When the Rev. Franklin Graham talks about “Christians,” he’s not referring to me, even though I grew up in the Southern Christian church and have the “born again” bona fides to suggest I am.
When he told the Observer that “I’m not going to support any party” and that he’s “as disappointed in [Republicans] as I am the Democrats,” I don’t believe him.
He’s just taking a page out of the Lee Atwater school of politics, using coded language while feigning an unearned purity of having risen above it all.
I’m tired of politics masquerading as faith – which is what Graham’s 50-state tour will be – though it’s becoming more difficult to tell if religion corrupted politics or politics corrupted religion.
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That’s why, if for no other reason, the presence of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign is vital. It has forced religious hypocrisy front and center.
Trump, the polar opposite of Jesus who has been described by Graham as “a very smart man,” has the backing of more white evangelicals than any other candidate, according to an NBC tracking poll.
The current standard bearer of the party that preaches about morality almost as much as Graham does is a man who has lived the kind of life preachers like Graham frequently warn against. He’s a braggadocio who has been so irresponsible with the plenty God granted him at birth he has used the bankruptcy system more times than usual for a man of his stature, enabling him to walk away from billions of dollars of obligations.
Graham tells his flock to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, a man who walked this Earth caring for the poor and outcast and scolding the well-off who spit on them. Then he gives tacit approval to a man who happily benefits from a tax system so skewed to the wealthy The New York Times called it a separate, private system for the rich.
I asked an evangelical pastor friend of mine if that said something significant about the state of religion.
All he could say was that he “didn’t get” why evangelicals, a group maybe more than any other that proudly says nothing is more important than its faith, had become faithful followers of Trump.
Are they really so blind they can’t see it sends a message that loyalty to God seems to have been trumped by political party affiliation? They don’t get that that’s why more young people are abandoning the church even while still pursuing God?
Think about one of the group’s moral redlines, its steadfast hatred of abortion.
Graham talks about wanting “Godly” leaders who oppose abortion the way he does. But that’s neither about God nor morality. It’s simply a political choice. Graham and others don’t make much room for those who use their faith to support government efforts that reduce abortion and miscarriages – to the tune of more than a million a year – through access to better health care and contraception rather than abortion bans, which may only put the lives of more women at risk.
Graham doesn’t seem happy that under the supposedly ungodly (read: Democratic) current president, the abortion rate has fallen to an all-time low.
He only seemed bothered by Trump when the candidate suggested Kentucky clerk Kim Davis follow the law concerning gay marriage.
Maybe it makes sense for evangelicals to vote for Trump. Politics makes strange bedfellows.
Let’s just not pretend they are doing it because God told them to.
Bailey is a former columnist and editor for the (Myrtle Beach) Sun News. He wrote this for the Charlotte Observer. On Twitter: @ijbailey