The Christian far right has been known to throw out blatantly offensive statements almost every week, so it doesn’t surprise me that Franklin Graham, son of legendary pastor Billy Graham, is in the news for an interview with the Charlotte Observer (the full interview is in the video above). Unsurprisingly, Graham manages to alienate gays and lesbians within seconds of opening his mouth (I think that may be a new record, by the way). But there are a few things that I think we need to talk about. Fellow Christians, gather ’round and open your ears and your hearts. I only ask for a few minutes of your time. Nonbelievers or members of other faiths, you’re welcome to hang around as well, because you might actually agree with the points I have to make here. Everyone listening? Good.
I could go on and on about what Graham actually said, but it would be the umpteenth time I’ve reiterated the same points in response to the same homophobic, hateful attitude, so I’ll get straight to the point. We have to stop making stupid people famous. That’s pretty much it. As Christians, we have a responsibility to keep each other on our toes at all times, in our faith and our actions, but also in our words. And look, I understand that even we don’t all agree on everything. Members of different denominations constantly bicker about whose ideology is more accurate according to the Bible, and which teachings we should follow. But while we’re busy fighting over whether to use a King James Bible or an NIV Bible, people like Franklin Graham are destroying any progress we’ve made. Christians often wonder why less and less people are accepting Christ and changing their lives, but the answer is right in front of us.
Now I get that some things are out of our control. We can’t stop Franklin Graham or Shirley Phelps-Roper from going on television or doing an interview and saying something ridiculously hateful and offensive “in the name of God.” But that doesn’t mean we should just go about our daily lives as they say these things, because they’re creating a false stigma around Christians that is ultimately coming back and hitting us where it hurts: the number of people we see sitting in church pews every Sunday. We’re all free to say what we wish (insert typical comment about the First Amendment here, something something ‘Murica), but we have to be mindful of how others view Christians as a whole. If Franklin Graham gets the biggest voice and all he spouts is archaic nonsense about persecuting gays and killing abortion doctors, that’s what everyone will think of when they hear the word “Christian.” Obviously most people know that not all Christians are hateful, homophobic bigots, but we’re not helping our cause by sitting on the sidelines while Graham says that he agrees with Putin’s stance on homosexuality. Putin. You know, the guy who imprisons, tortures, and kills people for being gay or even hinting that they support LGBT rights.
In a country where everyone has a voice, the most radical voices often get the most attention. But when that happens, we have to be louder. We have to show as many people as possible that “turn or burn” Christians like Franklin Graham and those over at Westboro Baptist Church are an endangered species. It doesn’t matter if we have to make statements every week, every day, or every hour. If we don’t show others that Christianity is centered around the love of Christ by speaking out against statements that demonize and demean people, we’re not trying hard enough. I often see nonbelievers, members of other faiths, those in the LGBT community, and others shaking their heads when the geniuses at WBC are on the news for picketing a soldier’s funeral. I can feel the disappointment coming from their reactions, as if they want to say “those damn Christians are at it again.” This is not who we are, and too many people associate our faith with things like funeral protests and church signs that say “Jesus would stone homos.”
So speak out. Be loud. Be louder than Franklin Graham, and any of the members of the Phelps family. Stand with brothers and sisters in Christ, and say with pride and passion that hateful bigots do not represent all Christians. Tell every living soul you know that Franklin Graham and WBC do not speak for you, for your faith, or for your church. They may not believe you, but that’s why it’s so important that we all do this. One Christian out of millions won’t have a voice loud enough to overpower that of another who has said something offensive. But hatefulness does not exist as a majority in Christianity, and it’s high time that we show the world what it truly means to love thy neighbor. It’s time we stop letting the Grahams and the Phelps tarnish the Christian image with hate and intolerance. The only way to initiate this change is to make love infinitely louder than anything else, which shouldn’t be as difficult as we seem to think it is. After all, we are loved. We just have to share that love with everyone else.