Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Franklin Graham, trapped in his father's shadow


Sometimes a man can spend his whole life trapped in his father's shadow. So it is with Franklin Graham, whose Easter Sunday comments on ABC News' This Week stirred up controversy again.

Reiterating his support for Vladimir Putin's treatment of gays and voicing his belief that gay people don't adopt but "recruit children into their cause," the head of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association staked out new territory in his decades-long effort to shake off the stigma of being a preacher's kid.

I remember when he was introduced as the heir apparent to his father's extraordinary ministry twenty-five years ago (selected over his far more capable sisters), and presented as the prodigal son who had returned from a life of mild debauchery to embrace his father's God.

Graham has never worn that mantle with ease. Trained to parrot Billy's message of God's love and compassion, he always looked as if those words left a sour taste in his mouth. On the preaching circuit, he presented a Christianity that was rugged and difficult, embraced skeptically with the head but never fully with the heart.

To his credit, Graham has been a faithful steward of his father's business empire (the Billy Graham Evangelical Association's net assets in 2012 were over $124 million), but he's worked hard at being the "anti-Billy," talking about his love of machine guns and assault weapons, and being photographed with his huge gun collection and the fast cars he loves to drive.

While his father was ecumenical and warmly embraced leaders of other faiths, Graham has been quoted making fun of Hinduism and called out for harsh and inflammatory remarks about Islam. While his father was called the "preacher to the presidents," providing welcome spiritual counsel to Democratic and Republican presidents alike, Graham takes every opportunity to publicly castigate President Obama, helping to propagate the myth that the president is Muslim.

Defining himself by difference, he is one of the American Evangelical leaders who have led the movement from a period of enormous social and political clout to a moment in which their very relevance is questioned. His positions on This Week were so extreme and voiced with such a hard edge that even his fellow Evangelical leaders seemed embarrassed by his words.
Christianity reminds us that the words that flow from a man's mouth reflect the condition of his heart. To equate a parental relationship with "recruiting" speaks volumes about one's understanding of family. Recruitment speaks of duty and obligation, of joining a cause instead of being welcomed and accepted by family who knows and loves you, no matter what. Graham seemed oblivious to the fact that a gay parent -- or any parent, for that matter -- would choose to adopt out of love and a desire to give a child a better life than they might otherwise know.

What a dry and parched experience of family he must have had. And what a sad and conflicted legacy he will leave.

I asked my youngest son, Matthew, who is 15, to watch the This Week segment with me. His only reaction was to snort dismissively when Graham spoke about gay parents and adoption. "What does he know?"
Franklin Graham and his comments were about as relevant to my son as a rotary dial phone. For Matthew and his two brothers, just like the thousands of other kids across the country adopted into loving gay families, the rhetoric Graham espouses is antithetical to their experience.

If Matthew represents his generation (and statistically, his views are right in line with those of his peers), then Graham's inflammatory claims will increasingly fall on deaf ears. He's become an anachronism, with no relevance in a world that has long moved past the days when his father sought to make the Gospel relevant to a new generation of Americans.
Some men spend their lives trapped in their father's shadow. In Franklin Graham's case, it is better for the world that he stays there.

Associate Dean for External Relations at the USC Price 
School of Public Policy

Monday, April 28, 2014

Closing the LGBT conversation for a few months - Maybe not?!

The FSAOF has been credited by many in the Salvation Army, and elsewhere, with being in the forefront in exploring and sharing the many Christian-Judeo theological and humanist philosophical positions causing controversy relating to the many divisive LGBT issues.

This week we will conclude the SA related LGBT series begun some weeks ago, the third extensive LGBT series,  but interrupted to highlight the key event in the Christian and world calendar; Holy Week: Good Friday, the Crucifixion,  Resurrection and Ascension.

The FSAOF's reflections, positions and conclusions apparently resonated with the official SA position, albeit without any definitive word from any THQ or IHQ. Nonetheless, high ranking officers, active and retired have expressed appreciation to us for presenting the several competing positions that prevent the SA from issuing a final LGBT Positional Statement acceptable to a majority of world-wide Salvationist family. The two pending articles will present the current divisive stand-off and its potential, volatile threat to the Army's cohesive forward movement. And the difficulty in convincing 75% of our world-wide fellowship in seeking to reach agreement on one of the fundamental truths relating to homosexual orientation.  Reality suggests that any comprehensive understanding and appreciation of this truth will require a decade or more, and only if the SA initiates a major educational thrust in the Southern hemisphere soonest.  

I've been informed that some groups. Army and others, are using our several scores of LGBT articles as study and discussion tools. And we thank God for rewarding our efforts in this very practical way.

Sven Ljungholm



A Letter I Gave to Couples Who Wanted Me to Perform Their Wedding Ceremony

April 26, 2014

When I was a pastor, I had many couples asked me to perform their wedding ceremonies. In fact, one year I officiated at 40 weddings. In case you are wondering, I was really stupid to accept so many invitations.

I am pretty conservative about doing weddings. I see the role of the Christian minister to be narrowly defined regarding when he says "yes" to such opportunities. As a result, I often found myself in some awkward positions when I had to decline to perform the ceremony.

