What do Sarah Palin, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Rupert Murdoch and where Franklin buried his mother Ruth (against her wishes) all have to do with each other and the morphing of the old Republican Party into the new American lipstick fascism?
Herein is a story about the people are who believe in "legal" torture but not in universal health care... and all in the name of Jesus no less.
A little background:
I remember my late father -- the evangelical leader often called the "father of the religious right," Francis Schaeffer -- screaming at Mom one Sunday when I was a child, then he threw a potted ivy at her. Then he put on his suit and went down to preach his Sunday sermon in our living room chapel.
It was not the only Sunday Dad switched gears from rage to preaching as I describe in Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. And this was the same chapel that the Billy Graham family sometimes dropped by to worship in, along with their Swiss-Armenian, multimillionaire in-laws, after Billy---like some Middle Eastern potentate---arranged for his seventeen-year-old daughter’s marriage to the son of a particularly wealthy donor who lived up the road from us in the ski resort of Villars.
Did the followers of Billy Graham know he’d plucked his seventeen-year-old daughter out of her first semester at Wheaton College to marry a man much older than her that she had never met? Would they have cared? Or do evangelicals always sweep their dirty laundry out of sight while they point their holier-than-thou middle fingers at others?
Fast forward from the 1960s to the present
Franklin Graham -- Billy's son and nepotistic "heir" to the Graham empire -- says he wants to help the poor. So what is he doing standing next to Sarah - "death panels" - Palin at a press conference as she denounces health care reform as a "Government takeover of the US economy"?
What is Franklin Graham doing promoting Palin's plan to destroy the Republican Party in order to push for a pure far right agenda that would leave old style Republicans (like the late William F. Buckley or Barry Goldwater) screaming bloody murder about incipient fascism?
Franklin is part of today's evangelical "leadership" that has remained mute on the blasphemous misuse of the Bible in the infamous Psalm 109: 8 T-shirt scandal wherein the verse calls for the death of the President (dressed up as a "prayer request.") But Franklin has lent the Graham family name to Palin's book tour. And he stood next to her as she urged the defeat ("some changes") of all incumbent congressmen who vote to give health care to all Americans.
Franklin Graham-- the Islamophobe and gay-basher -- is now backing the symbol of the "America" that wants legal torture but not universal health care. He is impressed by the "spirituality" of a bare faced liar who equated health care reform with "death panels."
What's wrong with this picture? Or to put it in terms Franklin might use himself: What would Jesus say?
I know about God business nepotism. A little more background.
One morning in the early 1980s, I looked out over several acres of pale blue polyester and some twelve thousand Southern Baptist ministers. My evangelist father was being treated for lymphoma at the Mao Clinic, and in his place I’d been asked to deliver several keynote addresses on the evangelical/fundamentalist circuit. I was following in the proudly nepotistic American Protestant tradition, wherein the Holy Spirit always seems to lead the offspring and spouses of evangelical superstars to “follow the call.”
A few weeks before, after being introduced by Pat Robertson, I had delivered a rousing take-back-America speech to thousands of cheering religious broadcasters. And not long after, I would appear at a huge pro-life rally in Denver. Cal Thomas--once the vice president of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, who later became a Fox News Commentator--would introduce me as “the best speaker in America.” The “anointing” he said, was “clearly on this young man!” They were saying that I was a better speaker than my famous father.
At that moment the Schaeffers were evangelical royalty. When I was growing up in L’Abri, my parents’ religious community in Switzerland, it was not unusual to find myself seated across the dining room table from Billy Graham’s daughter or President Ford’s son, even Timothy Leary. The English actress Glynis Johns used to come for Sunday high tea. I figured it was normal. They were just a few of the thousands who made it through our doors. Only later did I realize that L’Abri attracted a weirdly eclectic group of people who otherwise would not be caught dead in the same room. My childhood was, to say the least, unusual.
When Gerald Ford died in January of 2007, I recalled that the day he had assumed the presidency, his daughter-in-law Gayle was babysitting my daughter Jessica as her job in the work-study program at L’Abri, where Mike Ford, the President’s son was a student.
