Forced Marriages: What Franklin Graham Is Wrong About Today
I thought I had seen it all, and then today came.
The Fundamentalist Pope, Franklin Graham, is praising Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza for FORCING people to get married.
Yes, that’s right– forced marriage.
President Nkurunziza is a professing Christian who is serving a questionable third term as president of Burundi, and has now ordered any couple living together to get married by the end of year, or else.
We’re not exactly sure what the “or else” means, but according to one person quoted by the BBC article Franklin Graham shared on Facebook, government officials have told him that he and his girlfriend face a fine, and that any children they have outside of marriage will not be eligible for medical care or public education.
Of course, Franklin Graham is praising this idea. In his post he says:
“In a world that has lost its moral compass, here’s a president who is trying to make a difference. Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is a Christian. The world may scorn and laugh at him, but he knows that God’s ways are always in the best interest of individuals, of families, and of nations. Let’s pray for him and his efforts to promote morality in Burundi.
The Bible tell us, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ (Proverbs 14:34)”
The key area where I disagree with Graham is the notion that the world will laugh about this– they’re not.
Nothing about forcing people to get married is funny. Nothing about taking medical care away from children because their parents are not married is funny. Nothing about a child being refused an education because the marital status of their parents is funny.
None of this is funny.
Not even a little.
It’s one thing to promote one’s version of sexual morality or marriage in a context of free speech, the competition of ideas, persuasion, etc., but it’s entirely another to make one’s views into law and force that on other people. While there are many reasons this is morally wrong, the biggest reason is the fact that all laws are enforced by violence or the threat of violence. This means that when one legislates their own religious views into law, they are violently forcing their views upon others– and nothing about that is good, right, moral, or Christian.
Taking healthcare away from a child who may get sick and die, is an incredibly violent act.
Taking education away from a child, potentially dooming them to a life of poverty or exploitation, is an incredibly violent act.
Fining someone who is already impoverished, is an incredibly violent act.
NONE of this reflects the way of Jesus. Never once does Jesus tell his followers to take over all the governments of the world, establish theocracies, and punish those who don’t live by whatever moral code is established. That’s not how Jesus works.
While horrific violence against children such as this can be clothed in lofty concepts of “bringing morality to culture” etc., the reality is that this approach is functionally the same approach as ISIS or the Taliban: “God’s ways are best, culture needs to be moralized, and we will use violence to bring you into compliance with our religious views.”
Pierre Nkurunziza’s approach to increasing marriage rates in his country is not just wrong, but violently wrong.
And supporting the enshrinement of your personal values into law so that you can violently force others to live by them, punishing children if the parents do not comply?
Well, that’s what Franklin Graham is wrong about today.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.