Franklin Graham On North Korea: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Commenting on my last post about the North Korea summit, Bbob wrote in part:

Trump’s base is euphoric. Sad commentary on the religious right.

I want so say something about right-wing Christians out there. As everyone should know, North Korea fiercely persecutes Christians. Fiercely. They are enemies of the state because they don’t worship Kim Jong-un. Some conservative estimates are that 50,000+ Christians are held captive in labor camps. For almost two decades North Korea has been ranked the worst place on Earth to be a Christian, the ranking made by an organization called “Open Doors.”

Now, just today Franklin Graham, evangelical “leader,” was asked about the Tr-mp-Kim summit. He was “very optimistic” about it, according to CBN:

“I think the North Koreans have been wanting to talk to the Americans for a long time and this is the first administration that they’ve been able to talk to directly like this,” the evangelist said.

Graham believes the North Koreans are a prideful people and that the Trump administration has engaged them well.

“The North Koreans just want to be shown respect and other administrations brushed them off like they were nothing,” he said.

Yes. A Christian preacher said that the Christian-killers in North Korea just need some respect. The same Christian preacher who, if Obama had behaved in Singapore the way Tr-mp did, would have asked for his head on a biblical platter. The same preacher who has mercilessly attacked Islam, advocated for a ban on Muslims entering the country long before Tr-mp did, and believes we are involved in a religious—Evangelical Christianity versus Islam—war.

The short of it is, and I can’t say this enough, we are front-seat observers of a nationwide cult, led by a disturbed and ignorant and self-absorbed authoritarian, zealously supported by right-wing Christians who believe God sent Tr-mp as a strange answer to an even stranger prayer—to trigger the End of the World.

 

Joplin’s Jane Doe And The Fight Against Fundamentalism

Let me tie together four recent news stories related to religious fundamentalism and the nasty nonsense associated with it. But before I do so, I should say something about my view of religion and religious belief.

I don’t have any knowledge as to whether there is or isn’t a God. I used to think there was and I used to think I knew his name(s). Now I don’t know if there is and even if I thought there was, I wouldn’t know what to call such a being. But here’s one thing I am fairly confident about: you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, don’t know whether there is or isn’t a God either. Okay? That’s where I’m coming from. Now to the stories.

First up is Franklin Graham, son of Billy, the famous evangelist. Graham has recently been making his way around the country in a bus. I’ve seen him on television more than once being interviewed about his mission, which is summarized on Facebook this way:

“America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham

Franklin Gbilly graham bus tripraham is traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to hold prayer rallies, to preach the Gospel, and to challenge believers to take a stand and take action. He’ll be urging Christians to vote, to live out their faith in every part of their lives, and to pray for our nation just as Nehemiah cried out to God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore hope to His people.

Graham has said during interviews that his efforts are not partisan. He says he has no faith in either political party, that only God can save the country. Now, this is the same non-partisan guy who, after Obama was reelected in 2012, said the country was on a “path of destruction” and he explained why to Newsmax:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Yes, according to one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the entire country, Barack Obama is responsible for every ungodly act, every offense against God that may force Him to bring us to our collective knees, communicating His divine displeasure to us by unleashing horrific suffering via an “economic collapse.” Funny thing, as I’ve pointed out before, non-partisan Graham had no bad words for Republican George W. Bush, who, as an evangelical himself, actually presided over a real economic collapse, as opposed to the one imagined by Graham four years ago. And it is funny, too, to think that since Graham made those comments, the economy has enjoyed some rather ungodly improvements. Apparently God either decided not to bring us to our knees or he decided to send Donald Trump to do the job instead.

In any case, let’s move on from a partisan conservative evangelist to a partisan conservative judge in Wisconsin, Rebecca Bradley. She was recently elevated to her state’s Supreme Court by evangelical governor and presidential dropout Scott Walker, who was filling a vacancy. Now she is facing voters for what would be a full 10-year term. But she has sort of a problem. It has been revealed that while in college at Catholic Marquette, Bradley authored some God-inspired opinions as a columnist for the student paper, opinions like the one she offered about president-elect Bill Clinton in 1992:

We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ’60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.

