Franklin Graham wants to use democratic principles to establish Christianity as the official state religion of the USA. He uses the idea of representative democracy and majority rule to qualify repression of the Muslim faith and sanction Christianity as the official religion of the United States of America.
The modern day Christian right is not your mama’s Christianity. This isn’t the turn the other cheek Jesus morality lessons that most of us grew up with. The modern day Christian Right is a very tribe oriented, power-seeking entity whose goals often infringe upon our Constitutionally protected rights.
A recent battle between Mikey Weinstein and Franklin Graham exemplifies the struggle between our Constitution and the far Religious Right. Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates objecting to Graham’s scheduled appearance at National Prayer Day (NPD). Weinstein objected to Graham being invited as the keynote speaker to NPD due to his inflammatory speech about Islam which Weinstein feared offended Muslim employees at the Pentagon and could endanger American troops by stirring up Muslim extremists. Weinstein also noted the pentagon’s association with the civilian group National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDPTF) which organizes Christian events for NPD. Anyone who volunteers for the NDPTF must subscribe to the following “Statement of Belief”:
“I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of the Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God. I believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, the atoning work of his shed blood, his resurrection and ascension, his intercession and his coming return to power and glory. I believe that those who follow Jesus are family and there should be unity among all who claim his name.”
“I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those with differing beliefs are welcome to attend.”
Graham has a history of calling Islam “evil” which was a source of Weinstein’s concern:
“After the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Graham said Islam ”is a very evil and wicked religion.” Graham hasn’t changed his views on Islam, said his spokesman, Mark DeMoss.”
Graham responded to this criticism in an interview with NPR yesterday:
According to the The Mudflats transcript:
Graham said “Well, first of all, the United States, about 89% of the American people would profess to have some Christian background, connection or faith…..The majority of the United States are Christians, they are not Muslims. We’re Christians and we don’t want to attack the Muslims. We don’t want to say anything bad about them. We love them and we want them to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose from the grave and, if they are willing to repent of their sins and receive Christ by faith, that God will hear from heaven and heal their hearts. I want them to know the truth: that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God…”
When asked about concern over his offensive remarks about Islam, Graham answered, “Well, you know, I’m offended by what Islam’s done, what Islam’s said. …I love the Muslim people but I disagree with the religion of Islam. I do not believe it is the truth. I don’t believe that Muhammed is a prophet of God. Now, I know they believe it and that’s fine and they can believe it. But I’m a Christian and I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of the living God….. It would be a slap in the face of millions of American Christians, hundreds of thousands of Christian families in the military…”
Graham was willfully ignorant about why his remarks are insulting to all Muslims, “No, let me tell you something, my son is in danger every day from Muslims that are wanting to take the lives of American troops. So, it’s not going to have anything to do with what I say or don’t say. We’re at war with Islamic Fundamentalists–that’s what we are doing and we can’t ignore that. We certainly can’t allow a few Muslims in this country to deny Christians the right to pray for its leaders and to pray for its nation….
He also denied that he was proselytizing “Well this isn’t proselytizing…we’re not proselytizing. And the Muslims, they go to the Pentagon they have Ramadan and they have Islamic prayers at the Pentagon. But here’s a handful of Muslims saying that we cannot pray at the Pentagon like they do? We can’t have the same rights in our own country? This is ridiculous!”
Grahams’ argument is that he should be allowed to pray for the troops because he represents the majority of our troops’ faith. “The majority of the United States are Christians, they are not Muslims “ This is a spurious argument, which goes against our Constitutionally mandated freedom of and from religion.
Graham’s repeated use of “89% of the American people are Christians” is an attempt to establish that the “majority” should rule. Graham takes it further by adding, “We certainly can’t allow a few Muslims in this country to deny Christians the right to pray for its leaders and to pray for its nation.” Most Americans assume the legitimacy of the notion of “majority Christian rule” or “Christian Nation” to be the case; not realizing that regardless of how many people subscribe to any one religion in America, this is not nor will it ever be a “Christian nation” for GOOD reason.
America is built upon the premise of separation of church and state, precisely to avoid the sort of dangers Graham invites with his inflammatory rhetoric: suggestions that Islam in “evil” invites Holy wars and can deny people of the Muslim faith the right to practice their religion in America safely.
Graham makes it clear that he wants to convert Muslims to the “right” way, his way: “we want them to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose from the grave and, if they are willing to repent of their sins and receive Christ by faith.” This notion of converting Muslims to the Christian faith denigrates the other faith and is not respectful of our nation’s founding premise, when seemingly sanctioned by the Pentagon.
Grahams’ belief in this was furthered today :
This has nothing to do with whether or not one thinks Christians should be able to pray publicly, whether or not one agrees with the Christian faith, or whether or not one thinks the majority of our country are Christians. None of these things are the issue. They are irrelevant to the foundation of our country and to the freedom of and from religion we are entitled to. Graham’s attempt to make the discussion about those issues is an attempt to distract and mislead the listener from the facts.
In this basic attempt to change our Constitution, Graham exemplifies the attempt to establish a theocracy in America. While Graham warns, “We’re at war with Islamic Fundamentalists–that’s what we are doing and we can’t ignore that,” I think it’s obvious that Americans might also be at war with Christian Fundamentalists who are attempting to erode our Constitutionally protected freedoms on a daily basis.
Update: military officials rescinded their invitation to Graham based on Weinstein’s objections this afternoon.