Franklin Graham and the Sanctity of Politics
On Wednesday, Christian Evangelical leader Franklin Graham took to Twitter to weigh in on Democratic presidential candidate (and fellow Christian) Pete Buttigieg's recent remark that "God doesn't have a political party."
Mayor Buttigieg, as just about everyone knows by now, is both gay and married.
Unsurprisingly, Graham's tweet drew lots of responses, many of them echoing the same theme:
Cool, do Trump next https://t.co/AjwYoOccPW
— Hannah (@ruthyoest) April 25, 2019
It's interesting that a few years ago, the main point of contention would have been with Graham's thoughts on homosexuality and marriage (though no one would have been surprised by them). Lots of Christians, after all, believe in and promote the sanctity of marriage, in its traditional and biblical sense, because of the teachings of their faith. And as Graham stated, the Bible does indeed describe homosexuality as a sin, and marriage as being between a man and a woman.
However, in this country, marriage is a legal institution, administered by the government. The separation of church and state is supposed to, in part, protect citizens from religious imposition by means of the law. And like it or not, the Supreme Court has extended the legal definition of marriage, as a civil right, to include gay marriage.
But again, this isn't what spawned a good chunk of this week's backlash. What drew the ire of a number of people was the glaring hypocrisy it requires for someone like Franklin Graham to publicly pass faith-based moral judgment on a political leader, especially on the topic of marriage.
After all, as Mr. Wehner pointed out, Graham is not only an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, but also an adamant defender and apologist — including on the issue of our president's numerous high-profile personal assaults on the sanctity of marriage.
For example, here's what Graham said in an interview just last year, when asked about President Trump's tryst with porn-star, Stormy Daniels (while married to his current wife, Melania):
"I don’t have concern, in a sense, because these things happened many years ago — and there’s such bigger problems in front of us as a nation that we need to be dealing with than other things in his life a long time ago. I think some of these things — that’s for him and his wife to deal with. I think when the country went after President Clinton, the Republicans, that was a great mistake that should never have happened. And I think this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business. And we’ve got other business at hand that we need to deal with."
So last year, Graham wasn't terribly concerned with sinful violations of the sanctity of marriage, nor did he believe such acts required repentance (which Trump admits he has never sought). According to Graham, it was a matter between spouses and was nobody else's business.
That's quite a deviation from what he said about Bill Clinton's infidelity back in the late 90s:
"The private acts of any person are never done in secret. God sees and judges all sin, and while He seeks to restore the offender with love and grace, He does not necessarily remove all the consequences of our sin. As a boy I remember my mother telling me of the consequences of sin. Like a boat, whose wake can capsize other boats, sin leaves a wake. Just look at how many have already been pulled under by the wake of the president’s sin: Mr. Clinton’s wife and daughter, Ms. Lewinsky, her parents, White House staff members, friends and supporters, public officials and an unwitting American public."
I guess the Unsinkable Donald Trump is an entirely different vessel — one that floats high above the consequences of sin. Or could it be that Graham truly does believe it was wrong of he and the Republicans to go after Clinton back then? If that were the case, however, why does he feel comfortable going after Buttigieg on the issue of marriage sanctity now?
Maybe — just maybe — Mr. Graham has one faith-based set of moral standards for the political leaders he aligns with, and a completely different set for the political leaders he doesn't.
He certainly wouldn't be alone on that front.
A number of influential Christian leaders and regular church-going Christians in this country have made breathtaking moral allowances for President Trump, who at times seems to wear his sinful conduct as a badge of honor. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Counsel (who officially endorsed Trump's candidacy back in 2016) has referred to this phenomenon as a "transactional" relationship, in which Trump gets a "mulligan" on his Christian failings, as long as he pursues some legislative and cultural gains for the Christian community.
What a deal!
But if that's the agreement, and everything's transactional, shouldn't someone like Pete Buttigieg — in the interest of fairness and Christian grace — be afforded the same consideration?
I mean, if you're a Christian who is willing to rationalize and minimalize Trump's sins (as identified by the Christian faith) for the sake of other faith-based contributions, why wouldn't you do the same for someone else who brings his own set of Christian contributions to the table — including personal decency, compassion, and the open practice of that faith that goes well beyond holding up a Bible and referencing "two Corinthians"?
But that's not what's happening — at least not in Graham's case. Graham is applying singular teachings of his faith selectively, as a partisan weapon against political opponents.
Is that of service to God? No. It's of service to politics, and it should be recognized as such.