And she gave some wise advice to those thinking about getting sick during the then-upcoming Clinton administration:

One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically-correct disease will be getting all the funding. How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.

Clearly, these and some of this young woman’s other nasty, bigoted opinions could only have been produced by a mind under the influence of some form of fundamentalist religion, some sort of poisonous dogmatism, which, like in the case of Franklin Graham, makes one think and act in such obviously thoughtless and callous ways. And this same kind of dogmatism can and does affect our public policy debates, which leads me to the next story.

Here in Missouri, the State Senate, after Republicans broke a 37-hour Democratic filibuster, advanced a proposed amendment to our state’s constitution that if passed by voters would, essentially, allow Christian cake bakers and wedding planners to only bake and plan for King James Version-approved nuptials. In other words, even though Bible-believing bakers and piety-promoting planners here in Missouri operate their businesses using public roads and services partly paid for by gay people, they don’t want to serve those taxpaying gay people because Jesus and God and Franklin Graham hate gay people, or, to be kinder, they hate the things gay people do, like, uh, being gay.

Obviously, all of this nonsense is related. From the bigot-protecting activity in the Missouri State Senate to the young Marquette kid who hated gays and Bill Clinton in the 1990s to the phony bus tour of a very partisan and dishonest evangelical leader, it’s all a product of zealot-producing cultural hardware and software: fundamentalism. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches and their affiliates are the hardware, and a literally-interpreted, allegedly God-inspired Bible is the software. But we non-fundamentalists are not without weapons. There are some things we can do to, if not stop it, at least slow it down, which leads me to my final story.

This is a local story about courage. In May of 2015, here in Joplin, a group of students at North Middle School were bussed over, during school hours, to a place called Victory Ministries and Sports Complex. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of place this is. On its “What is Victory” webpage, we find that its purposes are, among other things, to “Exalt victory field tripJesus” and “Expand the Kingdom of God.” Expanding the Kingdom of God in this case means, of course, indoctrinating children with fundamentalist views. And what better way to reach impressionable, unchurched kids than a Middle School field trip to a Christian gym with a “Jesus is worthy of it all!” banner proudly hanging on the wall?

It turns out that a courageous mom of one of the students in the class in question alerted the American Humanist Association, whose legal director tried to stop the field trip before it happened. The AHA “forewarned” the Superintendent of Joplin Schools in an email exchange, saying the trip was a violation of the Establishment Clause and threatening litigation if the trip wasn’t called off. It wasn’t. So, there is now an ongoing lawsuit.

The mom in this case is courageous because this kind of thing isn’t easy. Even though she is using the name Jane Doe in order to remain anonymous, she has good reason to. Joplin is a small town, and she and her children would likely be singled out for harassment, if the general public knew who they were. But by putting herself out there to stop fundamentalists from indoctrinating not just her kids, but other kids, Joplin’s Jane Doamerican humanist associatione is a champion of secularism. And she is a fighter against the kind of religious dogma that makes people irrationally hate other people and call down the wrath of God on innocents.

Fundamentalism is nasty and socially destructive. And whether it is practiced mostly without violence under the American flag—although we must not forget those abortion-related crimes—or whether it is expressed with unspeakable violence somewhere under the black flag of ISIS, it needs to be confronted.

Kudos to Joplin’s Jane Doe for doing her part. And if you want to do your part, maybe you could contribute to or become a member of the American Humanist Association. An introductory membership is only $35.

Easter On The Sunday Talk Shows (Don’t Read This If You Are Allergic To Profanity)

I am pissed. Still. Thanks to ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

this weekOn Easter Sunday, the producers of “This Week” decided to take  a “closer look at the political power of evangelicals,” who represent only “15 percent of the adult population, yet in 2012 accounted for nearly a quarter of all voters.” Okay, fine. I get it. People need to know that a lot of what is going on in the reactionary Republican Party is due to the ridiculously outsized influence of conservative Christians. You tell ’em, ABC!

