Or, if you prefer the Pauline formulation, “love is the fulfillment of the law.” Rules? Rules serve love, not the other way around.
The “he” there is Donald Trump, the 2016 Republican nominee for president. And “all those things” are an astonishing collection of racist, misogynist, false, ignorant, destructive, hateful, dangerous, reckless, evil, nasty, oafish, brutish nonsense.
During the next five months, every faithfully Republican American voter is going to have to decide if they really want to embrace and endorse “all those things” in November. They will each have to decide if they want to identify with and identify as all those things.
• Here’s a picture of Muhammad Ali and Billy Graham, from 1979, before the same awful disease had changed the appearance of both of these American cultural icons.
That pic comes from Paul Harvey’s terrific piece, “When Muhammad Ali Met Billy Graham.” The Greatest, like so many others, paid a visit to the famous evangelist’s home in Montreat, North Carolina. They hit it off. Ali said that “if I was a Christian, I would want to be a Christian like him.” Graham said “Ali’s primary beliefs are something we could all believe.”
As Harvey notes, times have changed. Grahams have changed. White evangelicalism has changed.Franklin Graham is a viciously anti-Muslim Trumpist culture-warrior. He would denounce anyone today who would say that “Ali’s primary beliefs” — his faith, his views on racism and justice and Vietnam — were acceptable beliefs for anyone.
And that’s a huge part of why no one, anywhere, would today look at Franklin Graham or his adoring fans and say, “If I was a Christian, I would want to be a Christian like them.”
• Related: Franklin is apparently upset that Bella Abzug isn’t speaking up for the rights of women in Islamic countries. She’s been conspicuously silent on that topic ever since her death 18 years ago.
Graham also criticized Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton for their alleged silence on women’s rights around the world. I’ll just note that Graham’s friends in the religious right weren’t themselves silent when Hillary Clinton forcefully addressed the very concerns he’s talking about in a speech at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing. That speech was direct-mail fundraising fodder for the culture-warriors of the religious right for months afterward. White “Christian” talk radio hosts warned that Hillary was involved in some globalist U.N. conspiracy to impose feminism, often name-checking Steinem and Abzug because, like Graham, these were the only other feminist figures they could think of.
• For the record, I stand by my contention that the character of Elihu in the book of Job is a proto-Calvinist. His monologue (chapters 34-37) blasts Job for daring to declare himself innocent and righteous, arguing that Job, like everyone, has earned suffering, punishment and the wrath of a holy God. His argument reads like something straight out of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” or John Piper’s Twitter feed.
And Job doesn’t offer any rebuttal to that. Instead, the next line of the play comes directly from God: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” OK, then.
• I’m feeling thankful for the small things today.