Most eminent citizens

Most eminent citizens February 27, 2018

The American evangelical preacher and publicity hound Billy Graham died last week age 99. Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported, people were lining up to ‘pay their final respects to a man who reached millions with his message of salvation thorough Jesus Christ.’ A secular reader might wonder what ‘his message of salvation thorough Jesus Christ’ is supposed to mean and why a newspaper refers to it as matter-of-factly as it might to the weather forecast.
But it gets worse.

The Rev Billy Graham, the evangelist and presidential pastor who died this week, will become the fourth private citizen to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, lawmakers announced Thursday.

The fourth? Why? Why him? Why a god-botherer?

The gesture, which is reserved for the country’s “most eminent citizens,” is authorized by a congressional resolution or approved by congressional leadership once permission is given by the person’s family, according to the Architect of the Capitol. It is generally reserved for presidents, lawmakers and soldiers, who lie in state.

Speaker Paul D Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, wrote a letter to Mr Graham’s son, the Rev Franklin Graham, on Thursday asking that “Americans have this opportunity to pay their respects to Rev. Graham” for his “long and distinguished service to the nation.”

Well, that’s why, I guess – part of the Trumpist coup. No more separation of church and state, folks! Compulsory state religion will be the new normal.
Mr Graham will lie in honor for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, Mr Ryan said in a news release. His pine plywood coffin with a wooden cross was made by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said.
Ah slave labour; that’s a nice touch. So poetic, so American.
Mr Ryan and Mr McConnell will hold a bicameral service after the arrival of the coffin. Votes in the House were canceled for the two days Mr. Graham’s body will be in the rotunda, with final votes for the week being held Tuesday, the office of the House majority leader said.
So not just the corpse lying in state but also suspending legislation for two days, simply because a far-right homophobic racist preacher died at the age of 99. You couldn’t make it up.
Why Billy Graham? Why him more than any other Bible-basher?
Three words: William Randolph Hearst.
Graham was putting on a “crusade” in Los Angeles in 1949 but the crowds were thin and he was discouraged. One night a horde of reporters descended on him and he was afraid they had found some source of scandal. But no: it was the miracle of Publicity:

“You have just been kissed by William Randolph Hearst,” one reporter told the young preacher, showing Graham a two-word telegram sent by the newspaper magnate to his ink-stained scribes. It said, simply, “Puff Graham.”

Within days, headlines in Hearst papers, the country’s largest chain, trumpeted the “new tide of faith” turning under the big tent in Los Angeles.

Newspapers across the country ran front-page stories about the conversions of Hamblen, Olympic runner Louis Zamperini and former mobster J Arthur Vaus.

Other media soon joined the countrywide “amen corner.”

It’s all a big joke, because Hearst was neither goddy nor moral, but then neither is Donald Trump and that doesn’t stop him flinging around oily words about prayer and “faith.” After that Billy Graham never looked back.
He wasn’t one of your barefoot preacher types, either. He made friends with Richard Nixon, the communist-sniffing senator and then vice-president. He flattered and sucked up to Eisenhower and convinced him to institute the revolting “National Prayer Breakfast” we’re still cursed with every year.

Graham, left, praying with Nixon
The conservative columnist George Will sees Graham more clearly than many to the left of him, or at least feels more free to say so:

Graham’s dealings with presidents mixed vanity and naivete. In 1952, he said he wanted to meet with all the candidates “to give them the moral side of the thing.” He was 33. He applied flattery with a trowel, comparing Dwight Eisenhower’s first foreign policy speech to the Sermon on the Mount and calling Richard Nixon “the most able and the best trained man for the job probably in American history.” He told Nixon that God had given him, Nixon, “supernatural wisdom.” Graham should have heeded the psalmist’s warning about putting one’s faith in princes.

On Feb 1, 1972, unaware of Nixon’s Oval Office taping system, when Nixon ranted about how Jews “totally dominated” the media, Graham said, “This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country is going down the drain.” He also told Nixon that Jews are the ones “putting out the pornographic stuff.” One can reasonably acquit Graham of anti-Semitism only by convicting him of toadying. When Graham read transcripts of Nixon conspiring to cover up crimes, Graham said that what “shook me most” was Nixon’s vulgar language.

Graham also poisoned the lives of many people who had the theological impudence to be attracted to their own sex. Bob Moser at Rolling Stone describes his experience of “conversion” and shame:

One morning in November, the local paper was open on the kitchen table when I went down to breakfast, turned to Graham’s syndicated column, “My Answer.” The headline was certainly eye-catching: “Homosexual Perversion a Sin That’s Never Right.” That day’s question had come from a budding lesbian: “I’m a girl, and I love another girl!” wrote “M.D.” “However, I am worried about my Christian life. My attention has been called to I Corinthians 6:9 [Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men … will inherit the kingdom of God] Please help.”

Graham was happy to help. “Let me say this loud and clear!” he wrote. “We traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare. Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected, and you will be judged by God’s holy standards.” But there was hope! “You don’t have to succumb to this insidious temptation,” Graham wrote. “Reformation” is possible, he said. “Seize it while there’s still a chance.”

I have never known despair greater than I felt, reading those words. I had already tried to seize salvation, and it had eluded me. I would torment myself for another 20 years trying to find it, trying to “reform,” dating women, attempting suicide, never quite able to shake the voice of Billy Graham promising me eternal damnation, even after I knew it was all a lie. Graham wasn’t given to ranting about particular kinds of sins and sinners like Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. So when he was quoted elsewhere calling homosexuality “perversion that leads to death,” it was no small thing for all of us confused kids out there.