But the segment (“Are Evangelicals Out of Touch With Mainstream Views?”) began with a setup piece by ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, who essentially told us that evangelicals were sort of mellowing out, not being so quick to offer their political opinions on divisive social issues like, say, gay marriage. Young folks in the evangelical churches are beginning to see the light. Okay, fine again. The right-wing Christians may be starting to adjust to the reality that they are losing the Culture War. I get that, too. That could be good news for the country. Go ahead and preach it, ABC!

Then a strange thing happened. After the setup piece, host Martha Raddatz introduced the evangelical guests. And guess who they were? The same old white- and right-wing reactionaries-evangelicals: Franklin Graham, Billy’s son; Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, whatever the hell that is; and the sleazy Ralph Reed, the corrupt former leader of the old Christian Coalition, who was involved in one of Jack Abramoff’s scandals but now leads another Christian group that is damaging the country.ralph reed book

Conveniently for Ralph Reed, ABC News showed a picture of his new book for sale, after having previously promoted it on George Stephanopoulos’ blog. The book, “Awakening,” is subtitled, “How America Can Turn From Economic And Moral Destruction Back To Greatness,” and Chapter 1 begins ominously: “Are we watching our nation commit suicide?” If that isn’t puke-worthy enough, Reed writes:

…there is no denying that the United States, like Rome, is experiencing the downward spiral of the spiritual cycle today. As Americans have sought pleasure and comfort, they have rejected God and His law and substituted the twin idols of self-gratification and government.

Yep. Gubmint is the problem. So much for youthful moderation and the mellowing out of evangelicals.

But forgetting the unseemly Ralph Reed and his government-hating book, what really galled me about “This Week” was the following conversation between the host and the Reverend Franklin Graham:

RADDATZ: You heard Dan’s piece there and certainly the issue of gay marriage has been a big one. Reverend Graham, I want to ask you about this: just a few months after taking office, Pope Francis spoke out on the issue of homosexuality, saying if they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized, the tendency to homosexuality is not the problem. They’re our brothers. You recently said that Congress could learn something from President Vladimir Putin on the issue of homosexuals and adoption. Let’s take a look at what you said:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Gays and lesbians cannot have children. Biologically it’s impossible.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: OK. It’s not but —

GRAHAM: Yes, they can recruit. I think — I agreed with Putin; I think protecting his nation’s children, I think, was probably a pretty smart thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RADDATZ: I suspect you still support that, what you said. You still support Putin?

GRAHAM: No, I think — I think Putin is going to do what’s right for Russia. And not what’s right for America, but for Russia. We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country. But we don’t seem to have that right now.

Dammit! I just can’t take that crap anymore. Why does any respectable news outlet put such trash on television, especially without challenging it? What bleeping president was Graham referring to when he ungrammatically said, “We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country”? Nixon? Was it the disgraced Richard Nixon, the man with whom Franklin Graham’s father essentially had phone sex and with whom he agreed that “Jews” had a “stranglehold” on the American news media? Why didn’t Martha Raddatz mention that to Franklin Graham, after he said such a stupid thing about President Obama?

Or why didn’t she mention that Billy Graham privately heaped praise on the racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic Nixon, by saying, “Congratulations on everything,” and “I believe the Lord is with you, I really do”? 

Why didn’t Raddatz say to the Obama-loathing Franklin Graham, “You say Obama isn’t doing what’s right for the country. By that do you mean that he should sit in the Oval Office and spout racist and homophobic and anti-Semitic nonsense because the ‘Lord’ is with him? What Lord might that be? The Lord of the Flies? GOP Jesus?”

Or why didn’t Raddatz mention that a young Franklin Graham, by his father’s own account, said that Nixon was “the greatest president that we’ve ever had in the history of America”? Huh? That’s the same racist president who called blacks “little Negro bastards” and said they “live like a bunch of dogs” and needed to be “inbred” in order to “strengthen our country” in “500 years.” 

Of course Raddatz didn’t ask him a bleeping thing about any of that stuff. I guess evangelical preachers get a stupidity pass on Easter. Or maybe Martha was feeling all Jesussy in the company of such godly men.

Dammit, I’m still seething.

