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May 09, 2012 10:31 AM Billy Graham and Amendment One

By Ed Kilgore

One of the odder phenomena surrounding the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina was the last-minute emergence of the Rev. Billy Graham, the retired, chronically-ill 93-year-old evangelist, as a supporter of the amendment. Graham’s family-run organization took out full-page ads in 14 NC newspapers last weekend endorsing the Amendment as a simple matter of following the scriptural definition of marriage.

Nobody would have been surprised if Franklin Graham—who has inherited direction of his father’s ministry—had taken this step; Graham is an inveterate participant in conservative politics, most recent getting himself into some hot water by appearing to doubt the president’s Christianity.

But the patriarch of the Graham clan has been careful for many years about getting himself identified with political causes that might appear partisan, going back to the damage in credibility he suffered from his close association with Richard Nixon. He very conspicuously refused to take part in the Moral Majority. He seems to have been especially sensitive to claims that he was tolerant of bigotry, probably dating back to concerns that he was too complacent about segegration when he began his ministry in the Jim Crow South. He made a point of desegregating his own audiences in the 1950s and of inviting Martin Luther King, Jr., to speak at one of his Crusades (though safely outside the South) in 1957. Graham was also a reasonably early and quite staunch opponent of South African apartheid.

So why, at this late stage of his life, when he had finally achieved a reputation as a religious leader who had transcended all the divisions of his times, would he so conspicuously enlist in the shopwarn anti-gay-marriage cause, in his home state no less? It’s hard to say, unless he’s no longer in control of his ministry or of his faculties. But it’s sad to see; sort of like an aging musician who courts embarrassment with just one tour too many instead of letting the old recordings speak for themselves. And in North Carolina, where Graham is almost certainly the state’s best-known citizen, it probably did have an impact for the worse—for marriage equality, and for Billy Graham’s ultimate legacy.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Steve on May 09, 2012 10:43 AM:

    Good take, Ed. A shameful addition to his legacy.

  • MattF on May 09, 2012 10:52 AM:

    I was never a fan of Billy, and I'm not going to be a fan of Billy... But he's 93, he's surrounded by a wingnut family, he's a biblical literalist, and he was never even remotely liberal on issues that could be labelled 'religious'.

  • Bo on May 09, 2012 10:53 AM:

    I suspect that poor Billy has little left of his faculties. I can only conclude that his son conned him into this fiasco . . . and probably got him to change his will in the process and leave his entire estate to him. It's just how evangelistic snake-oil salesman like Franklin roll.

  • T2 on May 09, 2012 10:53 AM:

    "unless hes no longer in control of his ministry or of his faculties." I'm voting for "faculties". Graham's been blabbering for years now. And as for his "legacy"...geez, this guy's been a mouthpiece for the GOP forever. That's his legacy...using religion to prop up a hard-line conservative viewpoint.

  • c u n d gulag on May 09, 2012 10:54 AM:

    Ed,
    I'm sorry, but please don't make Graham out to be some kind of 42 year-old Willie Mays, stumbling in Centerfield on a flyball as a Met, he'd have had in his back pocket 10 years before as a Giant.

    Or, a Dizzy Gillespie in one of his last concerts (which I saw), too old to blow-out his chipmunk cheeks, and hit a high note he'd have easily hit in Harlem back in the 40's - and then some.

    Or a Pete Townsend, who can't leap and whirl and windmill quite like he did at Woodstock, and does in slow-motion what was once done at lightning speed.

    Graham was always the bright and shining face of "Hate Monger Lite."
    Less angry! More tolerant!

    He just picked an chose his spots for rationality, and was wise enough to keep his mouth shut on others.

    But old age has a bad habit of erasing the governors on men's engines, and they finally say what they've been thinking all along.

    And I think that's exactly what Ol' Billy's doing.

  • Gorobei on May 09, 2012 10:56 AM:

    I'm curious as to whether anyone in North Carolina gave any thought to the impact that passing this sort of regressive amendment would have on their economy.

    The Raleigh - Durham research and technology cluster may have more difficulty marketing itself to companies if those companies will have difficulty hiring talented individuals who won't have thier civil rights recognized in North Carolina.

  • berttheclock on May 09, 2012 11:03 AM:

    Ah, the buildup to President Obama standing tall in the Bank of America stadium. Now, which clown picked this city for the big summer event. He or she must really have had a huge hankering for pulled pork.

