One can only wonder what an intelligent, worldly woman like Christiane Amanpour must have thought as she interviewed the Rev. Franklin Graham. Whether it was cynicism or cluelessness about Christianity that convinced ABC’s This Week to feature Graham, I cannot say. What I will say is that Franklin Graham came across as one of the phoniest, stupidest “religious” hucksters I’ve ever listened to. Happy Easter to you too, ABC.
Graham condescendingly said Obama is a “nice man” but then pandered to birthers and those who believe Obama is a Muslim. He insinuated Obama’s claim of being a Christian was suspect because Obama equated it with just going to church, which of course, Obama has never suggested. The interview was clipped, so we don’t know whether Amanpour pushed back on this insult.
He told Amanpour he’s also an end-of-days disciple, as well as a literalist believer in the Bible, apparently without the mental curiosity needed to face its contradictions with acquired knowledge of reality or itself. He tried to explain, using rhetoric and claims that cannot possibly be verified, what the end days would be like. It was all gibberish, a different tongue that conveniently does not have to make sense because it can never be refuted.
Graham’s interview had little to do with Jesus or Easter — we didn’t hear a single quote from the god-as-man who supposedly died for Graham’s sins — but it had a lot to do with defining Right Wing American Christianity as the moralistic arm of the corporate state in its battle against government. In Graham’s theology, as in Paul Ryan’s budgeting, it is a sin for government to serve as a check on corporate abuse of people, its own workers or the planet and even worse for government to function as an instrument for relieving human suffering. According to Graham, I am the anti-Christ for supporting such notions. So be it.
Graham can babble easily in the fact and logic free language used by the Christian right, but he seems more comfortable decrying the welfare state and its effect on churches. Describing an era that no one can remember and historians have failed to discover, he told Amanpour that decades ago churches routinely provided for the poor and the sick, with the implication that everything was fine because everyone was adequately cared for. But since those godless liberals came to power under FDR, government has taken over those functions and churches have become incapable of performing charitable functions and many no longer care.
That would shock most of my relatives, including my parents. It would have seemed absurd to my mom. Though fundamentalist conservative in her politics, she spent much of her life serving others. Without knowing it, she was essentially liberal and socialist at church while helping with the collectivist food pantry and sorting clothes for the rummage sales, and volunteering for about every charitable effort her church sponsored. My dad and I don’t talk politics, but this week, at the age of 92, he would have been down at the church helping out with similar efforts. So what was Graham talking about?
With his narrow blinders, all Graham can see is that God has been banned from our schools and our government. It doesn’t occur to him that Social Security represents the principles of loaves and fishes, that Medicare and Medicaid have helped millions of the lame and the sick, and that Jesus understood the earthly needs of the public had to be served before you can ask them to listen to higher spiritual values. Instead, Graham has conveniently stuffed as much Randian indifference to human suffering as possible into a dogma in denial about the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus died for his sins, Graham said, and so his debts are fully paid. Well, good for you, Franklin, but it’s time to render unto Caesar and pay your taxes.
I’m not surprised that charlatans like Graham exist. He’s slick and well dressed as they all seem to be, and lots of people are gullible; his is a facile message for the unthinking. But what is ABC trying to say about Easter and Christianity in America that it would feature someone like Graham on Easter Sunday?