Friday, May 7, 2010

Franklin Graham is Frank and Grumpy

Though the unofficial National Day of Prayer (at least in terms of the contested status according to Judge Crabb’s ruling) has passed, the controversy is not over. There is still some resentment towards Obama’s administration for uninviting Franklin Graham to pray at the ceremony held at the Pentagon. Graham Jr. speaks as if his religious liberties have been trampled on or at the very least that Obama is being too soft on Islam. The interview between him, Jon Meacham and Lisa Miller reveals a few traits of his Christian beliefs regarding Islam and more importantly about his beliefs on the relation of religious faith and civil politics.

Graham responds to Meacham’s first question about his divisive speech regarding Islam and the offensive nature of it by saying that if 80% of America identifies as Christian, then he thinks maybe 20% might be offended. Meacham clarifies that he is not offended at his praying in a Christian fashion, but that he is being quite contrary to the message of the National Day of Prayer, to unify various people of faith under the practice of prayer to God (which would include Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Baha’is among a few other minority groups). Graham’s response, initially avoiding the question or trying to seem consistent in affirming that he personally disagrees with Islam, but does not hate the people involved in Islam, concludes by saying that the world doesn’t work how Meacham wants it to; which is how I’d prefer it to be as well: people respectfully disagreeing with each other and not resorting to using hateful speech, even if you are speaking about the religion itself and not the practitioners.

Graham then persists in his argument that Christianity is under attack, which is a thinly veiled attempt to whine about how Christianity isn’t in the spotlight like it was in the 50s. Just because Obama wants to grant Muslims the right to celebrate Ramadan at the Pentagon or has a Jewish Seder at the White House Easter dinner doesn’t mean that his or any other person’s Christian beliefs suffer. Although this whole issue with Graham seems to hinge on his noting that according to Islam, Obama is a Muslim since his father was Muslim (like Judaism in a sense, perhaps). With this in mind, he clarifies that he doesn’t believe the conspiracies that Obama is a secret Muslim and takes the president at his word that he believes in salvation through Jesus Christ; which is more than I can say for a host of other evangelicals and Christians I’ve spoken to over the years since Obama’s become our president.

Graham’s other argument is that since even the Bush administration, the country has been soft on Islam as he views it: that is, a violent and evil religion. I would say it is hardly any more evil than any religion when misused for political gains or intertwining with civil and secular practice in a country that welcomes all religious faiths or lack thereof. And I have no doubt met Muslims on my own campus (though I might not have known they were Muslim) that were quite reasonable people that were not willing to suicide bomb a building to make their point or practice the misogynistic rituals that include genital mutilation of young girls and abuse of spouses for perceived insults or dishonors. And being “soft” on Islam would be not confronting the issue of Islamic terrorism in one form or another or taking on the conflict that has had a resurgence due to the recent South Park episode with Muslim groups pressuring companies to censor their material or remove it from public domain. But the Obama administration to my knowledge is taking the issue as seriously as it can with all the other things on its plate: the economic crisis/recession, the oil spill, and other matters of national security such as the attempted bombing of Time Square just last week. Take the issues as they come and at a reasonable and moderate pace. If you move too slow the enemy may overtake you, but if you move too fast, you may forget to consider that you may be your own worst enemy. Until next time, Namaste, Aloha and happy belated unofficial Day of Reason as well (

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