I woke up to an email mentioning these comments this morning, and at first I was going to ignore the video link and go on about my day. I already believed that Franklin Graham was the type of guy who talks out of both sides of his mouth concerning “Christianity” and quite frankly, while I admire his father, I think of him as nothing more than one of the leaders of the white Evangelical movement, who believe in a form of Christianity, I’m culturally unfamiliar with.
That said, imagining Mr. Graham to actually have anything Christian to say in regards to Muslims was the furthest thing from my mind. I realized nothing good could come of me clicking the YouTube link, yet my morbid curiosity got the best of me. I wish I had better self control.
Now before I add my diatribe to the discussion about his comments, know that there are already many well-meaning Muslims who have already responded to these comments in a rational, pc, and calm way, therefore, I feel released of my obligation to be as kind.
Mr. Graham’s comments were vile, disgusting, and unbearable in the mind of the conscious and his words would not even be worth mentioning, nor worth the time to waste one key stroke, had it not been for the fact that he has millions of followers who listen to his drivel, many of whom shape public policy and enact laws that affect all Americans.
What should one say in response to one who boldly makes some of the ridiculous claims he has made? I mean some of this stuff is so stupid that you have to wonder if a child was responsible for writing his anti Islam talking points. For CNN to even give him a platform to spread his stupidity just highlights part of the problem Muslims face in the war of ideas, civility, and just plain ole common sense. Every comment Mr. Graham made could be debunked by anyone who took 10 minutes to browse through a Complete idiot’s guide or Islam for Dummies book!
I believe what makes his comments so worth my 10 minutes this Sunday morning is due to the fact that right now somewhere in America he’s probably preparing to or delivering a similar so-called “Christian” message. A narrative not based on what Christianity has ordinarily meant or espoused theologically, but one of the modern polity which has hijacked this theology to represent the views of a xenophobic group of whites, who despise any ideas or people who do not look, practice, or believe like them. Some would call them “evangelicals”, others would call them “the Republican Party base”, and many others like my Grandfather a Minister of over 50 years would call them “Pseudo Christians”. I believe he and his followers are all the above and then some. This version of Christianity is rarely if ever taught from the pulpits of Christian congregations whose majority consist mainly of minorities. This version of Christianity is mainly taught right where one should historically expect to hear messages and teachings that are intolerant and hostile toward those who don’t fit the bill in the looks and ideas department.
Why is this important and how does it relate to the commentary on Islam such as Mr. Graham’s?
It is important because we are ignoring the fact that the media is giving a green light and a platform to rhetoric that has at it’s core more in common with the hate speech of 40 plus years ago than the supposed loving message of Jesus the Christ (as). By allowing these views to become mainstream, we have shown as Americans that while we have made many strides away from our past, we still have a long way to go.
Some may criticize me for bringing race into the discussion, and maybe it’s my cultural “sensibilities” that I have not overcome, but as a black American, what’s going on just seems crystal clear to me. When I see masses of white Americans being intolerant to a group of people who just happen to be non-whites, I begin to see through the veil of religion. I do not believe what people like Mr. Graham teach is Christianity. I believe that Christianity is merely the tool in which they use to congregate and propagate their message. If you listen very clearly, these messages sound no different than the message of white supremest groups and it’s been this way for centuries.
If you don’t believe race is a factor in this discussion, then explain how it is that although all the Prophets of God regardless of whether you follow the Bible or Qur’an have been what we would call today men of color, yet from the very beginning, Europeans sought to completely remove this fact from the history. Instead what we have seen in the West is religion devoid of any representation of people of color. You have seen the paintings of the Renaissance and even the illustrations of today, that continually portray the Prophets of God (pbut), the people of their era, and even God Himself as Caucasian. When people of color have been mentioned in the narrative, they have always been labeled as the cursed, the other, and villains of the people of God who just happen to be painted as white. This produced and continues to produce a mentality among many who call themselves Christian in the West, yet another avenue in which to consider themselves either consciously or subconsciously as superior to those in the world who are of color and often have different faith traditions. This has produced yet another form of supremist beliefs and rhetoric that is very similar to other forms of supremacy except now codified and sanctioned under the guise of religion. This in of itself is lengthy discussion that I will revist another day, but how it applies today and with Mr. Grahams commentary, is that I believe these underlying issues and the roots of his religion, help one to understand how people like Mr. Graham come to the ridiculous conclusions they do about the minority group of the week, Muslims, and how these views have less to do with actual religion, but more to do with the age old unfortunate mental disease that produces racism.
