Franklin Graham Is Still the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While

03/06/2015 11:09 am ET | Updated May 06, 2015
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Well, Franklin Graham is at it again, giving Jesus yet another face-palm moment and ensuring that everyone else thinks Christians are mean-spirited whiners.

“What’s he done now?” you ask.

Franklin Graham continues to beat the drum that suggests President Obama and his administration are under the sway of a cabal of Islamic Svengalis. He worries that "our foreign policy has a lot of influence now from Muslims." In particular, Graham views the Obama administration’s less than enthusiastic reception of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before congress as proof that Islam is exerting perilous influence on American foreign policy--apparently preferring to have perilous influence exerted on American foreign policy by someone more Christian, like Bibi Netan … wait.

Graham sees this profligate tolerance of Islam as both telling and ominous: “They hate Israel and they hate Christians, and so the storm is coming.”

Inasmuch as President Obama has been more than clear about his Christian commitments, continuing to question his faith is merely a more socially acceptable way of calling him a liar. Setting aside Franklin Graham’s storied parentage, a case could fairly easily be made, drawing from his penchant for spewing hatred, that a more devastating argument about Christian commitments could be leveled against Graham himself. But I’ll refrain from judging Franklin Graham’s status as a Christian, and just say that I don’t think much of his Christianity.

But that’s Franklin Graham. His vituperous outbursts and questioning of President Obama’s faith are nothing new.

But here’s the real question as far as I’m concerned: So what? Even if Franklin Graham were right, what exactly would be the problem with Muslims having greater access to the White House?

Unless somebody hijacked the Constitution or the Golden Rule when I wasn’t paying attention, it is neither illegal nor immoral to be a practitioner of Islam. So, why in the fever-swamps over which Franklin Graham exercises influence is the chimera of Muslims running amok on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue such a vexing preoccupation?

The only thing I can think that even remotely justifies Franklin’s parochial view of our Muslim sisters and brothers is the mistaken belief that we live in something called a “Christian nation.” But take it from a Christian, the United States of America is not a Christian nation. It never was, and God help us if it ever should be.

The overheated fantasy of a Christian nation troubles me on a couple of different levels.

For one thing, what I find most mystifying is that many of the same Christians who insist that Jesus never sanctioned government assistance when it comes to poverty or healthcare (because the government is largely a seedy institution bent on confiscating people’s money and wasting it) are simultaneously convinced that government wouldn’t be so bad if Christians were running the show.

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem,” Ronald Reagan famously intoned, which many popular conservative versions of Christianity enthusiastically applaud. But these same Christian enthusiasts seem to want to qualify Reagan’s denunciation of government by tacking onto the end, ” … unless Christians are in charge of it.”

Government, in other words, is inherently bad--except when it’s not. Except when we’re in charge. Then we can finally fulfill America’s divine charge (are there people who still actually believe this?) to be a “city on a hill.”

But you don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to say that government is inherently flawed, the cause of all the world’s problems when somebody else is in charge. And then turn around and insist that Christians have some kind of divine/historical claim to being in charge … because then, apparently, government would be an obvious gift to the world, healing everything from the nation’s morally ravaged soul to its tortured relationship to Justin Bieber.

Let’s be honest, though. What kind of people believe that turning over the government to anybody who takes Franklin Graham seriously would be a good idea? I mean, even God has a tough enough time living down Franklin Graham’s narrow bigotry. So why would we ever want to put that same eye-rolling obligation on America?

For another thing, I’m troubled by the assertion that greater access by Muslims to the levers of power is a bad thing. What’s the problem with Muslims? The Muslims I know are wonderfully thoughtful, respectful, and peaceful people.

Unfortunately, Franklin doesn’t qualify his paranoia with unwieldy nuance. To his way of thinking, a Muslim is a Muslim is a Muslim. He seems to labor under the paranoid delusion that all Muslims are dangerously subversive suicide-bombers-in-waiting tout court. But that’s a terribly unfair brush with which to paint all Muslims.

Lord knows I’m mortified by the thought that Muslims think all Christians are like Franklin Graham.