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Franklin Graham and the Twisting of Evangelical Integrity

January 20, 2018

I’m not saying Rev. Graham caused or has even led the “pretzelization” of Evangelicals’ integrity. Nor that integrity has disappeared completely in every quarter of Evangelicalism. The many, many Evangelicals who have become “emerging” church members or otherwise more progressive or consistent is one sign there are open, thinking people who seek to be integrous among Evangelicals.

 

I’d been thinking about a quick post on the ongoing frustration of the blindness of Evangelicals to the reality of Donald Trump and the damage of his presidency to our country.  Then this morning, I saw an interview of Franklin Graham by Alex Witt on MSNBC Live. (If you happen to be a Fox News lover and distrustful of the more liberal MSNBC, realize Graham was allowed to speak freely and was not stifled or “trapped” in unfair questions. He got to fully express his views with a generous amount of time and he didn’t seem frustrated with the interview.)

Given what I’ve just seen, I’ve decided to feature the particularly egregious example of  Graham since he is head of two large Evangelical institutions.  He also carries much of the influence of his more famous father, Billy Graham.  Sadly, his lack of clear thinking and consistency is mind boggling. (To see it yourself, a Google or YouTube search should soon show it readily… I can’t find it yet this soon to give a link.)

Among the several points that seem clearly and completely out of integrity with Evangelical theology per my decades-long knowledge of it and its stated values are these:

  1. It doesn’t really matter about Trump’s personal morality or ethics, because he is supportive of Evangelicals and is “pro-life”. (Graham did admit Trump’s, and his own imperfections, but that was about all in this interview.)
  2. It doesn’t matter what type of characters Trump associates himself with (going against numerous warnings in Proverbs and Paul’s writings in the Bible).
  3. There is little, if any, spiritual or wisdom-based evaluation about how financial prosperity for the country is attained. Graham’s apparent short-sightedness regarding the grave humanitarian effects and longer-term financial woes of poorly-thought-out deregulation, denial of climate change, unwise and isolationist trade policy choices, etc. is appalling.

One of the most shocking reasons Graham gave for minimizing the importance of Trump’s moral lapses is that he will give him the “benefit of the doubt” (not his exact words) on his denials.  He seems to believe the denials of apparently whatever Trump decides to deny.  He didn’t make a blanket statement but he didn’t cite any exceptions or doubts either.  Rather, he said Trump had been honest with him, that he could be counted on to do what he says.  For the record, Trump can’t be!… Anyone watching at all and “keeping score” has seen this repeatedly, though he is dogged on a few things, particularly some of his most un-Christlike and sometimes unconstitutional policies (e.g., “Muslim ban”, etc.).

I could go on with analysis about just why Graham and so many other Evangelical leaders as well as lay people have this massive blind spot and nearly complete disengagement of thinking faculties, but for now, I just wanted to point out the interview, provoke at least a little thought.

One step further: I encourage the polite and civil engagement of those of us who have Christian affiliations or commitments with this kind of Evangelical thinking.  Not to approach it as debate, but concerned and open questioning… a search for the deeper issues driving this manner of political behavior.

This could well prove insightful for both parties. No name-calling! (Note, I’ve used “blindness”, lack of integrity and such as descriptors for statements and positions I’ve identified but I’ve purposely not labeled Graham with derogatory names, and seek not to with others who I may adamantly disagree with.)  And try, as I have here, not to overstate an opponent’s position and create a “straw man” to knock down… another sloppy form of thinking or seeking to dialog.    

And please offer any insights or encouragements here, for those of us who are dismayed, even if we partially understand, how so many are so enthralled with a man who had no business or sensibility in getting elected to the office of our presidency, and continues to prove it.

 

4 Comments leave one →
  1. hoju1959 permalink
    February 1, 2018 12:58 pm

    Howard, I think Evangelicals who love Trump love him for several reason. One, he is against abortion. Two, he isn’t Hillary. They are distrustful of politicians.” Whatever else you can say about trump, he’s not a politician. He has not conception of political correctness, which I kind of like in some ways.

    • February 14, 2018 11:08 pm

      I forgot to reply to your comment, sorry. Good observations. I think Trump is purposely anti-political-correctness. While he is not “political” in one sense, he does have a keen sense of what pushes the buttons (positively for him) of his base supporters. He doesn’t seem to care about expanding that 30-40% any further. But people mistake that kind of unfiltered (and often very crass or insulting) expression for “genuineness” or “honesty”.

      In terms of truth-telling, we have never seen any high elected official, let alone a president, make so many patently false statements … not just mistakes or exaggerations but generally blatant falsehoods, easily shown to be so. This alone, apart from so many other problems, should make Evangelicals remove their support. He has and provides no basis for ethics, morality, compassion.

  2. Robert Jensen permalink
    April 26, 2018 7:57 am

    Why this Evangelical voted enthusiastically for the Donald:
    On the subject of truth-telling,there is a difference between being a BS-artist and being a political grifter with a secret agenda. Say what you want about Trump the obvious BS-artist, he doesn’t crave money through politics, i.e., he doesn’t need the money that the Clintons and Obamas sought through political dealings. Nor does he appear to hate his country (Obama) or seek to sell it out to our nation’s most dangerous enemies (in the case of Bill and Hillary — China and Russia, among others).
    Further, the problem with American Leftism (we cannot call it Liberalism anymore), is that it has appropriated as its governing ethos a secular sort of Christianity — “All you need is love, la, la, la…” — and seeks to impose it, sans the Gospel, on the population through the administrative state. It’s a perverse reading of the First Amendment that agitates for separation-of-church-and state and then imposes its own brand of theocratic government under the guise of freedom, equality, justice and secularism. Talk about irony. Leftists stand against freedom, against equality as our Founders understood it, and consequently against justice. George Orwell, we need you now.

    • April 27, 2018 1:09 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Robert.

      There are a number of “layers” as to what you raise for potential discussion. For now, I’ll defer most of that for the sake of emphasizing primarily the direction and process of moving toward solutions to problems and finding the common ground any two (or many more) of us may share to build upon. Finding common ground requires some mutual listening and open exploring. I’m getting involved more, gradually as I have time, in efforts of this nature… “dialog across diversity”, including face-to-face via Meetup groups. Tied to this is both the faith realm and the governance realm for me. On the latter, I strongly believe the best long-range path forward is in pursing the “transpartisan” movement and related efforts such as that described and promoted in depth via Voice of the People (www.vop.org) and Bridge Alliance (www.BridgeAlliance.us). This approach has the strong prospect of producing a much deeper functioning democratic process and finding of “collective wisdom”.

      Our two-party system has become almost fully non-functional and it is a system problem more than the fault of either major party. Yes, on my blog I’ve been more critical of particularly the Evangelical alignment with partisan politics of mainly the Right and of the unqualified (and I believe quite damaging on various levels) Donald Trump. That’s largely because I know it deeply as a former “member”/believer. I continue to interact on a “meeting of the minds” dialog basis with those of differing viewpoints. I acknowledge that I need input from all angles, helping both inform me and expose potential inconsistencies or blind spots. I have actually (as above) had many, many years of involvement with conservatism in both faith and politics, but continue to value differing perspectives, as all of us continue learning life-long (or should be).

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