A few days earlier, he’d declared “If those claiming the name progressive are allowed to have their way, we won’t even recognize this nation in a very short time.” The son of the evangelist, he now runs both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade and the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. His Facebook page has almost ten million followers.
That post and tweet were more his usual line. The president serves the good, his opponents serve the bad. When Christianity Today, the major American Evangelical journal, supported (surprisingly) convicting the president after he’d been impeached, Graham dismissed the editorial by saying the editors “would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”
After the riot, he took a different line, asking, like so many other chastened Trump supporters, for unity: “I am deeply saddened by what took place in our nation’s capital today. Our country is in trouble. We need God’s healing and we need God’s help. Pray for peace and the protection of our nation. Let’s come together — on our knees.”
The next morning, again like so many other chastened Trump supporters, Graham took the faults-on-both-sides line. He declared that “The division in our country is as great as any time since the Civil War,” and blamed both parties for it, asking “that everyone will stop the finger-pointing.” He even asked Americans to pray for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. In a follow-up post, he asked the president to invite them to the White House “to begin the healing.”
I think he’s sincere, even if his new moderation is convenient and politically necessary. Sincerity under duress doesn’t mean a great deal, but it’s something.
It’s the first post that interests me, though, the one he put up before the riots forced him to take a different line. I’d agree that the sins of our nation are great, but then I think that’s always true, and Graham thinks it true now but not true of an earlier America.
It would be interesting to know which America he thinks the best America. I’m guessing the 1950s, seen as the world of Leave It to Beaver. Maybe that’s unfair, but I don’t think so. You have to guess from the things in the world today he hates and the general nature of Evangelical nostalgia.
It’s not an unreasonable idea, Graham’s claim that God will judge America for its sins. In the Old Testament, God speaks mainly of nations, not of individuals. He blesses and punishes nations as a whole. When Israel in general stopped following Him, off into exile they all went, the godly (like Daniel) with the ungodly. Catholics tend not to think in these terms, the way Evangelicals do, but they’re not unreasonable. What they tend to be, though, is selective and politicized.
Because what are the sins of a nation? Why are the sins of today, whatever they are, worse now than before? I assume he means by sins that are “a stench in the nostrils of our Creator,” abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. Those are the sins he talks about. Let’s stipulate (for my purposes here) that he’s right about those. Why are they worse than the sins of the past?
Like the Jim Crow society of the south? And its equivalent in the rest of the country, like redlining, which kept black people in certain neighborhoods? Like an American foreign policy that waged an undeclared war on other countries to make them do what we wanted? That included assassinating leaders (aka murder) and overthrowing governments?
An economy that idealized exploitation, and that promoted the grossest materialism? A society that secularized Christianity. Especially by making Christmas into propaganda for acquisition and a way to make more money? That is, a society that worshiped wealth. I could easily go on with other examples.
While we’re at it, why assume that the sins for which God will judge a nation is that kind of systemic or general sin? Why won’t he judge a people for all the acts of hatred, cruelty, indifference, lust, deceitfulness, selfishness, etc.? The accumulation of the sins of 330 million people, all of us sinners, and if the saints are to be believed, usually much worse sinners than we realize, must stink to high heaven.
And while we’re at it number two, why assume that the sins for which God will judge us don’t include the identification of Christianity and the Gospel with one political vision and even with a single politician? Might God not be angry to see American religious leaders invoking His name to not only to justify but to energize their politics, to use Him against their opponents?
I can easily believe that God will judge America for its, for our, sins. But I’m thinking those sins are more likely not to be the ones Franklin and his peers denounce. We’re more likely to be people on God’s left hand, to whom He says: “Go far from me, you that are accursed, into that eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you never gave me food, I was thirsty, and you never gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you did not bring me home, I was naked, and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison, and you did not care for me.”
David Mills is the senior editor (US). His previous article was Which ‘Sins of the Nation,’ Franklin Graham?.
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