Thursday, March 15, 2018

"Thoughts and prayers" for social problems

Christopher Stroop takes a look at the image of Billy Graham the Moderate in (appropriately? ironically?) Playboy, In Billy We Trust? How "America's Pastor" Birthed Our New Theocratic Wave 02/23/2018. Stroop describes himself in this article as part of the "the ex-evangelical community." His article has a tone of a convert away from a cause that he experienced as harmful. But he has real insight into fundamentalist culture, and is careful with facts.

He reminds us of what a large role Graham played in building the conservative version of the Cold War outlook, which had a heavy religious component. Although distinguishing the conservative from the liberal version would be a challenging undertaking. The liberal Cold Warriors had their own Christian theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who actually had some important practical perspectives in his foreign policy vision known as Christian realism. Although Niebuhr own view of Soviet Communism was highly ideological, too.

Stroop also talks about how Billy Graham's public religiosity affected the contemporary versions of his son Franklin and of former alleged moderate Rick Warren. And he argues, "Radically conservative, mostly white evangelicals like Rick Warren and Franklin Graham are largely responsible for America being stuck with a thrice-married brash billionaire who brags about sexual assault as president."

I like Stroop's description of I've started to call the conservative evangelical "thoughts and prayers" position on social problems they don't want solved:
In a famous 1958 sermon, “What’s Wrong with the World?”, Billy Graham lamented that America had “rejected God’s simple program ... We’re not really living for Christ.” He insisted that “The race problem is a symptom. War is a symptom. Crime is a symptom.” A symptom of what? “Sin,” according to Graham, the “disease” inherent in “man’s nature.” In the same sermon, Graham decried the United Nations for not opening its meetings in prayer. His actions in respect to race were also in line with this way of thinking. While Graham did indeed bail Martin Luther King, Jr. out of jail, he also opposed King’s calls for civil disobedience.

Billy Graham never moved past this ideology. In 2012, for example, he wrote, “the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.” And how exactly had America moved away from God? Broadly, by embracing “the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex,” and more specifically by limiting the ability of police chaplains in some locales to pray in Jesus’s name. Oh and, of course, abortion. Since the late 1970s, it’s always abortion.

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