The lovely people at Slacktivist ran a commentary on this photo (that probably doesn’t require a commentary, but why not?) where I believe the wonderful Mr. Fred Clark gives too much credit to Billy Graham.
Accusing Franklin of using his father as a political prop (no accusation necessary, it’s true), Clark suggests Billy is uncomfortable there–what, with his stellar track record of non-support of rich white republicans and all (cough, Nixon, cough cough, Romney).
Nope, this image is par for the course. What we saw on the front nine is exactly what we’re seeing on the back nine.
Except, it looks like he may have eagled number 18.
Malcolm X called out Billy Graham fifty years ago for preaching a message of white nationalism. He was, of course, correct (look at that photo again). Graham has always been a product of what Harold Bloom dubs ‘The American Religion’–indeed, he may be her greatest saint. And that heretical, depoliticized, individualized, gnostic offshoot of Christianity always meant that whatever embodiment it was going to take, it was going to take the shape of a moralistic patriotism that was incapable of ever truly speaking to power precisely because it is power.
Graham was never a prophet. He was the king in need of a prophet.
At the end of the day, gazing at his birthday photo, this is what it looked like in the 60s and what it continues to look like now.
There’s no difference.
This is just par for the course.
For some reason, I’m getting a number of emails (but no one commenting . . . why not?) defending Billy G, as well as some comments from other bloggers suggesting I am too harsh and unforgiving. In light of these remarks, here’s a comment I sent to Eric over at Empty Rhetoric that attempts to explain why I am neither being harsh nor unforgiving. I’m included it here, in this post, after it’s been up a few days.
“It’s not so much about being ‘unforgiving’ as much as it is about pointing out continuity. This guy sat with the most powerful person on the planet and discussed the “Jewish problem”. He says, ”And all — I mean, not all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine, they swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country. And I have no power, no way to handle them, but I would stand up if under proper circumstances.”
He would stand up under proper circumstances?
Then, twenty years later, he lied about the conversation. Of course, it was taped, so he then issued a whopping four sentence apology.
I wonder, is anti-semitism just so much the norm that it doesn’t even phase us anymore? All I know is, this kindly old evangelist was whispering into the ‘emperor’s’ ear about doing ‘something’ about the Jews. I’m sure, given this nation’s historical treatment of humans other than whites (the early 20th century had legal battles as to whether or not Jews were ‘white’–hmm…I wonder why) as well as the historical reality of when people in power start talking about ‘the Jews’, he meant only the most bestest of things. Lollipops, choo-choo trains, and a legal limitation on the kind of jobs that ‘x’ amount of Jews could hold in one area. Seriously, this guy should have known better. He simply should have known better. Let that sink in. He just came out of the 60′s, saw the Holocaust, saw the civil rights movement (something of which he consistently flip-flopped on), and saw how the U.S. got away with not only legally excluding African Americans but also Jews from the proverbial table, and he still doesn’t learn from it and says stuff like that to the president? Then, forty years later, he supports many of the horrible things that my beloved home state of NC puts into law (and, of course, he has only fueled the blatant homophobia oozing out of that area–that is, he still remains opposed to legal rights for all humans!). And then people take up for him when he’s surrounded by the very people that have surrounded him his whole life? It’s not about being unforgiving, it’s about having our eyes wide open. His son is just carrying on his legacy. The apple is not falling far from the tree.
Now, the next step I’m seeing in these conversations (people are emailing me about my post but not commenting publicly on the site . . . I’m not sure why), is how people immediately say, ‘Yeah, he said bad things about the Jews but he did some really good things too.” As if, again, we are apparently so ‘unforgiving’ about anti-semitism that we overlook it because he, on occasion, integrated his revivals. How bad of a human being does a person have to be to ever come to a point in his life where he had to even think about whether or not he should integrate his church services? And when he, on occasion, did, we think of it as an achievement. That’s pretty embarrassing.”
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.