  • berttheclock on May 09, 2012 11:04 AM:

    Ah, the buildup to President Obama standing tall in the Bank of America stadium. Now, which clown picked this city for the big summer event. He or she must really have had a huge hankering for pulled pork.

  • J-NC on May 09, 2012 11:10 AM:

    @Gorobei,

    Yes. Local business groups were opposed to the amendment for precisely that reason. Of course, gay marriage was already illegal, but this amendment has other problems too. On the positive side for NC employers, we're one of 31 states with one of these.

    The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) was the only region of the state to vote strongly against the amendment. Mecklenburg and Buncombe counties (Charlotte and the supposedly-liberal Asheville) were marginally against. Guilford and Forsythe (Greensboro & Winston-Salem) were marginally for. There were a couple of smaller counties that were marginally against. The rest of the state was 2:1 or more in favor.

  • c u n d gulag on May 09, 2012 11:13 AM:

    Gorobei,
    I lived in Chapel Hill, Southern Pines, and Fayetteville, 2000-2009.

    And let me tell you, the Triangle, Asheville, and Winston-Salem, have plenty of gay people.
    Fayetteville, not so much.
    And the Triange, Asheville, and W-S, are the driving/booming economic areas of the state.

    And, as for your concerns, they're legitimate - but less so now, in these economic circumstances.

    I don't think companies will have any trouble finding and hiring talented people - it's a "Seller's Market."
    "If you build jobs, they will come."
    Straight, or Gay, or Transgendered.

  • J-NC on May 09, 2012 11:14 AM:

    @bert,

    Well, they wanted it to be in a swing state. If you can name another swing state without one of these, I'm all ears.

    Given that at this point NC is probably a pure toss-up, the extra exposure in the local news can be the difference.

  • T2 on May 09, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Gorobel asks : "I'm curious as to whether anyone in North Carolina gave any thought" you could stop right there.
    No, they don't give it a thought one way or another past the "hate the gay people" part of it.

  • J-NC on May 09, 2012 11:23 AM:

    @T2,

    Pretty broad brush, eh?

    I'll just suggest you read gulag's and my earlier posts. Between us we have about 20 years in NC.

    Plenty of religiously-motivated bigots here. Plenty of other bigots here. Plenty of ignorant people here. Just like anywhere else. But it isn't close to everyone.

  • jrosen on May 09, 2012 11:24 AM:

    When your main (or only) thought is how to get into Heaven after you depart this Vale of Tears (pie in the sky bye and bye) you don't care much about the fate of the local economy.

  • Anonymous on May 09, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Billy Graham raised a family of grifters. He and Ruth used to be people you could respect but their children are horrible people that trade on 'Daddy's reputation' and I'm sure they are still doing it.

  • Skip on May 09, 2012 11:26 AM:

    When Graham the Elder finally climbs the angelic stairway to the Pearly Gates, Jesus will meet him and say, "Great job on Amendment One, Billie"? That's what kind of savior Graham believes in?

  • berttheclock on May 09, 2012 11:27 AM:

    I suppose they could hold the convention in Mayberry. No African-Americans, no gays, there.

  • Charles on May 09, 2012 11:44 AM:

    Mr. Graham stepped up on this because it is a matter of Christianity, not a political party.

    Irregardless if you want to believe it or not, the Bible does condemn homosexuality in more than one place.

    There have always been gays and there always will be. However, thee is a huge difference in there being gays and a Nation steping up and saying that they approve of it as a mainstream way of life. It is not. It goes against nature itsself.

  • navarro on May 09, 2012 11:45 AM:

    what many of you don't seem to understand is that for the true believers of southern baptist christianity who take every pauline epistle as being the true and inspired word of god the idea of taking an institution they see as having been created by god himself and applying it to sinners-by-definition and thereby sanctifying a relationship that is condemned by god is an affront that cannot stand. i've been a far-left liberal agnostic in texas since i was born here 50 years ago and i can tell you with about 95% certainty that graham's stance is built on that. attempting to blame it on senility is a bad idea because it glosses over the reality of the situation in a way that leaves you unprepared for the real feelings of an unfortunately large fraction of our populace.

