On Billy Graham’s Full Page Ad

Billy Graham asks, in a full-page ad urging support for candidates who wish to enshrine inequality in marriage, that we “Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back toward God.” That implies that in the past we had our hearts toward God but that at some ill-defined point we turned away.

Which raises the question – when was that? Was it before 1865, when the law of the land and plenty of good Christian churches justified slavery, could find support in the Bible and custom for a person owning another person, for the idea that one race was inherently inferior to another? Is that the time he’d like to go back to?

Or before 1920 when women (except those residing in Wyoming) were not allowed to sully their pretty little hands with the ballot box and the voting paper? Is that when we turned away from the male primacy enshrined in Holy Writ?

Was it maybe before Brown vs. Board of Education, or the Civil Rights Acts, or the Voting Rights Act, when black people were legally separate and never equal, when lynchings and burning crosses were used to reinforce the color line that was “distinctly drawn by Jehovah himself…drawn in nature and in history in such a form as to make it a sin and a crime to undertake to obliterate it?” Should we pray to turn our hearts back to those days?

Perhaps the good Reverend means before the end of the draft, when rich kids could get college deferments and poor kids were sent to war?

Whatever he meant to imply it’s clear that for him and for his ilk, things went seriously off the rails, or “the nation turned against God” when power, previously concentrated in white male heterosexual hands, became diffused, even if ever so slightly, to sectors of society that didn’t resemble him and his concept of the white male heterosexual God (in this view, Jesus is a white male, possibly Episcopalian, not a brown-skinned Jew).

He fails to remember, or would rather you forget, that his past of glorious closeness to God was a time of oppression, of brutalization, and of lynchings. Of union-busting thuggery, voting qualification tests, and of back-street abortions to save the nice young men for the nice young women and from the sluts they knocked up. Of colored entrances and “No Irish Need Apply.” Of Father Coughlin and Jim Crow and Orval Fabus and sweet-looking old ladies who spat in school kids’ faces. This is the America he would return us to, the one where ‘our hearts were turned to God.’

Yes, since the 1970’s there has been extremism and license, but there has also been a succession of hard-won gains for women, for blacks, for youth, for minorities and even a little bit for the gays. And if Reverend Graham, and those who think like him, are to maintain even a scrap of the superiority they yearn to have again, they must stop this last win for America’s less-thans. They have lost so much that it genuinely panics them to lose the last status to which they can cling and from which they can exclude others – the right to have their libidinal and romantic relationships enshrined in law, licenced by their government, and held forth as superior to all others. That is the real reason behind the opposition to marriage equality, as it has been the reason behind the opposition to any equality, gender, race, or ethnic, and that is why Billy Graham is merely the ten-dollar, besuited, version of the five-cent gay-bashing thug.

What the preacher behind the pulpit and the thug with a baseball bat want is exactly the same; they want someone to be superior to, to look down on (in a Christian loving way) and the only easily identifiable vulnerable group they can think of is gay folks.

So don’t be fooled when some rosary-swinging priest, some scripture-thumping pastor, or some torah-waving rabbi wants to have a ‘genuine, loving debate’ over marriage equality, no matter how many biblical tracts he wraps himself in. It’s not about what they say it is; their arguments are collections of threadbare absurdities that fail to conceal the real fear and the real determination to avoid the loss of superiority, to stop being special, and to stop having people to be better than.

In today’s politer society, on television, and from the altar, it doesn’t look always so good to scream insults or commit physical assault on gay folks, so they have the Billy Grahams, the Mitt Romneys, the whole cabal of cassocked hypocrites to march out in front of cameras and voters and tell the most outrageous falsehoods that a child of four would be ashamed to advance.

But don’t forget, they are just the respectable face of the gangs of drunken teens with baseball bats. Don’t forget that ministers of the loving savior have opined that gay kids should be hit, have their limbs broken, or that gay people should be put in concentration camps. Again, these and the bashers are merely the more honest versions of the polite peddlers of prejudice and hatred who are sliming across our screens at the moment.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “On Billy Graham’s Full Page Ad

  1. Néstor

    This is spot on! For the US that is. Here in Canada I’d like to think that we are a little bit more progressive but sadly there are people like Stockwell Day, Stephen Woodworth (who sadly happens to be my MP), and Vic Toews, who spout the same rethoric as Billy Graham. Vic Toews is particularly vicious. He is a of Russian Mennonite stock, born in Paraguay, and a hardline Conservative. He was one of the most vocal opponents to Gay Marriage, meanwhile, his wife of thirty years divorced him after his affair with a younger woman and resulting illegitimate child came to light.