This mentality I believe is the root cause of the hostilities between many in the West and Muslims in general. I have yet to see any minority group in the West come out as strongly and passionate against Muslims as have those who think and believe like Mr. Graham. Surely some have noticed who the majority group in attendance at these Churches, Schools, town halls, etc. are where anti-Muslim rhetoric is the discussion of the day. Surely some have noticed who the largest consumers of anti-Muslim propaganda are. Should we assume this all to be a huge coincidence? Should we assume that it’s just coincidence that you rarely if ever hear of minority clergymen and women speaking with such hostility toward Islam? Should we assume that it’s just a coincidence that we have yet to hear of one minority legislator from any country advocating against Muslims/Islam? Why do you suppose this is? One does not have to take my word for it, many of you may even label me a radical, racist, etc. for bringing all this up. Maybe my experience is just different from some of you, however the Christianity I was brought up under, was taught, and know, spends more time talking about love and compassion for all, than talking about how evil others are based on their beliefs. It’s not a teaching that spends a great deal of time mobilizing it’s congregation to be against the will, choice, or practices of others. It’s not a political teaching at all. Maybe some of this rhetoric does occur in some black, Asian, Latino, etc. churches, but I seriously doubt its common place. But what do I know?
I write all this to say that, I don’t believe Mr. Graham’s comments or those made by, advocated, or supported by others similar in station or ideology as Mr. Graham’s, to be those representative of Christianity in it’s purest theological form and or practiced by the majority of Christians. I believe that once we look beyond the religion and the rhetoric, that we will find yet another iteration of the ideas that produced conditions in America’s past where humans drank from separate water fountains because of the color of their skin amongst other evils.
How else can you explain his text book anti-Muslim commentary? He speaks as if one billion Muslims originate from the Middle East and we are all a bunch of savages. He talks down to the Muslim world from a position of superiority. In his world view as evidenced by his language, Muslims are just a bunch of Arab savages, just look at the “horrors” they are committing against themselves he goes on to say. Nevermind, that the majority of Muslims don’t originate from these Middle Eastern countries, and nevermind that the majority doesn’t even practice or agree with the concepts he claims represent “true Islam”, because he said it and since he has “Muslim friends” it must be true. Where have I heard this type of rhetoric before?
We would not be doing our due diligence if we ignored our history. It was not long ago where blacks were considered savages and similar propaganda was spread by clergy and other leaders to codify those ideas as facts. During this period religion was also used (see Hametic curse) as well as broad sweeping generalizing about black culture, history, practices, and ideas. To put it bluntly as it’s been discussed in various circles since 9/11, Arabs have become the “new niggers” and by extension all Muslims in general, as evidenced by people like Mr. Graham who continually define Islam as an Arab religion. This kind of rhetoric, tactics, and propaganda is almost identical to how the “niggers” of old were treated. Just as laws against minorities were created and violence became commonplace against blacks and other undesirables, such is the case today with Muslims in general as we see in Europe and the many attempts we see here in America. When an entire people can be publicly discussed in a manner as if they are subhuman and rhetoric that discusses their beliefs as evil become the norm, should there be any surprise that laws are enacted that seek to regulate them such as the recent Swiss Minaret Ban? Should we be surprised when Mosques are vandalized, Muslims or those who just happen to “look Muslim” are attacked, or in the case of one pregnant sister in Europe killed even in court?
We have to fully examine and be ready to challenge this rhetoric and combat these vicious statements and remind Americans in general that this speech is no different than that of a klansmen or Adolf Hitler. Some may call that a little extreme way of looking at Franklin Grahams comments, but if we use history as our guide, we would see that what was merely waived off as trivial rhetoric often became institutionalized policy against entire groups of people based on both religion and ethnicity. Don’t believe me? Look at the coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many Americans know to the number how many Americans have died or know where to get that info, how many know or care how many Iraqi’s, Afghani’s, etc. have died? Could it have something to do with the fact that people like Franklin Graham have been repeatedly telling Americans not to care, since after all they are just Arabs, Muslims, etc. who believe in an evil religion and have evil practices.
The easiest way to propagate war, intolerance, etc. against a people is to convince others that they aren’t actually people after all. We would be wise to not only look to history, but learn from it.