Now on to NBC’s “Meet the Press” and a comment that touches on Graham’s claim as to whether President Obama is in the business of “doing what’s right for this country” or whether he is sitting in the White’s House worrying about whether everyone thinks he is George S. Patton with balls the size of Dick Cheney’s Wyoming.meet the press

Host David Gregory was leading a discussion on the Russian thug Vladimir Putin and his takeover of Crimea and his threatening to take over eastern Ukraine, when all of a sudden out comes the following from one of the program’s conservative commentators:

DAVID BROOKS: And, let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a—I’ll say it crudely—but a manhood problem in the Middle East: Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad, somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the rap is unfair. But certainly in the Middle East, there’s an assumption he’s not tough enough.

Are you bleeping kidding me? Was I hallucinating this stuff? A “manhood problem”? A bleeping manhood problem, Mr. Brooks? And you think “a lot of the rap is unfair”? How much is a lot? A fifth? A third? A half? Were you suggesting that there was some way the President should demonstrate to people in the Middle East how tough he is by talking like a badass to the thugs causing all the trouble?

You mean maybe he should talk like a Chicago street thug, huh? Maybe he should say to Putin, “Hey, you mofo, if you don’t quit fucking around in Ukraine then, then, then, then, I’m going to send a lot of American boys and girls over there to die!”

Or he could say to Assad, “You bastard son of a bitch, if you don’t get the hell out of Damascus I’m going to, to, to, to, send a lot of American kids over there to get their arms and legs blown off!”

Or, “If any of you Russian or Middle East shitheads mess with me, I’ll drop World War III on your sorry asses.”

Yeah, that’ll show everyone how tough Obama is. That’s the way the President of the United States can properly project American strength in this world. And if the thugs don’t believe him, if he fails to convince them that he is a truly a tough guy, then, by God, Obama can send someone’s kids to die for his Cheney-approved machismo. Then maybe John McCain and Lindsey Graham and all those in the Middle East who think Obama is a pussy will be happy. Americans will die, but, dammit, presidential and American face will be saved!

Apparently that’s what we need right now. Someone who will do what is right for the country by talking us into another war.

Assholes.

Buried Or Burnt, Fred Phelps R.I.P.

“Dying time is truth time, and so we preach truth to you regardless of who has died.  Your vitriolic bilge is of no concern to us, and we indeed rejoice in it since every article written, every tweet tweeted, every talking head spouting off about this death puts forth this one blessed theological maxim – God Hates Fags.”

—Statement from The Westboro Baptist Church, March 22, 2014

I was all prepared to write a blistering condemnation of Fred Phelps, the fundamentalist preacher who founded a strange church in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps will be defined, at least publicly, by his hate-filled crusade to rid the world of gay people, and I couldn’t wait to lash out at the man whose church-family uses the funerals of dead American soldiers to spread a gospel of scorn. I was ready to send off Phelps to the same place that he and his followers have joyously sent countless others—to an imaginary hell.

But then I read this:

I feel bad for his family. We have to remember he was a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather first. Some people do crazy things and just because they do crazy things doesn’t make them less human.

That was said by Rebecca Laubengayer, who was visiting her father in Topeka when Phelps died. Her father took her to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church because Rebecca wanted to see it. She lives in California, where homosexual marriage is legal and where she is able to marry her partner, which she will soon do. And I suppose if anyone had reason to vehemently condemn Fred Phelps, it would be someone like Rebecca Laubengayer. Why didn’t she?

Maybe for the same reason that Phelps’ granddaughter, Megan Phelps-Roper, didn’t condemn him. There is, after all, more to people than what we see in public, even if what we see is unquestionably reprehensible. Before her grandpa died, Megan Phelps-Roper wrote a letter to him, which included this:

To the whole world you were only ever the face of an evil entity. But of course to me you were always my Gramps. My kind, sweet, adoring Gramps. I miss you so much. I wish the sisters & I could meet you & Granny for another shake party up in your room (we’ll even bring your favorite strawberry one from McDonald’s).

