A couple of Christmases ago I was accosted at the end of the service by a local pastor whose church was not holding a Christmas service. Not physically accosted, just verbally, so let’s not blow this thing up.
But it got a bit too grinchy for my Christmas Day, and I veer towards the grinchy side of things myself!
This pastor greeted me warmly and then he took me to task.
He told me how he had experienced a couple of sleepless nights after reading my blog post on why Australia should disinvite Franklin Graham to our country for an evangelism tour. This was off the back of the Supreme Court nomination around Brett Kavanaugh. (You can read that post here.)
He then told me that he believed Donald Trump was God’s answer for what was ailing America at this time. I said I was pretty sure he wasn’t, and that much should seem obvious on Christmas Day.
Now I thought Kavanaugh was poorly treated by the Democrats, but Franklin Graham had made some injudicious comments such as “attempted sexual assault was not a crime” (it is), and he’d waded in hard politically.
And this in turn was off the back of things he had said about Barak Obama and his apparent Muslim background, that then morphed into an anti-immigration rant.
I couldn’t see how that would be helpful in secular Australia, which has a suspicion of the term “evangelical” anyway, given how things have gone down in the US in recent years.
Indeed I had just written the very same week (here) about how we might need to retire that word “evangelical” because it was getting way too sullied for it to be used without fifty three caveats. No amount of godly, humble non-celebrity evangelicals would overcome the stench being poured on the word by the political animals and the mega-pastor-disasters.
But we were assured that Franklin would stick to the gospel while in Australia, the gospel being the hope of the nations and all. He would come here, avoid the media circus, refuse to get involved with politics, and stick to the hope we have in Jesus. Cos that’s the hope of the world, right?
Well, all of the nations – and in every part of the world – except the US where Franklin lives, apparently. Because as the events of the past two years since that Christmas, and especially the events of the past few weeks, have shown, the gospel isn’t quite good enough to offer you what you want.
It’s become clear that Franklin Graham believes that the pure gospel message is a good enough foundation for everyone else, but not for his own country. When it comes to the USA if you’re going to get things done, if there’s any hope left for the nation, you have to spike the gospel punchbowl with the sneaky home brew of political power.
And Franklin Graham, along with the likes of the formerly sane Eric Metaxas, have been spiking it for a while. And getting drunk on it.
Yes I know in recent days even he has been shocked by the events in The Capitol. And he even put out this revisionist tweet to try and dampen things down:
Sorry Franklin. That doesn’t cut it. You have pointed the finger constantly at anyone and everything in the political sphere that you do not agree with and went with Trump’s promise of greater clout and social influence all the way. You’ve spent so much time and energy working against the common good with the statements you have made.
You pointed fingers all the way until you realised that the promised new dawn he offered was a chimera, and it slipped through your fingers like sand. And then you slip back somehow to the middle ground.
And now that finger is pointing back at you, and it is finding you wanting.
And speaking of sand. So much of what has gone on in the evangelical camp reads a bit like this:
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13)
Just two sins? Hey I’ve committed more than that this morning already!
Yes, but what sins! The double-sided sin of rejecting the One who is their hope, and putting their hope in the one who isn’t. And doing so publicly time and time again.
The likes of Franklin Graham have been sitting beside the broken cistern of political power in the US hoping against hope that it could slake their thirst. And perhaps if their thirst was for power, it could. But the events of the past week have shown that you will come up parched. In fact you will die a very public death. And he is.
It’s hypocritical at the very least to say “Don’t worry Australia, I will stick to the gospel when I’m in your country.” and then abandon that gospel when you are in your own. The same gospel that is the power of salvation for all Australians who believe, is in fact the same gospel that is the power of salvation for all Americans who believe. Unless you don’t actually believe that.
I mean, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a point in the flight over here to Australia where one of the angels said to God:
“Hey Franklin’s Lear jet has crossed over into international waters, time to remind him to put away the politics and stick to the gospel.”
And speaking of gospel, boy don’t they need that gospel now. The divisions in the US are not going to be conquered by the Democrats because they have their own version of division. But that’s how politics works: to the winner the spoils. Good thing the gospel is for losers.
The divisions are not going to be conquered by Twitter or any other social media platform belatedly (and hypocritically) discovering their untapped virtue (hint: they don’t have any virtue). Everyone’s got a broken cistern they are trying to quench their thirst at, when all along there is a spring of living water available to them.
And Franklin Graham, who should have known better, and who grew up in a family that DID know better, didn’t know better.
And I reckon he’s going to experience a few sleepless nights himself as he seeks to justify his actions, and seeks to launder his involvement in what was going on. And I wonder too if that local pastor has taken time to pause and reflect on where his hope was placed too.