  2. Billy

    There is nothing wrong with conservative views. The fact that they conflict with progressive views and in the case of same-sex marriage, lifestyles, doesn’t make it wrong nor should they be vilified. As I’ve grown older, my former progressive stance has given way to a growing understanding that certain traditions are founded upon moral beliefs that if abided to, can enhance our lives.

    • Well, a couple of points come to mind:

      1) I can vilify what I want on my own blog, and you can disagree or not. I disagree with Mr. Graham and I worry about the threat that he and his followers represent to my full civic equality.

      2) The desire to marry and be with the person one loves isn’t a ‘lifestyle.’

      3) Some traditions are indeed founded on valid morals. Not murdering people for one. Being nice to your slaves is a bit more problematic.

      • Billy

        Well, no one said you cannot vilify those who disagree with your point of view. Certtainly, I and no one can nor should we prohibit you form your point of view just as you might agree, that no one should try to prohibt anyone from expressing opinions which dispute your own. With regards to your point-of-view, you confuse the issue of homosexual sex with love. I don’t dispute that one can love another of the same sex., what I and probably others disagree with is the act of sexualizing that love. And the issue of slavery was at times founded economics. Subsequently, being kind to one’s slaves was not problematic in a society where slavery existed. It would however be problematic in a society, such as our own, where it is illegal.

  3. E. James Duncan

    Only those historically and biblically illiterate would not know that the abolishing of the slave trade and slavery itself in the West was strongly fought for by Evangelical Christians – William Wilberforce being just one prominent example.

    It should not be too surprising that Wilberforce and his allies should have such a strong Christian commitment. Indeed, the opposition to slavery is founded in the Creation account of Genesis. God created a male and female human in His image, and gave humanity dominion over the rest of creation, not over fellow humans (Genesis 1:26–28). And Galatians 3:28 explicitly teaches the foundational equality of human beings in nature.

    This is reinforced in the Mosaic Law, which explicitly prohibits kidnapping and selling others into slavery, ‘Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death,’ (Exodus 21:16). And of course, Moses was the man who God used in His miraculous deliverance of the Israelite nation from bondage in Egypt, commemorated in the great Jewish celebration of the Passover.

    In the Law of Christ, the Apostle Paul lists ‘slave traders’ / ‘menstealers’ (ανδραποδιστής andrapodistēs) with murderers, adulterers, sex offenders, liars and other evil people (1 Timothy 1:10). Paul tells slaves to become free, if they can (1 Corinthians 7:21), and conversely tells free people to not become slaves (1 Corinthians 7:23). When it came to a personal example, he encouraged Philemon to free his escaped slave Onesimus (Philemon 16). Furthermore, he ordered masters to treat their slaves in the ‘same way’ as they were treated, and not to threaten them (Eph. 6:9).

    Such practice would see the end of slavery, and without bloodshed. This indeed happened, as thoroughly documented in Rodney Stark’s book, “For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, and the End of Slavery” (see review, The biblical origins of science). He devoted Ch. 4 to the consistent teachings against slavery.

    Stark documented that even back in the 7th century, Christians publicly opposed slavery. The bishop and apologist Anselm (c. 1033–1109) forbade enslavement of Christians, and since just about everyone was considered a nominal Christian, this practically ended slavery. Then the famous theologian and apologist Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) denounced the practice. Several popes supported this from 1435, and Pope Paul III (1468–1549) gave three major pronouncements against slavery in 1537, e.g. “Sublimus Dei — On the Enslavement and Evangelization of Indians in the New World.” As Stark writes, ‘The problem wasn’t that the [Church] leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened’

    Why do those who claim to be so very tolerant, tolerate nearly everything except the historical record and teachings of a loving God?

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