I’m trying to think through this Franklin Graham situation that’s been filling my news feed and has been on mind for about a week now. In response to his comments was this Open Letter to Graham and now there’s reaction. I too, have a reaction. And I hope it’s Christian, charitable and best-case, adds perspective and is on the side of peace-making.
In short, I feel that Graham missed an opportunity to contribute positively and for many, he worsened an already troubled situation. He is such a recognized figure in evangelical Christianity and I feel the need to begin at the obvious but still needs to be said, his Facebook statement is not a sufficient representation of all evangelicals, like me and many I know.
At the same time, I am not trying to throw Franklin Graham under the bus. What he said was not scandalous; it was short on mercy. When considering the scope of his platform and our cultural tension, it’s fair to say this lacked the necessary discernment and consideration. In addition to what Franklin said is the social media reaction of supporting Graham. Among them are those I regard as friends and/or have respect for. Again, I’m not looking for Graham to be punished or vilified, nor am I out to shame friends but I am taken back by all the “I stand/agree with Franklin” appearing on my various feeds.
From my perspective, this is part of the culture-war that in short, is a no-win situation for any side. I do think at the very least, Graham could acknowledge the insensitivity made in his comments (one can still regard him as a man of God and also say he over-generalized, more on that below).
As I have stressed in previous posts (like “Love Your Officer As You Love Your Protester and…”), I am among the many who are grateful for the brave men and women who serve in our police forces. I am also advocating for justice and the upholding of the American laws we have (like unnecessary use of force, innocent until proven guilty, fair-trials, just punishment, etc). This said, I feel a misunderstanding as it relates to justice-seekers: We/they are not trying to making criminal activity more convenient, but rather we are passionate/committed in making society fair, safe and just for everyone.
I know these conversations are in the public square, I know many are saddened when a believer critiques another and so on. And while no one person can speak out on each and every issue, I feel compelled to continue to contribute to our cultural conversation on race and justice.
If you are still catching up to what Franklin Graham said, this is what he wrote on his Facebook page:
Then an Open-Letter to Franklin:
“… Frankly, Rev. Graham, your insistence that “Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else” “Listen up,” was crude, insensitive, and paternalistic. Your comments betrayed the confidence that your brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those of color, have afforded your father’s ministry for decades. Your instructions oversimplified a complex and critical problem facing the nation and minimized the testimonies and wisdom of people of color and experts of every hue, including six police commissioners that served on the president’s task force on policing reform.
In the nadir of your commentary, you tell everyone to “OBEY” any instruction from authorities and suggest that the recent shootings of unarmed citizens “might have been avoided” if the victims had submitted to authority.
And you bluntly insist, “It’s as simple as that.”
It is not that simple … ” Please consider reading the rest here.
A few things:
Part of me wants to critique the various aspects of Graham’s statement (like entering any tense conversation with the words, “Listen up!”) and the follow-up letter but I’m going to attempt to take a big-pciture perspective here.
While I am not crazy about the Open-Letter concept, as it is often over-used for the sole purpose of shaming, it actually feels appropriate in this case. Further, I recognize majority of the signers and regard them as God-honoring believers seeking to build the Kingdom of Jesus. Some will dismiss them as “liberal;” do so at your own peril. Just as I see the culture war as a poor investment in Kingdom energy, I also see these generalizations of conservative, liberal, right-wing, left-wing, etc. as generally unfruitful. The Kingdom of God is too big to limit our attention to only certain believers of specific tribes. Let us not shrink the Kingdom by categorically dismissing one another. [Read more…]