Franklin Graham, so far as this writer can tell, is famous for being Billy Graham’s son. Billy Graham is famous for being a television evangelist at a time when that profession was all the rage on Sunday mornings. A heartfelt, Bible-only Christian using the Martin Luther version of the good book, but still a believer in Christ as Savior of the world.
So, when Franklin Graham speaks – even if it is to threaten to leave the Republican Party over the people who are members not following Graham’s version of what Christianity is supposed to look like – and then follows through on his word…uh, yeah, no one should be surprised. What did it actually take? The $1.1 Trillion omnibus spending bill that has conservatives of all stripes yelling TRAITOR! at the top of their lungs at congresscritters that were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t when it came to passing this spending bill. A handful of political right objectives were achieved, but one big one was not: withholding federal funds from Planned Parenthood for any service whatsoever, not just the liberal sacrament of abortion, which is the procedure that keeps the “women’s health non-profit” afloat.
After the Center for Medical Progress exposed what seemed like selling fetal organs on a sort of black market in the abortion industry earlier this year, calls to stop federal payments to Planned Parenthood started, and became deafening. That federal funds are going to the AFFILIATES for reimbursement of medicaid services which do not include abortion, and not the PARENT organization is a subject still very poorly understood. Really, it’s up to the states to enforce such a move. However, it is Franklin Graham’s larger point – when will the Republican Party start acting like Christians – that is causing all the back turning.
First off, it is a little ironic in the United States that anyone demand that the government or a political party that is not grounded in any faith system start making law based on a single person’s viewpoint of what Christianity is or is supposed to be. Was that not the point of the USA to begin with? That all religious groups could live in peace so long as we all had basic, natural law ideals in common? The problem here is Graham’s assumption that all Christians hold the same version of faith that he does, and holding them to that standard. As a Catholic, it is something we face when members of the tribe go to the edge of the reservation. There are a handful of things that Catholics will stand shoulder to shoulder to defend, the social shame of abortion is one of them for many, but that does not mean that all of us are on the same page. That doesn’t make such people any less Catholic…but it does call into question their formation. (And then ask what exactly are protestants protesting?)
Second, Graham must remember that in having a multitude of faith groups – THOUSANDS of them out there calling themselves Christian alone – means that there are that many diverse ways of living in Christ. If memory serves when it comes to the Gospels and the Twelve (after all, I’m only a Catholic), Jesus did not call twelve men of the same variety. There were fishermen, tax collectors, a doubter, and a traitor and more. There was diversity in the group. All believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but not all believed in the same way to honor Him and fulfill His request to feed the sheep and look after the poor. (See Judas being corrected by Jesus when the former admonished Mary Magdalene when she poured perfume on the Lord.) With diversity, that is to be expected. Not everyone follows the same strictures, and there are those who will change their ways when shown examples other than “I’m taking my toys and going home.” Jesus calls not simply the just, but sinners as well.
But really, what Graham refuses to accept is that while one follows Christ, political parties follow their primary donors and those they can get to vote for them, not the other way around. The Republican Party, yes, was formed in the beginning partially to abolish American slavery. This was a moral issue that many people of multiple religions could agree with, but in no way at the time did the platform involve abortion. Before Roe vs. Wade, the Republican Party was more on the side of choice. The change came to attract disenfranchised Democrats who could not stomach that party’s platform once it included support for killing children in the womb. But really, when you think about it, the first national income tax was installed by the Lincoln Administration to pay for the Civil War. It was declared unconstitutional a few years later, but still it was Lincoln that put an income tax on the table. There was no “conservative” purity in the party from its inception, and anyone looking for a Christian utopia in a political party needs to learn a little history. Prohibition – considered to be a moral crusade – was put into place by the Democrats. Legislating social “conservatism” or morality doesn’t always work. Legislating social acceptance of the same never works.
We Americans are a diverse lot. Thanks to dueling echo chambers easily accessed via social media and the internet, we are diverse, argumentative, polarized, hateful, and disdainful of anyone with whom we do not agree. We are also increasingly falling into the leftist trap of politicizing EVERYTHING, including marriage, religion itself, and, for us Catholics, theology (it’s NEVER explained correctly). Franklin Graham fell into the trap. He’s looking for purity where it does not exist and never will: the a-theistic world of government.
While many of us will agree that the answer to our problems here in the U.S. is greater adherence to Christian values and ethical mores, it’s not exactly Christ-like to take your marbles and go home, away from the group most likely to get us at least in the neighborhood of where we need to go. And it is also unrealistic for people who are heavily invested in government for their own gain including through the political parties to simply give up to groundswell sentiment. They are going to fight for what they paid for tooth and nail no matter what the little people who were supposed to be lulled into complacency decades ago aren’t happy about.
And that is partially why no one is following Franklin Graham and his ilk away from the parties. The truth is that hard-core religion and politics are not big sellers to the much larger middle who are more interested in which Kardashian is giving birth this week with nothing enticing to offer other than a rock hard coating and no sugar. The people who follow political and religious extremes may leave, but given no other viable alternative, they will return to at least vote against the greater evil. That is a definite truth that has led to the political quagmire we have in the United States, but this is not new.
And it is not going away.