Conservative is Just a Code Word for “Godlessness”

Conservative is Just a Code Word for “Godlessness” July 2, 2018

I could have simply called this post “Franklin Graham is a liar” but I wanted something that was less obvious, more specific, as well as more likely to be obviously applicable when someone else at a later point is making the same dishonest and indeed libelous assertions.

What I am referring to is the fact that Franklin Graham has said that progressives and liberals aren’t Christians, and that these terms are simply a “code word for godlessness.”

The irony, of course, is that it is much easier to say that the reverse is true – that it is the conservative who have consistently been on the side of those who exclude, reject, and condemn those that godly prophetic voices defended and sought to uplift and include. It would be better, however, to not pretend that liberal or conservative automatically equates to “godliness” or to anything else. It depends what traditional stance one is defending and seeking to preserve, or advocating for the abolition of.

In this vein, Steve Wiggins wrote quite aptly:

Journalists seem to only now be catching on to the fact that “conservative” is a codeword for misogyny. Thus it has always been. The fact that it would take nearly two millennia before women could take leadership roles in Christianity (and in some very large sects they still can’t) should’ve been a hint. It’s the old frog in the slowly heating kettle thing. Nobody notices until it’s too late. Since conservative Christianity has always downplayed the worth of women, it didn’t come to public notice until the #MeToo moment. Enough women had to speak up before society took notice of the obvious. Many men feel theologically entitled. Entitled to run things, and they live by the lie that things haven’t changed since Jesus strolled out of that garden tomb a couple thousand years ago. Well, apart from the fact that men no longer wear dresses and keep their hair short, in Roman style. But let’s not call it that, let’s say Evangelical style.

You see, the way you say things matters. Said a certain way, a misrepresentation of the truth is called a lie. It’s considered one of the greatest sins possible in the conservative lexicon. In another way, however, the same statement becomes doctrine, and that’s a whole different way of looking at things. Make it the fault of the Big Guy up there and the other big guys down here are off the hook. After all, the Almighty’s a bachelor. Such a theology has no possibility of treating women equally. Theologians say God is sexless. What’s that like? We have trouble imagining it. English has no neuter gender so we use the masculine pronoun and once we do thoughts go back to sexual features. It’s deeply ingrained. That doesn’t mean it’s the truth, however.

And in another place, Steve wrote:

Back in the days before leopards could change their spots, evangelical Christians tended to say that Jesus came to free them from the law. It seems that what they really meant was that Jesus came to allow them to cherry-pick the parts of the law that make the best cudgels against those they don’t like. Those who actually read the Bible know that it can generally be used to support either side of most arguments…Even Jesus said so. But let’s not talk about that—we’re too busy trying to pry children from their mother’s arms. Doesn’t the Bible say Rachel can’t be consoled because she’s lost her children?

That which is most holy is most horrible when it’s profaned. The Bible can hardly be called “holy” when found in the mouth of habitual liars…Separating families because it’s the law is robbing Peter to pay Paul, then blaming Thomas. Sanders, Sessions, and their ilk pander to the biblically illiterate who like the sound of the phrase, “the Bible says.” Prooftexting, as anyone who takes the Bible seriously learns the first day of class, is cheating…

See also the Commonweal article challenging Trump’s Christian apologists, and Hemant Mehta on the Southern Baptist pastor who described social justice as evil! The following are also relevant:

Franklin Graham: “Progressive” is Just a Code Word for “Godlessness”

CALIFORNIA: Franklin Graham Launches Primary Tour To Take Back The State From The “Godless” [VIDEO]

Franklin Graham: America Needs A Christian Revolution

Why Franklin Graham Had Better Hope That Progressive Christians Were Right About Hell

Southern Baptist Convention To Consider Dallas Annual Meeting Resolution Denouncing “Social Justice Activism”


Jesus, the Artist: Man Can Corrupt Religion, Not Art.

A too-limited understanding of the Church universal leads us to mistake one version of the faith—usually our own—for Christianity itself:

Dear Millennials and Nones, Meet the Rest of the Family

Libby Anne blogged about the fact that conservative Evangelicals have become associated with an anti-refugee stance.

It’s time for Progressive Christianity.

Christ Is Our Authority [Not The Bible]

This older post of mine may be relevant:

Getting Back to Biblical Principles

And as further illustration of Graham’s hypocrisy:

"How is climate science about redistributing wealth?"

Not Liberal, Just Literate
"Nothing exists or has existed that contradicts my theory, unless you can produce photographs, and ..."

Mythicism, Isnads, and Pseudepigrapha
"You seem to misunderstand that it is not climate change that is the cause of ..."

