All the things said on comment threads this week about the passing of Reverend Billy Graham (1918-2018), “America’s Pastor”, including many of my own LGBTQ friends giving him some wiggle room in their thoughts and prayers, has me thinking about how we react to the passing of someone who was despicable.
Graham was a con man, the same way our current president is a shyster. He was also anti-Semitic, anti-women, pro-war, and a strident homophobe. Graham wrote:
“Let me say this loud and clear! We traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare. Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected, and you will be judged by God’s holy standards. But there was hope! Reformation is possible. Seize it while there’s still a chance.”
Like Donald J. Trump. Graham was one of the greatest self-promoters of all time. Graham carefully cultivated his reputation for personal integrity. Yet, he was a virulent anti-LGBTQ , a Jew-basher, and he urged Richard Nixon to use nukes in Vietnam. He was a slick political operative and Christian Dominionist welcoming The Apocalypse.
There was also the infamous “Billy Graham Rule”, now “The Pence Rule”, which advocates that men avoid meeting, travelling or eating with a woman, other than his wife, alone, as a way of preventing infidelity or even the “appearance of evil”.
Next week, Graham’s corpse will lie in state at the Capitol rotunda, only the fourth private citizen to be so honored, and the first since Rosa Parks in 1995. It is as oddly appropriate as Graham’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Graham was a conniving hypocrite with a drive for earthly power. He was America’s greatest evangelical entrepreneur, launching a lucrative Christian media culture, laying the foundations for megachurches and prosperity ministries, who brought Jesus back into American politics, and sowed the seeds for the Christian Right of today.
Graham had the ear of 12 US Presidents over six decades. His Billy Graham Evangelical Association advocated for ”gay cure” therapy on its website and endorsing Trump’s agenda.
In death, Graham is enjoying cult-like levels of adulation. It is unprecedented, and it is disturbing and willfully ignorant.
But, I know you are not supposed say bad things about someone who has just passed, so I will mention that he had nice hair.
Mark Twain (1835-1910) was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens shortly after an appearance of Halley’s Comet, and he predicted that he would “go out with it” as well; he died the day after the comet returned. He is one of the greatest American writers and humorists. He once wrote:
“If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be – a Christian”.