This was the voice of God on Earth, America’s White Jesus, telling our parents that they were right to worry – and, if needed, to beat the gayness out of their child for the sake of his or her soul, or (worse) send them to “conversion therapy.” And the voice was telling us that our loves and desires would, if pursued, land us in hell for eternity.

Yet he’s being given the send-off of a national hero. I object.

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  • Gaurav Tyagi

    Good write-up Ophelia. The American administration is certainly going over-board by making Billy Graham ‘lie in honor’ in Capitol Rotunda probably because Billy Graham had a Honors Degree in lying.

  • Rob Andrews

    To keep a few suckers around there’s preachers
    Outrageous and rubbish spewing creatures
    To attract some attention
    Nothings too stupid to mention
    Religion on any sort , isn’t one of their features
    This helps explain the dogmatic schnooks
    Who explain everything taken from books
    Those brain dead monkeys
    Become submissive flunkies
    Of passionate manipulative crooks.

  • Rob Andrews

    @Gaurav Tyagi:
    Yeah…That was a good one!

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    Thanks Rob. The poem which you composed is an excellent one 🙂

  • RussellW

    I wonder how wealthy he was, evangelism is usually a nice little earner.

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    The day governments around the world start imposing corporate rate taxes on all religious institutions, places of worship and preachers, more than half of them would shut their so called ‘soul saving’ businesses.

  • RussellW

    Agreed, my estimate is about 95%.

  • Henri

    Graham made money. Lots of money. By promising the impossible to fools. A scam on a colossal scale. Hence Trump’s interest. Oh, and Trump will get approbation for letting Graham Lie in State as he did all his life.

  • Henri

    Pity Elon Musk didn’t have the chance to launch Graham’s horrid carcass into space to wander the heavens for ever and ever. Amen and good riddance.
    All sing … “There’s a con man floating in the sky. I know he’d like to fleece us …”

  • Getting rid of the carcass would have been leaving it much too late. Getting rid of his malign influence was the real need, and rockets aren’t much good at that.

  • andym

    He’s another example of the deference even the non-religious give to religion. Who in the secular world could be so homophobic, and be recorded making anti-semetic statements , and still have a reputation left at all, never mind get the fawning obituaries he did?

  • G Zimmermann

    I recall as a gullible, simple-minded teenager in the 60s, I went up to give my life to Jesus at one of this charlatan’s preaching episodes in London’s Earls Court. I was given one of his books to read that warned against the insurmountable evils of this world – especially the atheist communist block. He said the only solution was that soon Jesus would return as promised. I prayed to god/jesus not to come just yet because I wanted to live my life. My prayer was answered (the only one if I recall correctly). The book caused me to sink into depression. Only later did I develop a brain and realised in time what a load of tosh it all was.

  • Henri

    Two evil fucking conmen in the White House at the same time. Pity they werent both dead at the time.

  • Rob Andrews

    “Christ died for MY sins”. I hate hearing that!
    why should someone else get punished for YOUR wrongdoings? This is vicarious punishment. It’s even worse in some versions of Christianity when it’s said the Christ redeemed us from “the sin of Adam and Eve”
    Why do I need redeeming from a wrong when I wasn’t even there , to begin with!

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    All religions thrive on meek, submissive herd of followers who lack courage of questioning and changing the status quo. Religion was invented to keep masses in control so, that Kings and their partners-in-crime the priests could fatten their asses without doing any meaningful work.

  • I. Flook

    This man is a crook and has no business telling people how to live their lives. He got the place of a soldier for burial because of Trump who is another sicko.

  • Cali Ron

    Ophelia : Excellent article. It is the first one other than one in my local paper I read when he first died. I didn’t read any others because I knew that it would really get my Irish up and my life already has way too much drama. It makes me so mad how not only Evangelicals, but even the media have put this opportunistic con man on a pedestal when he deserved to be put in a jail for all the people he deluded and robbed.

  • barriejohn

    The photograph is from Graham’s 1970 Crusade at Knoxville, Tennessee. Graham was so infatuated with Nixon (who allowed him to sit in on Oval Office meetings, and offered him a post as ambassador to Israel) that he was very nearly wetting his pants when the president accepted his invitation to not only attend the crusade but ADDRESS IT AS WELL. Couldn’t he see what was coming? There were protests, and the lying bastard was booed, resulting, of course, in arrests, some being pursued after the event using photographs taken on the day! I used to be an evangelical Christian, and in my view Billy Graham was a child in a man’s world. He was naive and simple-minded beyond belief, and his only answer to any question was: “You need to give your life to Christ”. How he attracted such widespread respect I have no idea.

  • Broga

    barriejohn: The attraction of Graham’s response to any question is that it means that lazy, ignorant, con men (and women) can be regarded as experts without the hard work of getting degrees or other qualifications.
    I remember becoming embroiled in a discussion years ago accompanied by my daughter with some pushy, proselytising Christians. After a time the argument became mainly between a Christian and my daughter with the others as spectators. When my daughter had him unable to respond I was curious about what he would do. His response was, “You got that out of a book.” His supporters applauded. Apparently knowledge from reading was not accepted as valid.

  • barriejohn

    Broga: That made me laugh! Have you ever come across Cliffe Knechtle? He holds “debates” with students on campus in the USA, and delights in tying them in knots with his carefully prepared arguments, which sound really convincing upon first sight but have as many holes as a colander when examined more closely. Of course, most students haven’t debated the issues in much depth before, and have no answer to him, but here’s one who has definitely read some of them there books, and demolishes his argument (though Knechtle doesn’t show that in his own video of the exchange!):

  • Thanks Cali Ron! I know the feeling – all that fawning over Graham made me feel ill.

  • barriejohn

    Here is a fascinating article about Graham, evangelicals, fundamentalism, End Times, politics, Republicanism, and Trump, etc!