Hi and welcome back! Man alive, it really says something about the absolute state of Christianity that I wasn’t sure yesterday that this story would end up being the chosen option for today’s post. But here we are, and it is strange territory to be sure to find ourselves in: Franklin Graham, son of the evangelical hero Billy Graham, declared that impeaching a complete anti-evangelical like Donald Trump is exactly the same as 1st-century Jews betraying Jesus to the Romans. That is exactly what happened and what he said, though, and it betrays so much about the truth of evangelicalism today that I couldn’t resist. Today, let me show you why Franklin Graham likely said that, and more importantly what it tells us about the mental mistakes he and his tribe are making.
(See endnotes for this story’s own origin story!)
Franklin Graham, Trump Worshiper Supporter.
Back in 2018, New Yorker did an interview with Franklin Graham. It concerned his support of Donald Trump. They opened the story with mention of Graham’s manufacture and sale of T-shirts that read “pray for 45,” meaning Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
Franklin Graham thoughtfully sold these shirts in his online store for USD$15.99. Hey, what’s the point of supporting an outright conjob grifter without making a profit off of it?
That story opening has proven quite prophetic.
You see, recently Franklin Graham amply demonstrated his connection of divinity to his own personal fortunes.
It also very neatly shows us the character flaws he suffers from, while outlining just how seriously he takes evangelicals’ current shift toward full-throated idolization of Donald Trump and everything he stands for. I mean, it is a doozy of a story.
Today’s Story: Comparing Dissenting Senators to the Myth of Jesus’ Betrayal.
This time, Franklin Graham declared in public that the Republican senators who might vote to support his idol’s impeachment are literally on the same moral level as the 1st-century Jews who literally betrayed his imaginary friend Jesus in the pretendy story he pretends to care about. His January 14th tweet read:
Shame, shame on the ten Republicans who joined with [tagged Nancy Pelosi] & the House Democrats in impeaching President Trump yesterday. After all that he has done for our country, you would turn your back & betray him so quickly?
This message seems like an extension of his previous attempt to shame lawmakers over the last impeachment effort.
Now, I do want to make one fact clear: I don’t think many of the Gospels’ fish stories really happened. We have no idea who wrote these books, even, and almost nothing they present to readers can be corroborated by reality. In fact, much of it is contradicted by reality. But we can tell that their anonymous authors wanted to demonize and vilify the Jews of the time to one extent or another.
Their goal was not the relating of what really might have happened to whoever actually inspired the founding of Christianity. By the time they set pens to parchment or paper, that person’s identity might already have been lost to the sands of time. So I don’t hold out hope that they’re accurately relating that person’s specific ending.
(See endnote about lack of historicity as a dealbreaker for me.)
Thus, it’s already and out-of-the-gate sad that Franklin Graham is comparing a mythic event to something that actually happened. But it’s telling. And not for the reason Franklin Graham imagines!
An Apt Comparison, Just Not How Franklin Graham Imagines It.
It really should function as a wakeup call to evangelicals that one of their big-name leaders has gone there in securing their continued allegiance to their Orange Calf Idol. I mean, I know that it won’t. Officially, they think that the events of the Crucifixion myth really happened. But the exact way in which they think it happened is really telling.
First off, Franklin Graham thinks that evil nasty ickie 1st-century Jews totally betrayed Jesus. They didn’t. In fact, they were completely in the right to reject Jesus’ claims, because those claims ran completely contrary to Judaism’s already-accepted wisdom about the Messiah’s various traits. From what I’ve seen, they also reject the playing of any role in Jesus’ supposed death.
Similarly, today’s Republican senators are completely in the right to reject Franklin Graham and the Orange Calf Idol that Graham wants them to worship. Donald Trump’s claims run completely contrary to the official, stated goals and ideology of the flavor of Christianity that those Republicans are pandering to. That makes Graham a false prophet, incidentally. Christians’ magic pretendy book has some rules in place about those.
That’s the main one, but there are others. And they also speak loudly to similarities with Gospel myths.
Demonizing Jews for
Fun and Profit 2000+ Years.
Second, Franklin Graham expects his demonization effort to push his followers to think and act in particular ways. Hey, it worked on many generations of early Christian leaders! I hate to overuse a word, in this case the verb “to goose,” but Graham really is goosing his followers here. They’re used to it, though. Graham trusts that they will react quickly and accordingly once presented briefly with his comparison of 1st-century Jews in the Crucifixion myth to Republican senators who support impeachment.
Third, Franklin Graham benefits massively from his attempted demonization, just as the Gospels’ writers almost certainly did. There exists almost no down side to his overt control-grab. The people who dislike and criticize him will continue to do so, sure, but his supporters are almost completely unlikely to withdraw support or begin criticizing him. His supporters already accept this kind of behavior from their leaders. Similarly, the Gospels’ writers benefited grandly from the vilification of 1st-century Jews.
Anti-Semitism has always been a very visible thorn attesting to the lack of truth value in Christianity’s claims — just as overt power-grabs attest to the validity of evangelicals’ own specific claims about their own brand. Nobody filled with the love of Jesus could behave in such a way. If their claims were true, such behavior would be utterly impossible — and yet, here it is. Draw your own conclusions there; I already have.
Worse yet, of course, is the utter inability of more compassionate Christians to change anti-Semites’ minds. And we see that same inability regarding the changing of Trumpists’ minds.
The Real Great Divorce.
