Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 24, 2011

THE WRONG EASTER HEADLINER.... Given that it's Easter, it's not especially surprising that some of the Sunday morning talk shows would incorporate religious discussions into their public affairs discussions. But it is surprising when programs give a platform to those who don't deserve them.

ABC News sent out a press release the other day, noting the line-up for today's "This Week." It announced a problematic headliner.

This Easter Sunday, evangelical leader Franklin Graham, leader of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelist Association, sits down with Christiane Amanpour in a "This Week" exclusive. During this season of rebirth, has America lost its faith? And what is the role of God in government and politics?

Now, Franklin Graham is, of course, the son of legendary evangelical preacher Billy Graham. But he's also known for his controversial evangelical relief organization that sought to enter Iraq in 2003 to convert Iraqis to Christianity after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, and then lied publicly about how Samaritan's Purse operates.

Perhaps most notably, Franklin Graham is also known for hating Muslims. He famously denounced Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion" in 2001 -- and then again in 2006. A year ago this week, Graham appeared on Fox News and said Muslims can only be free if they worship Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Graham's most notable trait seems to be his capacity for making bizarre and offensive public remarks. A few weeks ago, Graham said the recent disasters in Japan may be evidence that the Second Coming is near, and according to advance releases from ABC, Graham will tell Christiane Amanpour how much he likes Donald Trump, and that Facebook and Twitter might play a significant role in the second coming of Christ.

There are plenty of credible, responsible voices in the American religious community, many of whom would be delighted to appear on "This Week" in honor of Easter. So why is Franklin Graham on my TV?

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Thankfully, not so many people watch TV on Sunday morning any more.

Posted by: NealB on April 24, 2011 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with picking on one of the targets promoting hatred , intolerance , and of course their big ally , God , is the rich environment of unrestrained theological vuvuzela's who are preaching contempt . Contempt that knows little restraint in the triumphal attitudinizing prevalent amongst the "washed" .
Pick 'em , and gaze upon their idiocy and wonder ...

Posted by: FRP on April 24, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

I had high hopes for Christiane.
Not so much anymore.
Her show is just another right wing bloviation festival.

Just like our politics has moved to the right, so has the Christian religion in our country.

When a Randian loony-tune like Ryan is viewed as a right of center politician, Graham is seen as a mainstream Christian leader.
And everybody liked his Daddy.

Besides, Hagee might go off on only giving your children white chocolate Easter bunnies because the other kind is a mixture of chocolate races. And the dark chocolate bunnies are nothing but representations of bitter Mau Mau's.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 24, 2011 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

A comparison of Donald Trump and Elmer Gantry would give the naive among us an insightful glimpse of the Greatest Con in Human History.

Posted by: DAY on April 24, 2011 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

It can be disheartening to see the Christian message represented as intolerant and focused on hatred. No, it's not some media anti-Christian collusion. It's simply the desire for ratings, combined with programming laziness. The sad fallout is that those otherwise most likely to embrace the words of Jesus are most likely to be repelled by exhibitions of hatred.

I am reminded of Mark Twain's evaluation of Wagner's music: "It is much better than it sounds." As I hear such spokespeople, I think to myself that the same is true of our faith.

Posted by: Burr Deming on April 24, 2011 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't she just have a whole Tea Party Panel show just 2 weeks ago? Now she follows it up with this? Amazing.

Posted by: EM on April 24, 2011 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Last week CA hosted a bunch of tea partiers, this week a right wing anti-Muslim religious nut.

Too bad. After a pretty good start overseas in places like Egypt and Japan, CA must have received her marching orders to come back and cater to the Republican party.

Posted by: worcestergirl on April 24, 2011 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Twain was a sharp fellow , did you read his desultory "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court" ?
I am just saying you could have picked a person less repelled by the heart and soul of religion .

Posted by: FRP on April 24, 2011 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Franklin Graham has a First Amendment right to speak. Especially on Easter.