I’m sorry for every second we’ve been apart this last year and four months. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you more when you were mine. I’m sorry our human frames are so weak & we couldn’t spend an eternity together on earth in perfect health. I’m sorry for what the church has done to our family. I’m sorry the media rejoices in the declining health of a human being. I’m sorry people reflect back the same hate & judgment that WBC delivers. I’m sorry you got trapped into a deluded way of thinking to the point that you were willing to hurt other people & yourself in order to serve a god out of fear. I’m sorry. I just am. I’m sorry I can’t hold your hand again & cry & reminisce with you as you lay on your death bed.

“You’re my great, big, beautiful doll!” You used to tell me. I wish I could hear you say it once more. This time I promise to know how much you mean to me. I never could have asked for a better grandpa.

– your gracie.

All of that sort of turns Fred Phelps into something other than the “evil entity” we came to know. It makes it hard to write a Phelps-goes-to-hell obituary after thinking about the way his granddaughter, who obviously doesn’t subscribe to his horrific theology, saw him. He was her “Gramps” and she refused to “reflect back the same hate & judgment” that Phelps specialized in. Good for her.

I know there will be no funeral for Fred Phelps—“No funerals, no wakes, no tributes, no scholarship funds, no public memorials or candlelight vigils,” says the staying-on-message church—but I don’t know whether he will be buried or whether the family will cremate his remains. What is certain is that all of us should bury or cremate the ancient beliefs that support such hatred as Fred Phelps preached and many of his family and church members still preach.

We need to bury or burn such theological trash because too many people, as Megan Phelps-Roper put it so well, get “trapped into a deluded way of thinking to the point” that they  are “willing to hurt other people” and themselves as a way of serving “a god out of fear.” Instead of spending a lot of time condemning Fred Phelps for what he preached, let’s spend a lot of time condemning the ideas in those ancient texts from which he derived his hatred. Let’s bury those old ideas with an avalanche of science or burn them with the fire of reason.

Because it’s not just the Phelps family that is spreading such hate. Prominent evangelicals, like Franklin Graham, son of Billy, are spreading it too, even if they hide behind softer language and employ less confrontational tactics.  As Steve Benen and others have pointed out, Graham recently praised Vladimir Putin for taking “a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

Graham, who has questioned President Obama’s Christian faith and who endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012, said that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have “turned their backs on God and His standards” and that “Russia’s standard is higher than our own” here in America. That wasn’t said a year ago or six months ago. It was said after Putin started an international crisis by invading and annexing Crimea. It was said after Putin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov to run the new state-owned media conglomerate, Rossiya Segodnya. Kiselyov has argued, as The Washington Post reported,

that Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws should go further, and that homosexuals should be banned from giving blood or donating sperm. When a homosexual dies in an accident, he argued, their heart should be buried or burnt to ensure it couldn’t be used as a transplant for anyone else.

What should be buried or burnt are literal interpretations of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. What should be buried or burnt are anti-homosexual interpretations of the myth of Sodom and Gomorrah. What should be buried or burnt are interpretations of Romans 1:18-32 that take seriously the Apostle Paul’s claim that homosexuals are “worthy of death.” All of that and more should be put away from among us here in the 21st century.

And we can begin to take such action even without wishing the worst for deluded people like Franklin Graham or, now dead, Fred Phelps. Because, as his granddaughter put it,

One way or another, he’s at peace. There’s only Heaven or peaceful nothingness. That’s what I think.

westboro and lorde

The Unpardonable Sin: Voting For Obama

You alone are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet—

—the Book of Psalms

ear. Religion rules by fear. And lots of it.

Men,” Mark Twain wrote, “are more compassionate…than God” because “men forgive their dead, but God does not.”  And who wouldn’t fear a god who holds a grudge past the grave?

Or past an election.

James Dobson, who for years was one of the most prominent voices in conservative evangelical Christianity, suggested, during a solemn, I-can’t-believe-my-eyes, post-election discussion with other like-minded zealots, that God may have judgment on his mind:

It’s my speculation that America has turned its back on the principles that we have believed in for 230 years. And there’s a lot of wickedness that’s going on out there. Fifty-five million babies have been murdered, and we don’t think God sees that? 

