Not long ago I was driving to Providence and spotted billboards announcing a crusade by Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. The younger Graham, looking increasingly like his father in the pictures, was inviting people in New England to attend some large gatherings over Memorial Day weekend. One of these events was scheduled at the Big E, the site of the Eastern States Exposition in Western Massachusetts.
Though he looks a lot like his dad, this younger version of the original evangelist seems much more pointedly political than his father. His views seem more extreme, too.
Some examples of his ideas taken from speeches include:
Americans are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. He believes we should stop immigration of all Muslims to the US. Gay people are sinners. We should love gay people enough to warn them that if they fail to become straight they will endure the fires of hell.
I have heard ideas like this before, but what I find most upsetting is his sure conviction about how he is an irrefutable authority on scripture, and God’s will. It is a hubris which I find disturbing.
This week a group of clergy from the United Church of Christ, mostly from churches in Central and Western Massachusetts wrote a public letter to Rev. Graham that appeared in the newspapers in Western Massachusetts in advance of the May 25th Big E event.
These UCC ministers said:
“Rev. Graham’s public comments and positions contradict our understanding of God’s message of inclusion, love and justice for all. We honor and celebrate our Muslim neighbors and friends. And we are committed to offer a wide welcome for Muslims arriving in our country, as well as immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
We affirm all people of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and queer community as beloved children of God.
We want to be clear that we are not seeking to stop Rev. Graham’s rally or prevent anyone from attending the event. We are simply stating that Rev. Graham does not speak for all of the religious community; many of whom believe that their Holy Scriptures express a much more inclusive and acceptation message.”
I was proud that our pastors from the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC had responded in a respectful way. I was pleased that they offered another interpretation of scripture, and a strong voice for a different kind of faith. Their letter has inspired me to continue in the work of discerning how best to love our neighbors no matter who they are. Together was have the opportunity to create a society marked by reconciliation not division. This is a moment when I believe we need to strive for peace and work to build bridges of understanding. I think we can make a difference in our communities by speaking our truth, being respectful, living with integrity as we love our neighbors as ourselves.
Peace, Rev. Susan