Posted by: Al on April 24, 2011 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

What's nice about Easter is how pleasant and happy Christians become, at least for a few days. It's a pity it reverts to more somber attitudes at other times. Even the weather on Easter Sunday seems to be consistently more clement.

Wouldn't it be nice if ABC could exploit and honor such good will with a jolly, charitable and tolerant representative of the faith, rather than their choice of Mr Graham as a somewhat hateful zealot?

Posted by: Goldilocks on April 24, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

We all have a Second amendment right to speak, as we will, generally..
Franklin Graham doesn't have a Second Amendment right to a vast national platform to spew his damaged version of Christianity: and ABC's Second Amendment rights do not insist on giving him this platform. The man is a hateful bigot and we should express our displeasure.
Fortunately, I have the god given right to turn the tube off.
I'm gonna go melt some peeps..

Posted by: MR Bill on April 24, 2011 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

For me, unless one ascribes to an angry, murderous God, I can't imagine anyone in this life advocating the killing of, or even the actual killing of his fellow man or woman and expect peace in the afterlife!

To my mind, a God who would allow such hatred and violence to be sanctioned by anyone under his cloth, is a God not worth worshiping! Any man wearing such a cloth of his God will need to be shunned if we are to give our children's children a planet worth living on!

The challenge for Christians in the modern world is how to sustain a humility worthy of their God, and beneficial to life on earth! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 24, 2011 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Agreed. I do not watch Sunday TV shows anymore. I prefer to reread OZ books, they have more logic and verisimilitude.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 24, 2011 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Graham said the recent disasters in Japan may be evidence that the Second Coming is near"

This is new to you, Mr. Benen? Every major natural disaster - and we've seen a disturbing number of them, from the Indonesian Boxing Day Tsunami to the Haitian earthquake and unending followup, to New Orleans' similarly continuing series of disasters, to Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and Chernobyl, etc - every one of these is taken by "the faithful" as evidence we're in the End Times.

My opinion is that every society that convinces itself the end of the world is coming has been right.

Posted by: zandru on April 24, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Amanpour has been a big disappointment. Not that I really wanted any reason to sit and watch TV on Sunday morning.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 24, 2011 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

It must be Sunday! CNN (Fox-Lite) has on both President McCain and Joe LIEberman to tell us what Obama is doing wrong.

Posted by: SadOldVet on April 24, 2011 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Memo to Mr. Bill:
1st amendment = speech (also religious freedom)
2nd amendment = guns.

Personally 'd like C.A. to ask the Rev. Ted Haggard why, if God hates gays, did Jesus, a middle-aged, un-married man, hang around with a bunch of men all the time.

Posted by: beb on April 24, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

thank for the warning. instead of watching, i think - like the good ex-catholic that i am - i'll perform my easter duty and watch "life of brian."

Posted by: mellowjohn on April 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Every once in a while comes a sign that maybe -- just maybe -- "God" actually exists.

Such a sign has come this Easter Sunday -- I do not own a TV and thus will not be, even accidentally, subjected to witnessing the execrable Franklin Graham and Amanpour's poor judgment in selecting guests.

Or does she select her own guests? Anyone know?

Posted by: karen marie on April 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Just so everyone knows, there are PLENTY of liberal bishops in this country who actually represent real religious organizations.

But they, apparently, like liberal politicians, are becoming part of "the Great Unseen."

Posted by: chi res on April 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

"When Jesus returns from Heaven, he will come on clouds, and world will record the event using cell phones and cameras".
Almost spilled my coffee on my keyboard.

Posted by: Ravi J on April 24, 2011 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the hateful Franklin Graham on your TV (not mine because mine's definitely off on Sunday mornings)? For the same reason that McCain, Lieberman, Boner, and other right-wing wingnuts have complete entre to the national networks. The relentless propaganda from the right is disseminated through the corporate MSM. I thought we all understood that already. Why even ask the question.