  • boatboy_srq on May 09, 2012 11:54 AM:

    Plenty of religiously-motivated bigots here. Plenty of other bigots here. Plenty of ignorant people here. Just like anywhere else. But it isn't close to everyone.

    No, just 3 of 5 participating voters, from yesterday's results.

    All it takes is one to make a place uncomfortable.

    And before you rant about how I don't know NC, this is from a former FL resident who's seen all the same behavior - including some of those so-called "righteous persons" hitting on me while in his office/classroom/whatever working on his server/lecture/whatever and thinking that was OK (just don't tell their wives about it) - right before going out to vote against some LGBT issue.

    Stop excusing your fellow NCers, and start educating them on how hate isn't in the Gospels, and how dishonesty hurts everyone including themselves. If you're losing the fight, it's not their fault.

  • boatboy_srq on May 09, 2012 12:13 PM:

    @Charles:

    The Book may say one or two things about same-sex sexual acts. It doesn't say ANYTHING about being an LGB person (trans is a comparatively recently identified situation). It also says one or two things about wearing poly/cotton blends, eating shellfish or cheeseburgers, planting corn and wheat in the same field and when and how to sell your daughters. It also says a whole lot more about tolerating injustice, poverty (especially hoarding wealth in the face of poverty - Eye of the Needle and the young man who was told to give everything away), scamming in the name of religion (remember the moneychangers in the temple?) and allowing your fellow human being - regardless of color or creed - to suffer if you can do something about it (Good Samaritan). Don't lecture us about what The Book says about gay people unless you're prepared to rebut the entire GOP agenda of "free markets" (theft) "entitlement reform" (screwing the poor/elderly) "healthcare reform" (letting the sick die unless they can pay) and all the rest of the props that hold up the 1% at the expense of everyone else.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on May 09, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Disappointed NCer, here. I'm actually out-of-state right now, but I still vote in NC, and yep, I did vote absentee against Amendment One way back at the beginning of April. You know, I've been hanging on to my NC residency for a while now, but it pains me to think that it's about time I hang it up. And I was just coming around to realizing how civil certain parts of Carolina (read, the Triangle) can be in comparison to where I grew up in the sticks of Eastern Carolina. But this new development rather debases NC's southern-but-kinda/sorta-sensible appeal. Carolina, please say it aint's so!!!

  • delNorte on May 09, 2012 12:28 PM:

    "....a simple matter of following the scriptural definition of marriage."

    King David's scriptural definition of marriage is as follows:

    King David had eight wives and at least ten concubines. His wives are listed in 2 Samuel 3:2-5, but the list is missing two wives - the first one, Michal, and the last one, Bathsheba. Their names in order are:

    Michal / Ahinoam / Abigail / Maacah / Haggith / Abital / Eglah / Bathsheba

    2 Samuel 5:13-15 says that David took more wives and concubines in Jerusalem, but doesn't list how many, only names the sons born to him there. In a later passage, we are told of ten concubines whom his son Absalom defiled, so at the very least, David had eight wives and ten concubines - probably more.

  • c u n d gulag on May 09, 2012 12:33 PM:

    Charles,
    Stay away from Red Lobsters.

    And if your wife wears acrylics with cotton, smite her.

    And I forget what you're supposed to do during the week or so she's "unclean," but I'm pretty sure "sexy-time" isn't part of the program.

    And there are other things in that part that I've forgotten.
    So, when you and every other "Christian" follows ALL of the tenets, please shut up.
    Thank you.

  • c u n d gulag on May 09, 2012 12:35 PM:

    Not 'when,' "until!"

    Ken oui hez "Edit" pleeze?

  • rrk1 on May 09, 2012 12:38 PM:

    This whole exercise in enshrining anti-gay bigotry into the state constitution is a transparent effort to hurt Obama in a swing state that is hosting the Rethug convention. It is all election-year stagecraft, and dragging ol' Billy Graham out onto that stage, a craftier bigot than most of his southern religious fanatical colleagues, is just another piece of scenery on the set.

    That the amendment won by such a large margin is disappointing, if not entirely surprising. A secret ballot allows us all the privilege of voting our true feelings, and so we know that even supposedly moderate NC harbors many ignorant and gullible bigots. Some of those votes no doubt were meant as a message to Obama who seems to be dithering on same-sex marriage, as he has dithered on many other issues. But the message to Obama is we hate you because you're (half) black, and while we hate gays too, at least some of them are white.