Franklin Graham is not one of those more compassionate Christians in the first place. Like his anti-Semitic forebears, he has conducted a cost/benefit analysis in supporting or rejecting his tribe’s worst elements. And like them, he came out on the side of supporting them and making the situation worse. And yes, he continues to come out there.
It should be utterly sickening to see this kind of power-grab from someone claiming to follow a god of love, peace, mercy, and charity. But it’s not — not to the people who should be most and best embodying those exact qualities, at least.
I guarantee you, though, that every one of his followers who retweeted and upvoted him went to church on Sunday and sang hymns about their god having those exact qualities.
They sang these songs with a completely clear conscience, too, because they view their anti-Trumpist enemies as being the real hypocrites here.
The Great Divorce is, I suppose, ongoing. But the phrase doesn’t refer to the “divorce” of Heaven from Hell and capital-letters Good from Evil, which is what reviews (like this one) typically assert about that book. Nowadays, it ought to describe the complete divorce of beliefs from lived behavior in toxic Christianity.
And no writers seem to be able to rescue their peers, any more than C.S. Lewis ultimately could with his (problematic) vision of people progressing toward Heaven after death from a Hell that is “locked from the inside” — and thusly locked by the very people rejected from paradise.
Franklin Graham certainly will not accomplish that feat. He very obviously does not even want to begin the attempting of it.
Franklin Graham and the Faustian Bargain.
The utter divorcing of evangelicals’ behavior from their stated beliefs really came at a cost, though.
And this is it:
Evangelicals fully believe they live out those sublime qualities they claim to treasure — and simultaneously believe that their opponents do not. They completely redefine words (like love) to be utterly the opposite of what they actually are. Having done so, they then consider their enemies as the unloving and hateful ones, not them. Oh yes, not them, never them. They’re loving the real way! Theirs is the only real Biblical way! Everyone else is loving the totally wrong way!
In a real way, Franklin Graham has hitched his wagon to a #winning star. No wonder he is so reluctant to let go of this Faustian bargain he’s made. And it is Faustian in the nearly classic sense:
He will have what his heart most desires, yes. But he has lost his entire claim to legitimacy doing it. He has sold his credibility for pennies on the dollar, and to a grifting conjob traitor to the country at that. Envy him not.
Hitching His Wagon to a #Winning Star.
Having long ago accepted this divorce of beliefs from behavior, evangelicals’ goal becomes simply pretending they care greatly about persuading their enemies to adopt their wackadoodle definitions. Nobody does, ever. That refusal just becomes part of the PROOF YES PROOF that evangelicals’ enemies are just ickie heathens who don’t understaaaaaaaand TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ like they do.
And the rest of reality functions the same way for them.
Hateful Christians have access to entire books these days about how they can defang any accusations of hatefulness and claim the mantle of divine lovingkindness that is theirs by right as mini-Jesuses. And there will be even more books published about how to reconcile Trumpism with the qualities his Christian followers claim to embody. We’ve already begun to see bookstore shelves and auction sites’s pages groaning with books straining at the seams to fit Trump into the body of their existing prophecies.
The evidence lays before us, sparkling and crystal-clear and jolting — like river water that was frozen in mountains’ hearts just hours before we dipped our innocent toes into it:
Evangelicals can and will and do believe absolutely anything that flatters them and panders to them.
How Franklin Graham Could Lose His Grift.
There’s no way for grifters to lose here. All they have to do is play to the lowest common denominator, just like Donald Trump did. There’s no low too low for evangelicals. They only reward those who find new lows. They never reject someone for doing that, either. Donald Trump, the true prophet, has shown other evangelical leaders the way (and the truth and the life).
Really, only one way exists for Franklin Graham to be utterly cast out into the outer darkness amid wailing and gnashing of teeth. Only one.
And he’d easily meet that fate if he were to adopt the real definition of love and demand his followers uphold it in their politics as well as their behavior toward others.
NEXT UP: The Great Divorce, as I’ve respectfully relabeled it, easily explains Donald Trump’s huge popularity with evangelicals — and their current absolute inability to recognize reality when it smacks them on the Inauguration Day. We’ll cover it tomorrow — see you then!
About this story: I loved this link to a letter-to-the-editor [LTTE] criticizing Franklin Graham that was suggested by mlm420. I’ve had to search hard to find sources in journalism that picked up the story — including this one. Interestingly, I couldn’t find it on the site’s “Trump Central” tag; I had to look far downward to the “Faith and Family” tag to find his story. Goodness, are we just that accustomed to evangelical leaders idolizing Trump and normalizing Trumpism? (Back to the post!)
About dealbreakers: I also want to stress here that this particular shortcoming, lack of historicity, is actually the least of Christianity’s problems for me. I mean, it’s enough in itself, just by itself. I’ve just got no time anymore for lies and ignorance. But it’s not the ultimate reason I can’t sign on. I mean, I was pagan for a while. For most of that time, I didn’t take my new religion’s claims as literal facts, and I still belonged to it. Learning a new, comfortable response to lack-of-historicity, and one utterly, notably absent across Christianity at that, might have been that religion’s greatest gift to me.
So, to me at least, Christians’ general response to that problem — across all flavors of the religion — represents the religion’s biggest dealbreaker. In one way or another, believers of all religions must all respond to that same lack. And no Christians can do so in a way that makes their claims seem worth the resources they demand of their rapidly-shrinking pool of followers and growing numbers of outsiders. The more secure we get in this world, the less those claims seem worth any of our shrinking resources. (Back to the post!)
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