Franklin Graham, who now runs his dad’s part of the Evangelical Empire, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, explained to Newsmax how the election of Barack Obama may just move God to finish us off:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out of everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Fear. Do what God’s self-appointed spokesmen say or else.

It never occurred to Franklin Graham, of course, that we almost had a “complete economic collapse” under the God-fearing evangelical Christian George W. Bush, but perhaps that is because lately God has had a hard time communicating to the leaders of the Evangelical Empire.

Pat Robertson said in January the following:

I spent the better part of a week in prayer and just saying, “God just show me something,” and I’ll share with you—uh, some things I’ll share with you. I think he showed me about the next president but I’m not supposed to talk about that, so I’ll leave you in the dark…but I think I know who it’s gonna be.

We know now that Robertson thought he heard God say that Mitt Romney would be the next president. We know that because Robertson fessed up last week:

So many of us miss God. I’ll tell you, I won’t get into great detail about elections, but I sure did miss it. I thought I had heard from God. I thought I had heard clearly from God. What happened? What intervenes? Why? You ask God, how did I miss it? Well, we all do and I’ve had a lot of practice.

Oh, my. If God can’t make his message clear to Pat Robertson, what hope do the rest of us have?

In any case, in the context of God’s vindictive behavior toward his creation, or more narrowly, the American electorate who elected Barack Obama, I will bookend this piece with more Mark Twain, a famous excerpt from his Letters From The Earth:

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations.

He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life;

he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea;

he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life;

and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him.

Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.

Faith Without Republican Works Is Dead

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

—James 2:20

You couldn’t turn on a cable channel on Tuesday without seeing it: Franklin Graham, Billy’s boy, famously exposing his oh-so-gentlemanly spiritual suspicion of President Obama on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Graham, apparently God’s Prostestant arbiter of the Christian faith (the Pope has the rest covered), isn’t sure Obama is a Christian, but he is positive Rick Santorum is, and he thinks Newt Gingrich is, and as for Romney, well, he’s a Mormon, which is Christianity with a twist of lemon, and everybody knows that a Mormon lemon will ruin a good evangelical cocktail.

And while it is proper for journalists to expose Graham’s metaphysical booshwa and his bearing false witness against a Jesus Bro, who happens to be President of God’s Country, the truth is that this is not at all surprising.

There is only one brand of Christianity that evangelicals like Graham are obliged to acknowledge as genuine. And that is the kind that has an “R” after it, as in “Jesus (R-Heaven)”— Romney’s Savior’s I.D., bless his Mormon heart, might read: “Jesus (R-Kolob)”

Democrats cannot be Christians by contemporary evangelical standards, unless they change their views on, say, abortion and homosexuality and guns and, as has been the case lately, laissez-faire economics. Of course, if Democrats changed their views on all those things then they would be Republicans, and thus by default Christians. Get it?

It’s all so easy when you have G-O-P stamped on your forehead like a political Mark of the Beast.

Unable to confidently confirm Obama’s Christianity and “categorically deny” that the President is a Muslim, Graham said,

Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.

Free pass? Yep, that’s right, and Mr. Graham can confirm his claim by strapping on an aqualung and visiting the bottom of the North Arabian Sea, where what’s left of Osama bin Laden rests courtesy of a free pass from Mr. Obama.

In any case, what may go unnoticed in Graham’s appearance on Morning Joe is his utterly contradictory definition of Christianity, which is a perfect example of what has bedeviled the Christian church since God first emailed parts of the New Testament to the Apostle Paul and James the Just.

Graham first defined Christianity this way:

A Christian is a person who believes that Jesus Christ is God’s son, who died on the cross for our sins, who God raised to life, and that if we put our faith and trust in him, then God will forgive us of our sins. Now, that’s the definition of a Christian.

Then later, responding to the skepticism of journalist John Heilemann, who offered to Graham’s face that the preacher was exhibiting an “amazing double standard” in regards to being certain that Rick Santorum was a Christian and uncertain that Obama was, Graham said,

You have to look at what a person does with his life. Anyone can say that he’s a Christian. You look at—do they live—where do they go and act?