    The secular/religious divide in these Disunited States of America is growing ever wider not unlike two tectonic plates moving apart leaving a deep and unbridgeable rift behind. The consequences are going to be dire.

  • Hedda Peraz on May 09, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Once again, religion comes to the rescue of bigots.
    "It ain't MY fault I hate- (fill in the blank)-it is my faith that requires me to do it!

  • J-NC on May 09, 2012 12:51 PM:

    @boatboy_srq,

    sorry, no rants forthcoming. My comment was directed at a previous one suggesting that the entire state doesn't think beyond hatred for our LGBT friends.

    I agree with most of what you said. But I am excusing nobody. The results made me rather sick. However, in your post you looked at 3 out of 5 people in NC and concluded NC sucks. I look at 2 out of 5 people and say that it's a place to start.

  • J-NC on May 09, 2012 1:00 PM:

    @rrk1,

    The real divide on this one is the religious one, not the racial one. I don't know if there were exit polls done, but if there are I think we'll find that African-American votes were instrumental in putting this thing over the top. Chances are quite good these same voters will be voting for Obama in November. Right now the state is pretty much a pure toss-up.

    The church is extremely strong in the African-American community here, so there is a pretty solid streak of social conservatism. Fittingly, on the front of the local section of our paper was a picture of an African-American pastor and his flock cheering as they watched the returns from the pews.

  • boatboy_srq on May 09, 2012 1:14 PM:

    @J-NC:

    [Y]ou looked at 3 out of 5 people in NC and concluded NC sucks.

    No, I looked from the perspective of supposedly-more-moderate FL, where the ratio is more like 11 out of 20, and from (seriously sucky) personal experience there extrapolated what 3 of 5 would mean in NC.

    Once more: All it takes is one to make a place uncomfortable. "It's not so bad" only works before you've lost jobs, homes, benefits and other things because you're one of THOSE people.

  • J-NC on May 09, 2012 1:51 PM:

    @boatboy_srq,

    Understood, and I completely agree. And my experience here is in the Triangle, which was the only part of the state to overwhelmingly reject the amendment. But as you say, it does only take one.

    BTW, I somehow missed your 12:13 post before. Terrific piece of work.

  • barkleyg on May 09, 2012 2:18 PM:

    "But its sad to see; sort of like an aging musician who courts embarrassment with just one tour too many instead of letting the old recordings speak for themselves."

    Or Willie Mays retireing with the N.Y. Mets.
    And, Billy Graham aint no Willie Mays; maybe Mark Maguire or Sammy Sosa, but Definitely NO WILLIE MAYS!!

  • Mitch on May 09, 2012 2:36 PM:

    @ Charles

    "It goes against nature itsself."

    Except for, you know, the fact that homosexual/bisexual behavior is pretty much universal among mammalian and avian species, including us.

    No, what really goes against nature is believing that man was formed from dust (and woman from a man's rib), or that parents have the right to kill an unruly child (so much for the sanctity of life!), or that it's okay to slaughter entire villages (but keep the little virgin girls as slaves), or for God to send a bear to eat some kids who were making fun of a bald man, or to think that people should be condemned to an eternity of pain for any temporal offense, or just being born in the wrong culture.

  • janinsanfran on May 09, 2012 3:31 PM:

    Yeah -- I saw Franklin behind this one. Sad thing to do to your father.

  • emjayay on May 09, 2012 3:38 PM:

    Biblical marriage is of course best explained by America's Best Christian.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw

  • MuddyLee on May 10, 2012 7:45 AM:

    Remember that Billy and Franklin Graham invited Sarah Palin for lunch and a visit - the Palin family being so well known for its adherence to traditional Christian marriage, family, and childbearing practices. What's interesting to me is how you never hear conservative Christians talking about what Jesus said about homosexuality - because there is nothing said about in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). So the anti-gay stuff comes from the Old Testament which is no longer the guide for "Christians" and from the early followers of Jesus (writers of the New Testament books), especially Paul who had made a name for himself persecuting the early Christians before his conversion. It seems to me that Christians should pay more attention to the words attributed to Jesus Christ than to anything else in the Bible. Of course, the bigger question is how much do we want modern society and laws to be governed by ancient books like the Bible and the Koran - and whose interpretaion are we going to use?

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