In the Hebrew Scriptures, Proverbs 22:3 says, "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." In an attempt to bind evangelicals to the Romney campaign, Franklin Graham has recently warned against the re-election of President Barack Obama because he claims that the president's re-election would open the door for an America without God. On Sept. 25, in a USA Today blog post entitled "Substance trumps Sectarianism" quoting former President Bill Clinton, Graham wrote, "President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up, but God-fearing Americans have no desire to see America rebuilt -- but rather, restored. To "rebuild it" would be to create a new nation, perhaps without God or under many gods." His call to evangelicals is alarming. It is a call to vote for a return to an American past that is marred by racial, social and economic inequality. We must ultimately disagree with and stop anyone God fearing or not who would seek to restore an older version of America.
Franklin Graham wants to restore America. He doesn't want to rebuild a new America. He wants to protect and revive an older more God-fearing America based on Godly principles. The problem with this agenda is that there is no perfect version of an older America. The America of the founding fathers and constitutional framers was an America that excluded woman, minorities and non-property owners from participating in Democracy. Is this the America Graham seeks to restore? In 1619, the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Va. In 1787, the Southern and Northern states reached the Three-Fifths compromise at the Philadelphia Convention defining blacks as three-fifths of a person. In 1861, the American Civil War began. In 1898, the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 happened. It was a coup d'état, as white Democratic insurrectionists overthrew the legitimately elected local government. On May 31 and June 1, 1921, the Tulsa Race Riot happened. It was a large-scale racially motivated conflict in which whites attacked the black community of Tulsa, Okla. In January 1923, the Rosewood massacre happened. It was a violent, racially motivated conflict in which at least six blacks and two whites were killed, and the town of Rosewood was abandoned and destroyed. On Aug. 28, 1955, Emmett Louis Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14. On Sept. 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., was bombed as an act of racially motivated terrorism. In 1974, President Richard Nixon dismantled the Office of Economic Opportunity. Is this the America Graham seeks to restore? This America is stained with the sin of slavery. This America was torn in half by hatred and only ultimately saved by the surgery of soldiers not surgeons. This America was shaken by the civil rights movement and shamed by the Vietnam conflict. This America ushered in an economic model that has destroyed the middle class and led to obscene levels of wealth inequality in this country.
Franklin Graham claims that people who fear God must be tethered to a past piece of America where some form of inequality defined our cultural context. In the name of God, he offers a vision of America that leans toward exclusion and inequality; not inclusion and equality. He warns us that Barack Obama would rebuild an America without God. However, this is impossible. He fears that Barack Obama would inspire a movement to rebuild an America that is a more perfect union. This is possible.
More than the son of Rev. Billy Graham, Franklin Graham is the son of the South. He is a champion of a nostalgic view of America that sees its past glory threatened by shifting cultural and moral norms, new religious attitudes and a falling away from a version of the Christian conception of God. It is a cotton curtain America. It is not a "We Shall ALL Overcome" America. His analysis cannot account for failed trade policy, a failed urban policy, foreclosure, and banking and insurance companies driven by profit maximization that are problematic. It cannot see how an overly capitalist individual consumption culture has effectively and problematically reshaped our families and our morals. He will not admit that our political culture is tied to chauvinism, racism and elitism.
Anyone who soberly reflects on the constitution knows that religious freedom is enshrined in it and will not likely ever be removed. God is safe. Those who soberly reflect on America's past know that it does not need to be restored, but rather that America needs to be rebuilt.