And later,

…you have to go by what a person says and how they live their life and where they go to church. Are they faithful church goers? Or do they just go when the camera’s are on them? That sort of thing.

It’s the old “faith versus works” thing. If Obama says he has the faith, then having works to go with it becomes essential. And the works in this case are defined by mostly white guys with non-exotic names.

Now, it is true that Mr. Graham said, “Obama is a nice man…and his wife is a class act and their kids are classy; you can’t help but like them,” but it was clear that he realized he had dug himself a rather deep theological hole and he was attempting to climb out and hide the shovel before anyone noticed.

Look, I am sure that Franklin Graham is in his normal life a wonderful human being and an outstanding citizen.  But he, like most evangelical leaders, has so grafted his Christian faith on the Republican tree that he can’t help what happened to him on Morning Joe on Tuesday.

And what happened to him was an embarrassment not only to him, but to his father and his faith and his political party, and most important, to his country.

Racial Politics in Three Acts

ACT 1

Yesterday I happened upon Lou Dobbs’ radio show (I didn’t know he had a radio show; I thought God had called him to heaven.). His guest at the time was a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist—that award is obviously not what it used to be—Michael Goodwin, of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.

Dobbs had been upset that Obama had not offered an official acknowledgement of Good Friday or Easter. “Surely this must not be an accident,” he said. That “story” was first noted by Fox “News,” which put it this way:

President Obama failed to release a statement or a proclamation recognizing the national observance of Easter Sunday, Christianity’s most sacred holiday.

By comparison, the White House has released statements recognizing the observance of major Muslim holidays and released statements in 2010 on Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Hajj, and Eid-ul-Adha.

Just in case a Foxer didn’t get the message, the story added this:

By contrast, former President Bush traditionally included Scripture passages in his Easter messages and made a point to explain what Easter is about.

How nice of Mr. Bush to do that for all the Christian folks out there who may not know what “Christianity’s most sacred holiday” means.

Dobbs mentioned to columnist Michael Goodwin that his callers had been demonstrating that they didn’t just disagree with Obama’s policies, they actually believe he is actively working against our national interests. To which the Pulitzer-blessed Goodwin responded that such a sentiment was “fairly common.”

What did Goodwin offer as evidence for that assessment? Emails. He has received lots of emails from folks who think Obama is purposely trying to screw up the country. I guess that seals it.

Dobbs asked Goodwin, “What’s the point of offending Christian Americans?” Goodwin replied:

It’s almost at times, Lou, like he wants to show how different he is…that he alone is the redeemer of America’s morality.

It’s unimaginable to me that if Barack Obama were white, with a name like William Jones, such talk, between a former CNN television host and a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, would take place on national radio.

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ACT 2

The latest journalist-victim of Donald Trump’s mythical run for president is CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

I watched part of his Trump segment last night, which involved Trump talking over Cooper on the racially-pregnant birther issue, and it was, well, let’s just say that it wasn’t Cooper’s finest hour.

But he deserves embarrassment for having Trump, who at this point would give an interview to Sam Drucker at the Hooterville World Guardian, on his show to merely repeat what he has said a thousand times to anyone who is foolish enough to to seek his opinion.

It’s three years past the point now that honest people can, with their heads held high, ask a legitimate question about the birthplace of Mr. Obama. We are in racially-tinged territory these days, as there remains no legitimate reason for people to continue questioning whether our president is an American citizen.

There simply is nothing left to the issue but race, despite claims to the contrary. If our president were white, named William Jones, and born under the same circumstances, there would be no so-called “controversy.”

There would be no Anderson Cooper interviewing a lying or confused or stupid Donald Trump about a “missing” birth certificate, or the Associated Press interviewing him about how a “bad student” like Obama managed to get into an Ivy League school.

And it’s pretty much the same with the “Is he a Christian?” issue.

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ACT 3

Enter the Reverend Franklin Graham.

Obama has said repeatedly that he is a believer in Jesus Christ, that Jesus is his savior, and all that stuff. Yet there persists a profound disbelief among folks who themselves claim they are Christians that Obama is a Muslim, a Muslim sympathizer, or a phony Christian.

