Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Billy Graham Repents his Political Involvement

Sometimes it's never too late to repent, as the evangelicals themselves often proclaim. Repent stirring up ethnic and religious hatreds, repent having a pride that dwarfs all human sensibility, and repent an "odious sanctimony and judgmentalism" to use the words of one Brit expat (and evangelical gadfly) I chanced meeting at an invited cocktail party at the British High Commissioner's in Barbados 29 years ago.

According to Matthew 22:21: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. This advice from Yeshua, more than 2,000 years ago, was meant to instill in his followers that to be with him and embrace the principles of love and tolerance he espoused, they needed to shun political investments and attachments. It would not do to get oneself muddied in the political arena while supposedly following one’s spiritual leader. (Note again: my citation of this doesn’t make me a ‘hypocrite’ because I hold the bible to critical skepticism, only that when I cite such texts I am holding a mirror to the Christians who’re supposed to follow their own leader’s words!)

Well, at least Billy Graham seems to finally be following his master's advice! (As I say, better late than never!) According to an interview with the magazine 'Christianity Today' in January, Graham was asked if he had any regrets over his long career. He replied that he'd wished he'd have spent more time with his family, then added:

"I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back, I know I sometimes crossed the line and I wouldn't do that now."

By that he meant, going WAAAAAAYYY over to Caesar's side to the extent of even disparaging those of other (non-Christian) faiths. Though in many ways this can be seen in the context of monumental evangelical arrogance, and believing they have all the answers in the universe, Graham regretted it. Especially after becoming Richard Nixon's informal White House advisor. Graham actually became so involved that he dashed off memos on how to run the campaign.

In 2002, very uncomplimentary audio recordings of Graham and Nixon in the White House surfaced. When Graham mentioned having a meeting with the editors of TIME, H.R. Haldeman, then Nixon's top gun, advised:

"You meet with all their editors, you better take your Jewish beanie!"

Graham laughed and responded:

"Is that right? I don't know any of them now."

Nixon was then caught on tape in an anti-Semitic tirade saying:

"Newsweek is totally, it's all by Jews and dominated by them in their editorial pages. The New York Times, The Washington Post...totally Jewish too."

Nixon after a pause then continues:

"You believe that?"

"Yes, sir!" Graham said, to which Nixon replied:

"Oh boy, so do I! I can't ever say that but boy I believe it!"

Graham is then heard to remark:

"No, but if you get elected a second time, we might be able to do something"

We may never know what that "something" might be, but only hope he didn't have in mind forced conversion or Christian baptisms! The good news is that Nixon had to resign as impeachment proceedings forced him out as his role in the Watergate conspiracy came to light.

Graham apologized in 2002 for his remarks, and has moved on toward an apolitical stance since. It is clear that his son ought to have done so too, as opposed to likely making all his father's same errors.

The bottom line is that ALL religious leaders need to remove themselves from the political arena. Stop harassing voters about this or that law, or trying to insinuate a theocratic state and punishments like the Taliban. It does you no good! Learn to live and let live, rather than impose your will (fundies always say it's "God's will", but in truth it's THEIRS!). If a government approves legislation, whether that be for abortion, or same sex marriage, or new taxes on religions, or whatever...accept it gracefully, as opposed to carrying on like some half-crazed crusaders. Also, you may want to recall the old adage: "You always attract more flies with honey than with vinegar".

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