“We have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into hell because of our pride.” These are the words of Billy Graham documented in the 2009 book, Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South, by Steven P. Miller.
If we could juxtapose these wise words by Billy Graham with the recent words and actions of his son Franklin Graham, we would find what I believe to be two opposing messages. Billy spoke these words in 1953 as organizers were setting up ropes to keep blacks separate from whites during one of his large crusades. Billy spoke these words at a time when our nation was on the edge of advancing social justice in regards to racial equality. Billy spoke these words one year before the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brown v. Board of Education.
Now, here we are 61 years later and Billy’s lineage, Franklin, is in the same situation. Our nation is on the edge of advancing social justice in regards to marriage equality. The United States Supreme Court is expected to rule any week now in favor of marriage equality.
Franklin has taken the reigns from his ailing father and one would assume he too would err on the side of justice and equality like his father. Right? Nope. What we’re learning is that Franklin is no Billy Graham.
Instead, Franklin is insistent on keeping the rope up at his crusade. Franklin is insistent that the LGBTQ community remains separated from his community of believers. Franklin is insistent at keeping the culture war alive. He has demonstrated that he will keep the rope of segregation up most recently by announcing that he will move his ministry’s bank accounts from Wells Fargo (because they’re supportive of LGBTQ rights) to a bank which does not support LGBTQ rights. What does this really accomplish though? The only message the LGBTQ community takes away from this (again) is they are not welcomed, accepted, and loved by evangelical Christians like Franklin Graham. Further, the only message Franklin’s followers are going to walk away with is to remain segregated from the LGBTQ community. This is the last thing we need and certainly the last thing Christ would have wanted for us.
Christ himself tore down the ropes of segregation when he called Zacchaeus, the tax collector, down from the tree. Again, Christ tore down the ropes of segregation when he told those gathered around Mary Magdalene whoever was without sin to “cast the first stone.” Lastly, Christ tore down the ultimate rope of segregation when he said that we are worthy of the Divine’s love and forgiveness.
Franklin Graham’s latest words and actions do not only fall short of his father’s widely regarded legacy but they do not align with the message and life of Christ whom he claims to serve.
Go ahead and move your bank accounts Franklin. It’s a free country. However, consider the message you’re sending to your followers and the LGBTQ community. Consider the ropes of segregation you’re building with your words and actions. Finally, don’t, as your father warned, “…stumble into hell because of [y]our pride.”