“My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!”
I often think of this famed passage from the New Testament when I hear hate spewed by so-called Christian ministers. This Bible story in Matthew explains how Jesus observed that some had denigrated a house of worship, causing him to flip over the tables of the “money lenders” and others selling wares.
Franklin Graham’s stoking the flames of hate against a minority group in America over the past few days has again brought this Bible verse to mind. Not that Graham is a “thief” but because he, too, is denigrating a faith to further his own agenda.
Graham announced last Friday that he was pulling the $128 million account for his nonprofit organization, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, out of Wells Fargo bank. (It’s truly astounding that it has that much money in the bank—you would think that the Christian thing to do is spend at least a few million on those in need.)
So why did Graham pull this huge sum of money from Wells Fargo? Did bank executives burn down a church or sponsor an abortion-a-thon? Nope. The bank simply ran an ad that featured a lesbian couple.
This really outraged Graham. So in a moment of What Would Jesus Not Do, he posted on Facebook, “Have you ever asked yourself: How can we fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community?” Graham’s answer: Don’t do business with Wells Fargo.
And then on Monday, Graham took to the airwaves of the Family Research Council’s radio program to call on other Christians to follow his lead and boycott any business that “promotes the gay lifestyle,” including Wells Fargo, Starbucks, Tiffany’s, and Nike. (Interestingly ISIS also recently banned Nike again proving that religious radicals share much common ground.)
Not content to simply advocate a boycott, Graham added during his radio appearance that “practicing” gays and lesbians, if accepted by Christian churches, will not only destroy the church in our nation, but also hasten the end of times. (Not sure what defines a “practicing” gay in Graham’s mind but I bet he’s pictured it.)
But Graham’s demonization of the LGBT community is nothing new. For example, last year he publicly applauded Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s horrific anti-gay laws, stating that the Russian president “has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”
And Graham has often sought to stir up hate against LGBT community members who want to adopt children by warning that this was their was way to “recruit” children to be gay. He also supports discrimination against gay teens from being able to join the Boy Scouts.
Let’s be clear. Graham’s anti-LGBT words, including his new call for a boycott of Wells Fargo, is not just about opposing marriage equality. It is more than that. He doesn’t want gays and lesbians to be viewed as typical Americans with the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us. Instead he wants Americans to view them and their “agenda” as a threat to our nation. He wants them to be shunned, vilified, and marginalized. (Much the same way he has demonized Muslims, even warning that Muslim Americans in our government are in essence are a threat to Christians.)
And worse, in my view, Graham’s words have radicalized other good Christians. Just this weekend we saw a conservative Christian member of the Arkansas legislature lash out against a local gay-pride parade using words very similar to Graham’s. Arkansas GOP State Senator Jason Rapert objected to the 12th-annual gay-pride parade in his part of the state, claiming it was “truly one of the most offensive public displays against Christians you will find anywhere.” And as if channeling Graham, he added that the organizers specifically chose to hold the parade on a Sunday in order “to try and intimidate people who believe in the Word of God.”
It would, however, be unfair to say Graham is the only evangelical leader spewing hate in the name of Jesus. There’s a veritable league of extraordinary haters including, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association and more. They justify hate in the name of Jesus, a person who instructed his followers to love one another.
My prediction is that the shrillness of the attacks by Graham and his ilk toward the LGBT community will escalate as same-sex marriage becomes even more accepted. And if the Supreme Court decides later this month that marriage equality is the law of the land, don’t expect them to accept this defeat quietly. Instead, expect an increased dose of fear mongering, a push for even more onerous “religious liberty” laws, and even organizing support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Look, there’s nothing anyone can say to stop their hate mongering. But there’s a consequence. No, I’m not talking anyone’s soul burning in eternal hell fire.
Polls shows younger Americans are moving away from organized religion. While there are various factors for this, one-third of millennials polled last year indicated they had left their religion because of “negative teachings” about gays and lesbians.
So bottom line is that Franklin Graham can continue spew all the hate he wants but it will be to an increasingly smaller flock. And hopefully one day we will see some younger evangelical leader truly following the teachings of Jesus and call out Graham for turning a “house of prayer” into a house of hate.
Oh, and there’s another bottom line. The joke’s on Graham because the bank he transferred the money to, BB&T, has a longstanding association with Miami Gay Pride. It looks like it’s just a matter of time until the only place Graham has left to deposit his money is in his own mattress.