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The Problem With Franklin Graham

Don Rose 30 August 2010 6 Comments

Most of the time I look with a mixture if disdain and comic bemusement at the “birthers” who purport that Barack Obama was not born in America or that he is a Muslim or both. For many it’s a political tool used to help delegitimatize his presidency; for others it’s a way of expressing their dislike of either his blackness or “otherness” without quite admitting racism or bigotry.

There will always be a lunatic fringe on one or another side of American politics—including those on the left who still think 9/11 was an “inside job” or an airliner never really crashed into the Pentagon.

I tend to shrug off these lunacies because they are simply beyond reasonable argument. Yet I maintain a singular disdain for the worst offenders: public figures who know better, such as some congressmen and senators who play the political game with evasive, ambiguous responses.

Then there are the members of various state legislatures that are passing laws denying a position on the presidential ballot to anyone who can’t prove he was born in the USA. They’re cognizant that such regulations are invalid because federal law supercedes them. They are not loons, but the worst kind of divisive, pandering politicians.

All of which is preamble to expressing my total disgust with a highly prominent and respected clergyman who recently spewed a misleading piece of political poison about Obama, putting himself in the orbit of the Limbaughs, Becks and Hannitys who make their living that way. However, because the perpetrator is so prominent and a man of the cloth, few commentators or editorialists called him out for it.

I speak of Franklin Graham, the Christian evangelist son of Billy Graham, who, aside from any pope was the world’s best-known clergyman of the last half-century. Franklin is widely known, though he never filled his aged father’s shoes in recognition or as friend and counselor of presidents of both parties. Conservative Billy had his gaffes, but nothing to top Franklin’s recent statement to CNN about Obama:

“He was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim; the seed of Muslim is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother,” Franklin said. “He was born a Muslim; his father gave him an Islamic name….You can be born a Muslim. You can be born a Jew. But you can’t be born a Christian.”
Graham added: “Now, it’s obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That’s what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn’t. So I just have to believe the president is what he has said.”

Where do we begin?

By pointing out that although Obama had an African Mulsim grandfather, his father—who abandoned the family soon after Barack’s birth—was never a practicing Muslim but an atheist? Just as his white mother, though from a mainline Protestant background, was a humanist agnostic, believing there is much to be gained from the teachings of all religions, but also things to criticize, including elements of Christianity.

Barack Obama was born into no religion, got no early religious training, briefly attended Catholic and secular elementary schools in Indonesia, but later in life adopted Christianity—the mainstream United Church of Christ. He was never known to or had any reason to “renounce” Mohammed or Islam.

Without going into complex and convoluted theological discussions, all the facts indicate Islam is a religious belief, not a genetic condition. If one is “born” into it and raised in it one must still practice it. Though most Muslims believe in patrilineal descendency, there is no “seed” that automatically makes you a member of the faith. Even patrilineal descendency is questioned by some Islamic theologians.

Just for the record, while matrilineal descendency (seed?!?) is current Jewish doctrine, historically it has not always been. Recent science, searching for anything resembling a “Jewish gene” found only one possible strain—passed along only by fathers of one priestly tribe.

Graham’s inaccurate and misleading comments—unforgiveable from a trained theologian—can only stoke the fires of the birthers and feed the growing hatred of Islam currently pervading the nation.

From a clergyman of his standing they can accellerate Muslims’worldwide fear that we are really at war with Islam. Which can only breed more terrorists, including many here at home like the Fort Hood murderer and the Times Square bomber.

Billy ought to wash out Franklin’s mouth with soap.


Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

image Billy and Franklin Graham


  • John Powers said:

    Hey Don,

    Wasn’t it the New York Times that developed the story about President Obama being a Muslim?


    The New York Times and much of the rest of the media had a adjunct campaign to claim that Obama is all things to all people. I suppose the Times thought it was fashionable to claim that Obama was a Muslim in 2008, a decision that seems strange now, though the public has generally dismissed the Times op-ed.

    Graham makes a less vigorous claim than the Times. He seems to be pretty measured on this. President Obama is in a position where he cannot be all things to all people anymore.

  • Dan Kelley said:

    Some of this controversy reminds me of when former US Senator Albert Gore, Jr., (D-TN), introduced the subject of “Willie Horton” into the political debate while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination against Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA). Gore lost the nomination.

    Later in the same campaign year, Democrats excoriated Vice President George H. W. Bush for using the prison furlough program in campaign advertisements. Republicans also issued “Get Out of Jail Free” cards fashioned after the popular “Monopoly” board game in the weeks before the general election. Dukakis stumbled and bumbled through the campaign and never shook the soft on crime tag. Bush won the election and carried Illinois. He was the last GOP nominee to do so.

    Fast forward to 2008, political operatives for US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) were criticized for questioning Obama’s parentage, citizenship, and religious background during the presidential primary campaign. While Obama subsequently won the nomination and the election, his own clumsy statements and ambiguous evasions have had the net effect of keeping these issues alive. Now, it is the fault of the Republicans and the Tea Party for continued existence of the issue. Who advised Obama to open his big mouth and address the Ground Zero Mosque controversy? He kicked over a hornet’s nest on that issue which he could have avoided.

    It seems as if the Democrats can open up cans filled with worms during the primaries, but afterwards it is always someone else’s fault for having listened to what they said and repeating it.

  • Stephen Jordan said:

    Wow, did I ever come to the wrong conclusion about Trinity Church of Christ and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Not being a Protestant, I assumed that Wright was speaking from Protestantism’s deepest left field; but, thanks to your article, I stand corrected.

  • Bill Baar said:

    Rickey Hendon rather famously accused Obama of being an Irish O’Bama on the floor in Springfield. Hendon didn’t quite sense Obama as being Chicago African-American enough.

    The Prez has been plagued with being alien his entire career, and it’s about as simple as that; the guy is tough to warm up too.

    Charismatics can be like that. Progressives are stuck with him Don. A sad choice.

  • S Muller said:

    Obamas’ grandmother said he was born in Africa. Michelle said he was in his “homeland” when they visited Africa. Obama said “my muslim faith” in an interview before he was corrected by the interviewer. Obama won’t release his school or medical records; his Hawaiian birth certificate is now off bounds. Any wonder people have questions??

  • Pat Hickey said:

    I don’t care if he was ‘born in cross-fore hurricane’ – He is the worst President in USA history.

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