"On some positions, cowardice asks the question, 'is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'is it popular?' But conscience asks the question 'is it right?' And then comes a time when a true follower of Jesus Christ must take a stand that's neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take that stand because it is right." - Martin Luther King Jr
Noted evangelical Billy Graham has reached the end of the line as far as his crusades go. Graham, known to some as “America’s pastor” has said he’ll retire after a 60 year career that saw him toe the line and promote the status quo for the likes of pro-war presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Like many American icons that have reached the status of rock star, Graham has been granted a virtual free pass by the media on his farewell tour. I’ve seen reports on both local and national stations that afforded Graham a status that I don’t think he deserved. Newspaper coverage likewise has been superficial; making no mention that Graham was a water carrier for those in power.
For instance, in 1989, it was revealed that Graham had sent a secret memo to Nixon dated April 15, 1969. After meeting with Vietnamese missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand, this supposed "man of God" said that if the peace talks in Paris were to fail, Nixon should step up the war and bomb the dikes. Such an act, Graham wrote excitedly, "could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam".
Graham had no qualms about advocating a policy to the U.S. Commander in Chief that on Nixon's own estimate, would have killed a million people.
Apparently doing the Lord's work also pays quite well, as a 2002 990 form shows the evangelist receiving a salary of nearly $200,000 per year and additional allowance of $233,000, while working about 10 percent of the time. Interesting stewardship of money given by many hard-working and honest people, thinking that their donations were for something other than keeping a semi-retired preacher well-stocked in assets.
Unlike Jesus, who he spent a great deal of time talking about, but apparently missed the significance of who the Bible represents him to be, Graham was as comfortable in corporate boardrooms and presidential suites as he was in the pulpit. Traveling with all the latest in comforts and technological trappings, Graham epitomized an American Xianity, sold out and defanged, providing support for military intervention and indiscriminant killing and maiming of innocents the world over.
I find it laughable when large numbers of people affiliated with organized religion deplore the so-called unfavorable treatment that religion and Xianianity supposedly receives in the “liberal” mainstream media. This supposed liberal bias, if it was in fact present, would have ripped Graham and made mention of some of the things I’ve written about. These are well-known and available for anyone who wants to take a stab at journalism.
Instead, these so-called haters of religion have fallen all over themselves trying to out fluff one another. Graham certainly was a popular man and preached a popular version of a cross-less Xianity—one that plays well in a country wedded to military might and selective morality—it’s just that for those of us who see Jesus as more than another excuse to bomb innocent people, Graham comes across as just another preacher given over to mammon and fame.
Apparently Graham’s son, Franklin is poised to take over the mantle of Graham’s substantial empire. The younger Graham, who drew the ire of the Islamic world for comments he made about Muslims after 9-11, proves the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Interestingly, Franklin receives an estimated $600,000 per year from his father's evangelistic organization.
It appears that the gospel (at least an Americanized version) is no longer the offence that it once was, at least during Jesus' day. It's also ironic that one of America's last prophetic voices--that of Martin Luther King, Jr.--found that speaking out against empire brought you a bullet instead of accolades.