumed “Christianess” from paranoid wingnuts.

    I’m sure this has nothing to do with our respective ethnicities, I have it on very good authority that these people are not racist. And really, if you can’t trust a man circling the Oregon State Capitol in a Winnebago covered in slogans calling Obama “Monkey Mind” while wearing a tri-corner hat, who can you trust?.

    (edited for grammar, probably unsuccessfully)

  • Veleda_k


    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/20/jules-manson-obama_n_1161044.html (More detailed coverage of the story in the first link, but I figured I’d link to CNN.)


    http://www.wistv.com/story/15253135/sumter-tea-party-chair-jokes-on-facebook-about-killing-obamas (In before “Waaaah it was a joke.” A joke about killing the president, continuing in the fine tradition of her compatriots.)

    Also, I notice that you didn’t contest my other two claims.

  • Nordog6561

    You would make George Orwell so proud.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam
  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’m not a very good minion.

    I already drank all the tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    including the late Colonel Khadafi


    You actually believe a person who’s trashed the USA on more than one occasion, is thought to have been implicated in the Lockerbie bombing, and has been a general all around decidedly not really trustworthy guy?

    Oh but wait he ran his mouth about Obama, so all of a sudden anything he says is 100% legit.

    God, people like you are sad freakin’ sacks if you’ll sink as low as that dude to muster up support for your claims.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    And going back to the 1990s, Jesse Helms neared to an actionable threat against the then President Clinton by “warning” him that he should “have a bodyguard” if he ever “came down to North Carolina”.


    I know of no similarly actionable threat made against Reagan, Bush Senior, or Bush Junior from a Congressional official.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    Yeah, how dare someone rely on verified facts when bullshit helps support your prejudices?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    So who’s performing those abortions then, if the doctors who perform them are not “actual” medical experts?

    You still haven’t told me what penalty you think a woman should face for having an abortion.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    So…. A state licensed and accredited medical doctor with a medical degree only counts as a “real” doctor if they allow the opinion of you to trump their medical training?

    Also, you still haven’t answered the question. What penalty shoudl a woman get if she has an abortion?

  • EdinburghEye

    Random! But thank you. Great man, Orwell.

  • Veleda_k

    I’ll settle for discount minions.

    I just like saying “minions.”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    So you find Colonel Khadafi a reputable source. I’ll keep that in mind.

  • http://www.BR-549.com Junior Samples

    I employ the man and have all the standing in the world to question any and all facets of his life, character, actions and faith or anything else. If you’re not an American, then yes, you have little or no standing, but I and my fellow 320 million Americans sure do. PERIOD.

  • Dean Jameson

    “Employing” someone (which is a dubious claim, in this case) is not a license to question their statement of faith.

  • Jennifer

    While I understand where you are coming from and in fact agree with some of your sentiments, your words are filled with the same judgement and hate that Jesus does not represent. While the actions of many of these folks speak loudly, we still do not know of their spiritual journey nor their personal relationship with Christ. This is why there is only one judge. I think your efforts would be better put into prayer for them than condescending words. We are all broken, yet still loved unconditionally by Jesus. Do some Christians give a bad name to Christianity and Jesus, perhaps putting off many in the world? Sure. It is still our command to love them, pray for them, and pray that God can still use them in some way for His glory. No one is out of the reach of His loving grasp.

  • Jennifer


  • AnonaMiss

    If this article were about people without a following, it would be hateful, unnecessary, and unChristlike.

    But this article is about a group of bad shepherds, people who seek to lead Jesus’s flocks into bogs and over cliffs, in order to collect on the insurance. It is true that the Lord will see to their ultimate fate, but in the meantime, we can raise a great bleating and perhaps save some of our flock from their machinations.

  • Markas

    Wow, it takes a really self-righteous person to write these words! And I suppose YOUR brand of Christianity is the BEST one. You pray at night “Lord, I thank you that I am not like THOSE Christians.” You are a hypocrite, and in need of just as much grace as anyone in this picture. I pray a little humility will shatter your world.