“Islam sees him as a son of Islam … I can’t say categorically that (the president is not Muslim) because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.” – Rev. Franklin Graham
Those words, and others, were spoken by Rev. Franklin Graham on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” last week. Graham, the son of famed evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, has repeatedly questioned President Obama’s faith and had been highly critical of the nation’s first Black president. Yes, this is about race, party and faith; the simple fact that Graham reserves no such judgment for Republicans Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and has publicly stated that Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith does not concern him makes it so.
Graham’s words evoke a history of southern white Christian dogma that dehumanized African-Americans, supported the enslavement of Africans and aided and abetted Jim Crow. A legion of false prophets, sons of the South, has used Christianity and the Bible to justify the subjugation of Blacks and demonize African-Americans in the name of white supremacy. Franklin Graham is just the latest. Lest we forget that the Ku Klux Klan rode in the name of God and used the cross as an instrument of terror? It was not along ago when Rev. Jerry Falwell was spewing his hate-filled rhetoric and Bob Jones University was barring Black students and interracial relationships on its campus.
The new word of choice in the evangelical arsenal is “Muslim” and it is wielded to send a direct message to southern, white working class voters to question the loyalty of the President. Not that it should be an issue if we had a President who was a Muslim; after all, there will come a time when we will just as the time eventually came when an African-American came to occupy the Oval Office. Still, Graham and his kind play on the deeply rooted racism of many southern whites and a good share of northerners too, by using his professed faith and the Bible to cast doubts upon the morality of President Obama. It is a shameful exercise that only gains traction because of the ignorance of Graham’s followers and the silence of white Christians who know better. In many ways the lack of a sufficient rebuttal by Graham’s white peers is reminiscent of the silence of white southern clergy during Jim Crow that prompted Dr. King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Franklin Graham’s rants come against the backdrop of the Southern Baptist Convention, the ideological foundation of white evangelical Christians in the South, considering modifying its name. The regional identification of Baptists is a direct consequence of the historical split over slavery – North v. South – with southern Baptists standing firmly behind the peculiar institution. It would not be until June 1995 when the Southern Baptist Convention would adopt a resolution formally denouncing racism and the role southern Baptists have played in the acceptance of racism in the past. Most telling is that the resolution identified racism as a “deplorable sin.” Apparently Rev. Franklin Graham did not get the memo.
We rarely have a discussion in this country on Christian terrorism, such as that on display when Tim McVeigh, a self-proclaimed Christian, engineered the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. We don’t want to talk about the Bible toting Christian onlookers who cheered when Blacks were routinely lynched in southern states. Neither do we talk about how self-proclaimed prophets like Rev. Franklin Graham regularly cast judgment on Blacks but are silent in the face of abject poverty, mass imprisonment of African-Americans, and the crisis of Black joblessness. Where was Rev. Graham when an innocent man, Troy Davis, was executed in Georgia? White evangelicals like to “preach” the Gospel while engaging in all manners of evil and sowing seeds of division and hate.
As an African-American I have no patience for hypocrites like Rev. Franklin Graham and as a Christian I loathe false prophets like him who sully the Gospel. We must do all we can to expose Graham and those like him, and challenge white evangelicals to provide the Biblical justification for their racism.
Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.