The dilemma became much more palatable when I sent a letter to the prospective wedding couple who inquired about my availability. A lot of the awkwardness dissipated, and a good number of the couples never came to see me. When my assistant received a request from a couple inquiring about my performing a ceremony, she told the couple that she would send them a letter. They were welcome to make an appointment with me after they read the letter shown below.

Dear Prospective Newlyweds,

Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming marriage! I am honored you asked me to perform the wedding ceremony.

Please understand that I perform weddings for couples where both the man and woman are Christians. My role is that of a Christian minister. I am unable to be a part of a wedding where either the husband or the wife will not be fully committed to Christ. The most important foundation of a marriage is the faith commitment of the couple. Both the husband and wife must demonstrate when they meet with me that they profess Christ as their Lord and Savior; and they must share with me the specifics of their Christian testimony. If you are not certain about your faith, I would be happy to share with you what it means to be a Christian.

The Bible also teaches that intimate or sexual relations must be limited to the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Any other sexual relationship is sinful. If you are currently sexually active, you must indicate your desire to repent of your sin. If you are living together, you must be willing to live apart from one another until you are married.

Finally, I must require any couple planning to marry to receive premarital counseling. I have several choices I can recommend to you.

If you are willing to abide by the issues I state in this letter, please feel free to make an appointment with me, so we can determine next steps. Marriage is a God-given institution. It is something to be honored and celebrated. It is a commitment for life. I pray that your marriage will honor our Lord in all that you do and say.

In His service,

Thom S. Rainer

Let me know what you think of my letter. And let me know what your experiences are in weddings and premarital considerations. I bet it could be a lively discussion!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Thank you for the mustard!

Confusing ‘freedom’ with ‘license’

The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the subject of freedom-
In order to escape the implications of freedom (namely, its involvement in responsibility), there are those who would deny individual freedom either communally (as do the Communists) or biologically (as do some Freudians). Any civilization that denies free will is, generally, a civilization that is already disgusted with the choices of its freedom, because it has brought unhappiness upon itself.

Those who make the theoretical denial of free will are those who, in practice, confuse freedom by identifying it with license. One will never find a professor who denies freedom of the will who does not also have something in his life for which he wishes to shake off responsibility. He disowns the evil by disowning that which made evil possible, namely, free will.

On the golf course, such deniers of freedom blame the golf clubs but never themselves. The excuse is like the perennial one of the little boy who broke the vase: “Someone pushed me.” That is, he was forced. When he grows up, he becomes a professor, but instead of saying: “I was pushed,” he says: “The concatenation of social, economic, and environmental factors, so weighted down with the collective psychic heritage of our animal and evolutionary origin, produced in me what psychologists called a compulsive Id.” These same professors who deny freedom of the will are the ones who sign their names to petitions to free Communists in the name of freedom, after they have already abused the privilege of American freedom.

There is no law that a young man should give the gift of a ring to the young lady to whom he is engaged. The one word in the English language that proves the close connection between gifts and freedom is “thanks.” As Chesterton said: “If man were not free, he could never say, ‘Thank you for the mustard’.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen; an excerpt from his book, "The World's First Love."

Fulton Sheen, the much loved American Archbishop. Bishop Fulton Sheen was the author of numerous books, pamphlets and essays on Catholicism. As Bishop of Rochester NY, Fulton Sheen was also a familiar face on American television programming. During the 1950s he was the popular host of “Life is Worth Living” and then later “Bishop Sheen Program.” The television shows and radio programs of Bishop Fulton Sheen are still aired today.


Americans ranked clergy and other professions based on perceptions of their ethics and honesty in a Gallup poll.

"Gallup has asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of members of various professions periodically since 1976, and annually since 1990," the report noted.

For the first time, less than 50 percent of respondents rated clergy "high" or "very high," with 47 percent of 2013 respondents rating clergy in these categories.

The inaugural survey in 1977 found 60 percent of respondents rating clergy "high" to "very high." Positive perceptions of clergy peaked in 1985 at 67 percent.

America's view of clergy declined through the remainder of the 1980s and reached a low of 54 percent in 1993.

Affirmation rose slightly in the late 1990s, peaking at 64 percent in 2001, but then proceeded on a downward trajectory overall during the next decade.

In 2013, 13 percent rated clergy's ethics and honesty "very high," 34 percent "high," 35 percent "average," 8 percent "low," 3 percent "very low" and 7 percent expressed no opinion.

Seven professions were rated higher than clergy – nurses, pharmacists, grade-school teachers, medical doctors, military officers and police officers – and 15 professions were rated lower.

The professions with the lowest perception of their ethics and honesty were car salespersons (9 percent), members of Congress (8 percent) and lobbyists (6 percent).

"If views of a certain profession have changed, it usually has been a function of scandal surrounding it," Gallup commented. "The Catholic priest abuse stories from the early 2000s helped lead to a sharp drop in Americans' ratings of clergy, a decline from which the profession has yet to fully recover."

The full results of the Gallup poll can be found here.