Not Liberal, Just Literate
"and you making a science discussion a religious one is what? When you will not ..."

Not Liberal, Just Literate

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  • Nick G

    After all, the Almighty’s a bachelor.

    Rather, a divorcé, if the claims that Yahweh was once Asherah’s hubby are correct!

  • I have come to think of Matt 19:24 as saying:

    “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a conservative to enter into the kingdom of God.”

    I’m thinking that Jesus was not nearly as concerned about people’s bank accounts as he was about their attitudes toward their neighbors.

    • Bald Humanist

      You just need to make a big enough needle.

    • Just keep thinking………..maybe you’ll get it eventually- or not.

    • profwatson

      squirrely comment, just nuts.

    • The point is you can’t build a theology on “everyone except the Pharaoh has a license from God to kill people” – hence “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” because by being Abrahamic you are guilty of high treason against God, King and Country.

    • Obscurely

      People always leave out the next two verses — “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:25-26)

      • Jesusisdemocrat

        No, those that are greedy love to add those.

        • Obscurely

          ??? — explain please?

          • Jesusisdemocrat

            I only meant that I have heard some such as Pat Robertson justify their lifestyle by that. I am very sorry that my comment came across as thoughtless. I need to pay more heed to my responses. God bless.

          • Obscurely

            No harm, no foul brother! any scripture can be abused (looking at you, Jeff Sessions), but that doesn’t change its eternal truth …

      • Realist1234

        I think the disciples, in their mind, believed if anyone was to be saved it would be those in power and the rich, as it was commonly thought such people were ‘blessed’. So they were basically asking, if even they cant be saved, what about the rest of us?!

        And Jesus reiterated it is God who saves.

    • Scott

      I’m a conservative and care deeply about my neighbors. Let’s not try and sterotype.

  • Bald Humanist

    Talk about riding Daddy’s coat tails.

    If he were anyone else’s son, he’d be just another voice of hate among thousands. Marginalized.

    • The Mouse Avenger

      Pardon me, but Franklin Graham is NOTHING like his father.

      • Bald Humanist

        Never said he was..I said he rode on Daddy’s coattails.

      • Nick G

        Oh, I’d say there were considerable resemblances. Both were selling pernicious nonsense to the deluded and the desperate. Both sucked up to the privileged and the powerful. Franklin’s more overtly vile, but basically, he’s a chip off the old block.

      • jh

        This is as someone who went to one of Graham’s prayer meetings when I was younger. Billy was just the polite version of Franklin. What did he do? Oh sure, “he saved a few souls” because nothing says Jesus like saving invisible things for invisible places. He pushed for desegregation in his revivals. But what did he do beyond that? Not much. He didn’t stand with MLK Jr. He didn’t push back against the rising conservative nonsense. He created Franklin in his image. Franklin is the fruit of Billy’s Christianity.

        Remember – it was “if you died tonight, would you know where you are going”. It was fear mongering. Sure he dressed it up but it was fear mongering. Don’t dress up Billy as some saint. He was just a man. A spoiled white boy who rolled in privilege and enjoyed his political associations. He never had to spend one day thinking “What does that black person see when I behave like this?” He never had to look beyond himself. McGrath, the author of this blog, has spent more time looking and understanding that he got lucky being a white man, than Billy boy ever did. Billy boy is the reason we have mega churches and prosperity gospel where white folks pay indulgence tithes and then get to go home and say to the struggling poor and young woman “keep your legs shut” and to the young black boy “All lives matter”.

        If we had a few more McGraths and a lot fewer conservative christians, the US would be a better place for more people.

        (Although I did prefer Billy boy’s revival to Benny Hinn’s nonsense. At that point, I was deconverting and those meetings seemed like obvious scams. Nigerians had better stories.)

    • Ivan T. Errible

      You mean like the Kennedys or Bushes or MLK’s kids who are pathetically dependent on their dad’s name/brand for their lifestyles?

      • Bald Humanist

        Yes and no. It is true the children of famous people often do so. It varies from child to child. Definitely true of Franklin — the subject of this discussion.

  • Gary M

    Many of the perpetrators of the most horrific acts of barbarity committed in the Western World have used the Bible to justify their crimes: the Church’s treatment of Jews; the Crusades; the Inquisition, the brutal conquest of the western hemisphere. You could even add the Holocaust to this list as the Nazi’s convinced the German people that Hitler was saving Christian Europe from godless communists and evil Jews.

    • Josh Blair

      Don’t forget Darwin. He was used too.