The latest, of course, was evangelical middleman, Franklin Graham, son of God’s favorite Republican evangelist, Billy Graham. I watched his appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell last night, which was really an attempt to undo the damage Graham did to himself on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

Here’s part of the transcript from This Week:

AMANPOUR: Does it bother you that people like Donald Trump for instance right now, are making another huge big deal about birth certificates and whether he’s a Muslim or a Christian and where he was born?

GRAHAM: Well, the president, I know, has some issues to deal with here. He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. I don’t — I was born in a hospital in Ashville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there. You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born.

I don’t know why he can’t produce that. So, I’m not — I don’t know, but it’s an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly.

Sound familiar? That echoes exactly the repeatedly discredited claims of one Donald Trump, the Ugly American, who, by the way, Graham came close to endorsing on Sunday:

AMANPOUR: Well, there are people in right now. Would you support Mitt Romney, would you support —

GRAHAM: I’ve met —

AMANPOUR: — Donald Trump?

GRAHAM: I’ve met Mitt Romney. No question he is a — he’s a very capable person, he’s proven himself. Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know? Maybe the guy’s right. So, there’s a —

AMANPOUR: So, he might be your candidate of choice?

GRAHAM: Sure, yes, sure.

Sure. Yes. Sure.

On The Last Word Graham tried to clean up his mess, but he failed:

O’DONNELL: Joining me now, possible Trump endorser, the Reverend Franklin Graham. Thank you for joining us tonight, Reverend.

GRAHAM: Lawrence, it’s good to be with you. And first, I want people to know that I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want people everywhere to know, not about Donald Trump, but I want them to know of God’s son, who came to this earth to take our sins and died on a cross and rose again. I want you to know that and every viewer to know that God loves them.

[…]

GRAHAM: …first of all, if he was vetted, and if he’s a nomination [sic]for the party, I certainly would be interested in him. There’s a long way to go, and I haven’t endorsed him, and I’m not going to endorse any candidate, but I find that he’s got some interesting things to say, and you have to say to yourself, sometimes, you know, maybe a guy like this is right for our country…

Here we have a “man of God,” who supposedly believes in family values and the Bible—including Jesus’ general condemnation of divorce—essentially blessing an F-bomb dropping political candidate who is working on his third marriage, owns casinos, and has made egotism an art form.

And most egregiously, this evangelical minister—who admitted to O’Donnell that he has never—never—voted for a Democrat for president—raises doubts about the citizenship and Christianity of the President of the United States, who has but one wife, who is responsibly raising his two daughters, and who has admitted to the world that he believes in the gospel that Graham so proudly peddles across America.

There is absolutely no chance that a white man, named William Jones, who has lived the kind of conservative family life that Barack Obama has lived, who has been as public about expressing his trust in Jesus as his Savior as Barack Obama has been, would be treated as a virtual alien, both in terms of his Americanism and his religion.

THE END

Franklin Graham, Clean Up Your Own Back Yard

In a shameful segment* on Fox and Friends this morning, Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, made an appearance expressing dismay over just why the Pentagon may want to give him the left foot of fellowship regarding its upcoming special prayer service. 

Now, it’s official.  There’ll be no Islam-is-evil evangelical Christian invoking the good will of Allah God on behalf of our troops.

Graham, who said he has not backed down from his comment many years ago, that Islam was “evil,” believes that Islam’s “degradation” of women justifies such extreme talk. 

Maybe it does.

In the mean time, women are still unable to be priests in the Catholic Church, and in most fundamentalist Christian churches women are allowed only to “teach” children and not “usurp” authority over men.

The following sampling of “women are inferior” verses comes not from the Quran, but from the New Testament:

1 Corinthians 11:3: “…Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and the head of Christ is God. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 11:7-9:“For a man…is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:34-35: “…women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says, If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (NIV)

Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife…wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (NIV)

1 Timothy 2:11-15:“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent…” (NIV)

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*What made the segment shameful was the obvious pandering to Fox’s Christian viewers, describing a world in which one got the impression that Christians were a persecuted minority in America.

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