Posted by: rrk1 on April 24, 2011 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

During this season of rebirth, has America lost its faith?

I certainly hope so. I hope America someday loses its faith in prehistoric supernatural nonsense and embraces reason.

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on April 24, 2011 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Steve - You answered your own question "So why is Franklin Graham on my TV?" in the paragraph just preceding it.

"Indeed, Graham's most notable trait seems to be his capacity for making bizarre and offensive public remarks."

"News" Media 101.

Posted by: Sam on April 24, 2011 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that the scions of famous preachers are often accepted as notable preachers themselves is as ridiculous as the humbug that they spew. Franklin Graham is an especially odious example of second generation entitlement. Someone I know who was working in a mission organization in Africa told me about a visit he made to one of "his" mission outposts, and how he expected to be treated like royalty in a dirt-poor country where "his" missionaries were working and living in relative poverty. This man is disgusting in so many ways and should be shunned by society, not lionized.

Posted by: President Lindsay on April 24, 2011 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"Indeed, Graham's most notable trait seems to be his capacity for making bizarre and offensive public remarks."

yup. if it wasn't for that, franklin would otherwise be the extremely forgettable son of a famous evangelist.

actually, come to think of it, perhaps his dad should have spent more time at home and less on the road. franklin's behavior doesn't speak well of billy's parenting skills.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 24, 2011 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

All you have to say is that Franklin Graham is NO Billy Graham. Not even close.

Posted by: Bonnie on April 24, 2011 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Franklin Graham seems to be the George W. Bush of religion. Everyone like his dad, so he just piggybacks off that.

Posted by: katahdin on April 24, 2011 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why wasn't he in church? I was and missed him.

Posted by: Mayme Trumble on April 25, 2011 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: I love your blog for its thoughtful insights and cogent responses to a lot of the bull that permeates our political discussion. And, politically, I almost always agree with you.

I’d wish you and other media would be as thoughtful when discussing people’s religious views. Although I don’t expect a direct and thorough response to this note, I’d appreciate it if you would at least read it.

I’m a Christian, and I’ve listened to hundreds of sermons, read the Bible front to back a few times and read bits and pieces of it often. I’m also very interested in politics. I am no expert on Franklin Graham’s career. And I honestly don’t care what he has to say about politics. Ditto Robert Redford, Natalie Portman and Rush Limbaugh.

That said, the quote about Islam being “a very evil and wicked religion” is the fightin’ words that are the easy headline. Some Christians use that kind of rhetoric, and the phrase by itself can be appalling. I suspect that interviewers, having found that headline phrase, let it hang there and go in search of another provocative quote without finding out what the speaker really means.

That “evil and wicked” quote finds its basis in the Old Testament when God condemns the worship of false gods. We can’t be surprised when Christians, Muslims or other religious folks use that kind of rhetoric. The nature of strong religious beliefs is usually that adherents believe that they are right while the others are wrong -- or “wicked and evil.” Those adherents also strongly believe in trying to convert others. I have no problem with that.

It would be illuminating to know how Franklin Graham believes that American civil society should treat adherents of “wicked and evil” religions. Should we set up separate water fountains and public restrooms for them? Round them up and put them in concentration camps? Disrupt their religious services? Forbid our kids from playing with their kids? Execute them? Maybe Graham believes that, but I doubt it. If so, I would have a problem with that.

As a Christian, I view my beliefs as right while other religions are wrong. I also wrestle with how to apply these beliefs to my daily life. I hesitate to use phrases like “wicked or evil” because the phrase implies that we mere mortals should punish them. I prefer to let others practice their own religion while I deal with them with respect and love. I leave the final judgments to God and hope that God is good with that.

If I were running for office and someone felt like questioning my religion, I would say as little as possible: “I’m a Christian, and if you want to know what that means read the Bible and you’ll know as much as I know and be as puzzled as I am sometimes puzzled. Meanwhile, I am running for president, not for theologian-in-chief.”

Posted by: art on April 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK
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