      • Josh Blair

        And by the way, Hitler…like most politicians…was a liar.

      • Nick G

        Not directly by Hitler or the Nazis, who preferred vitalists such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain and auto-didact crank cosmogonists such as Hanns Hörbiger, both of whose “theories” are incompatible with Darwin’s ideas. One can trace indirect paths of influence via notions of “social Darwinism” (which Darwin never endorsed), but Nazism’s early development was far more heavily influenced by South German Catholic nationalism (see Derek Hastings’ Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism), and Hitler himself cited Luther as Germany’s greatest antisemite other than himself – many of the measures the Nazis took against Jews can be found in Luther’s On the Jews and their Lies.

      • Good_Samaritan

        By whom are for what?

      • Jesusisdemocrat


  • John MacDonald

    I’m encouraged when certain theologically conservative folks remind me, proof-texting such texts as John 14:6 and Matthew 7:13-14, that I’m going to Hell. As Billy Joel sang: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” lol

  • Josh Blair

    Ironic that you quote the “friendly” atheist who has admitted that the term no longer applies but dishonestly continues to use it.

    • Good_Samaritan

      Ironic how?

  • Progressives can’t be separated from their ideology, period

    • Good_Samaritan

      What is this supposed to mean?

      • Ivan T. Errible


        • Good_Samaritan

          I’m not sure.. clearly it is meant to be an insult, but its just such an idiotic statement that I am trying to figure out what OP actually is trying to say. Progressives are all brainwashed lemmings? Or is he trying to de-humanize progressives, saying that there is just an ideology and no “real” human beings holding it? Does he mean that progressives are ideologically wed to certain positions?

    • Obscurely

      DITTO for conservatives, especially the “Christian” right …

    • Jesusisdemocrat


  • habibbarri

    In 1992 Franklin came with John Wesley White to conduct an evangelistuc crusade in Moncton, NB, Canada. I was the Presbyterian Minister there, and not in favour of crusade evangelism. The Session of the church voted to participate in the crusade. Franklin was billed to speak at the youth night. I went to check out his message. I was horrified when, during his address, he told his listeners that he was into guns. His favourite was a machine gun which he liked to out onto his property to shoot. The last thing Canadian young people needed was a supposed preacher of the Good News of Jesus, exemplifying American gun culture.

    I also object to Samaratin’s Purse. Graham told the Ministers of Moncton in 1992 that he had piloted his private jet to come and speak at a meeting to organise the crusade, at which he also promoted Samaritan’s Purse. That was a red flag to me. Then, when serving as missionary in West Africa, Operation Christmas Child came to our town, without consulting us missionaries, and distributed shoe boxes of cheap Dollar Store toys to the kids. There was also a booklet with the Nativity story in the box. This was utterly inapporpriate. Those Muslim kids had never heard of Christmas, nor had ever had Christmas, or birthday, presents. Many of the toys soon broke. This was not a good representation of Christians and our mission in that town.

    • Ivan T. Errible

      Are there still clergy in Canada? We’d thought you’d outgrown that sort of thing after Quebec got sick of Catholicism.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Why is church so boring?

    • Obscurely

      Trolls are boring!

      • Ivan T. Errible

        But not tax-supported!

        • Obscurely

          Why defend trolls? do you know him?

          • Ivan T. Errible

            It seems to be a pre-condition for religion.

  • jekylldoc

    Given the current confusion over facts and truth-telling, it might be better if terms like “lie” and “liar” were reserved for objectively verifiable falsehoods, rather than mean-spirited distortions which call down the same criticism on their own heads.

    • Obscurely

      Define “objectively verifiable falsehood,” please …

      • jekylldoc

        Objectively verifiable falsehoods include claims like “unemployment is above 20 percent” or “I will disclose my tax returns when the audit is finished” or “I did not have sex with that woman.” Calling someone a liar for alleging that Muslim refugees are a terrorism threat, or for accepting the same thing in Trump that he condemned in Clinton, is debasing the coinage of meaning. Those things may indeed represent attempts to deceive, and may present an untrue picture of the state of things, but we have real, serious problems establishing even basic facts these days. Reference the story of the football coach who falsified video for political reasons and, when confronted about it, asked “what is a fact, anyway?”

  • PedasiPaul

    The contrasting quotes from Franklin Graham about adultery by President Clinton and by President Trump illustrate the double standard from conservative evangelicals. A double standard they refuse to admit. There is no question that we all see hypocrisy more clearly in our opponents than in ourselves.

    • Obscurely

      White evangelicals have a double standard because they’re HUMAN, not because they’re politically conservative — “liberals” who gave Clinton a pass are doing the same thing when they excoriate Trump’s sexual transgressions …

      • PedasiPaul

        I agree. That’s why I stated we all see hypocrisy more clearly in our opponents than in ourselves. On the other hand, evangelicals insisted liberals were wrong in condoning Clinton’s adultery. Apparently that’s a position they can no longer defemd, given the pass they guve to the current adulterer-in-chief.

  • profwatson

    Why the hate?

  • Tiny J

    Politics are about the management of the world (Not part of God’s kingdom). Religion is about disciplining yourself to live in accordance with God’s Plan. If you mix the two, you are wrong.

  • Shawn Willis

    Wait, isn’t the male in charge of your universe a theocratic monarch?

  • Nimblewill

    Am I the only one that sees the irony that you are doing the same thing you accuse him of doing? I’m sick of both sides! Labels only glorify men and never God!

    • You seem to have missed this part of the post: “The irony, of course, is that it is much easier to say that the reverse is true – that it is the conservative who have consistently been on the side of those who exclude, reject, and condemn those that godly prophetic voices defended and sought to uplift and include. It would be better, however, to not pretend that liberal or conservative automatically equates to “godliness” or to anything else. It depends what traditional stance one is defending and seeking to preserve, or advocating for the abolition of.”

      • Nimblewill

        I did. It doesn’t change the fact that we are constantly stabbing each other in the back.

        • What do you mean? Is all criticism of others “stabbing them in the back”? Did Jesus “stab the Pharisees in the back”?

          • Nimblewill

            Jesus wept over the Pharisees. I don’t see a lot of weeping on either side. My statement was a general one and not meant as a “stab” at you. My apologies. Criticism is a must but it must be done in love.

          • Thanks for clarifying what you meant! The big difference between what typifies political conflict in our time (and probably at any time in history), and what Jesus did and called his followers to do, is precisely the lack of weeping over those we criticize, a sure indication that we have failed to adhere to his teaching and recognize that we and they are all fallible human beings, prone to think we are doing right when we are doing wrong, and all in need of mercy and transformation.

      • Scott

        “The irony, of course…” This is interesting. I find irony in your statement. As someone who has a “conservative sensibility” (I identify as a conservative communitarian, a phrase I made up) I am constantly excluded, rejected, and condemned by progressives. Since approximately half of the country is conservative, half of the people are condemned by the left. The phrase “racist sexist, bigot, homophobe are constantly thrown out by the left when they encounter anyone that has a conservative view point. Google the phrase “racist sexist, bigot, homophobe” and be amazed at the result. It’s become part of the lexicon of our lexicon. The left did that.

        • I appreciate your comment greatly. There are a great many Republicans, many fiscal conservatives, many traditionalists in a variety of senses, who are in no way like caricatures and stereotypes offered by their political opponents. I am on the left economically, but I am above all else a Christian and so interested in treating others as I hope to be treated. In calling out Franklin Graham’s dishonesty and hypocrisy, I am offering criticisms that I expect people who disagree with me on poltics and economics, but who are above all else Christians, would also offer.

          • Scott

            It’s possible to be to the left economically, i.e. policy, and be a fiscal conservative. Just as, have we been good stewards with what God has provided us, has the government been a good steward with what we’ve provided it? As an example. We can and should provide universal health care but in a fiscally responsible manner.

  • SeeingClearly

    More people have died in the name of religion than from evil.

    • At first, I thought I would simply respond with “Evidence, please.” But then I realized that the comment above suffers from more problems than just a lack of evidence. It fails to note that “religion” and “evil” are overlapping categories and not and either/or, so that evil can be something associated with religion, or opposition to religion, or have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

    • Obscurely

      Dear SeeingNotSoClearly: your claim is patently FALSE — atheist regimes slaughtered more people in the 20th century (e.g., Nazis, Stalin, Khmer Rouge) in their genocide and wars than religion ever dreamed of doing …


    I thought Communism and Marxism were code words for godlessness.

  • Realist1234

    Sadly Graham appears to be the poster boy of ‘conservative’ Christianity in the US. I would label myself as such, though Im not American.

  • Jesusisdemocrat

    The so-called “Tea-party” hijacked the Republican party, getting rid of traditional Repulicans and trading fiscal conservatism for anything pro-corp. They have spent years in league with “Religious” figures to put men in Congress-men who must past the litmus test of being anti-choice and anti-homosexual. All under the guise of Evangelical Christianity. They are openly critical of the Gospel and prefer to cherr-pick Paul.
    They are not followers of Christ.