Mom and Dad met with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr. and stayed in the White House several times. In the 1990s when my mother Edith---then in her eighties---heard that George W. Bush might run for the presidency, she exclaimed, “What? But Barbara asked me to pray especially for young George. She didn’t think he had what it took to do anything.”
Back to the present
As I explain in detail my new book Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism)maybe the problem is that big time American religion is as corrupt -- and frankly nuts -- as Palin is. And maybe we are seeing the first stages of the sordid getting into bed with America's version of Evita Peron by our religious leaders, just as the Roman Catholic bishops in so many places seemed inordinately comfortable with emerging fascist leaders in the 1930s.
But who is Franklin as he blesses our very own Evita/Mussolini wannabe?
Sarah Palin's memoir is a perfect metaphor for what ails America and the Republican Party and evangelical Christianity. And now she's hooked up and been blessed by Franklin Graham the circle of low life scratching low life is almost complete.
Sarah Palin's fortunes are inextricably linked to the evangelical community, those same people that put George Jr in power and kept him there by voting for him and aiding and abetting the stealing of two elections to boot and the starting of a dumb war for no reason, thus the murdering of over 4000 of our troops and countless Iraqi civilians too. Her book is published by the Zondervan publishing house, formerly an evangelical family-run religious publishing powerhouse now owned by Rupert Murdoch. (Back in the day my family's and many evangelical leader friend's books -- for instance the Billy Graham books -- helped put Zondervan on the map, this was when I was a young religious nut activist in the 70s).
Palin's book was ghostwritten by the editor of the far, far loony right fundamentalist World magazine founded by Marvin Olasky (of which more in a moment). The advance was paid out of the huge profits Murdoch made off Rick-stop-gays-prop-8-Warren's Purpose Driven Life.
Celtic Diva at Blue Oasis website has this interesting bit of speculation on how Miss Palin has been traveling on her book tour:
Sarah Palin arrived in North Carolina Sunday by way of Asheville. She was slated to have a much-touted dinner with Franklin Graham and his father Billy. While this is a video made by a fan (so pardon the drippiness) it does provide a good view of the plane she arrived on...and the call number. You may also see some "interesting" dynamics at play:
"Linda, Thought I would let you know. The plane Sarah flew in to Asheville had the N number 262SP. The SP does not stand for Sarah Palin but the plane is owned by Samaritans Purse [one of Franklin Graham's organizations] . I checked it out at the FAA registry. Wonder if that plane is being used at Rochester and other book signing destinations? Samaritan donations being put to good use to haul Palin's carcass around."
As if that was not interesting enough, he wrote back later:
Tried to check the flight activity for this airplane (N262SP) at Flightwise.com. The flight activity for this plane is blocked by the owner. Guess he doesn't want anyone to know where he is flying. This is a good site to track an airplane's activity. Might come in handy for checking the use of AK state airplanes.
Yup, especially those Alaska planes now leased by Samaritan's Purse up here.
It seems that one must apply to have their plane's schedule made "private" and in doing so, a reason must be provided. I'd love to see the reason Franklin Graham gave for blocking access.
Want to know who Franklin is and why he and Sarah are such soul mates and why he's allegedly been secretly flying her around in a "non-profit" plane dedicated to an organization supposed to help the poor? Here's a guy that would do to America what he did to his mother.
Only in the strange—dare I say obscene—world of big-time American consumer religion could the following story be possible, combining as it does the ego, commercialism, betrayal, nepotism, and personality cult aspects of American “Christianity.”
According to newspaper reports (“A Family at Cross-Purposes: Billy Graham’s Sons Argue Over a Final Resting Place,” Washington Post, December 13, 2006), a family feud erupted in Billy Graham’s family over where he and his wife, Ruth, were to be buried. Was it to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Billy Graham “museum” erected in the vicinity of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association headquarters? Or should their remains go to a small private site near their home in Montreat?
Franklin Graham, the 56-year-old “heir” to Billy’s ministry, insisted that the burial spot be at the $28–$30 million, 40,000-square-foot museum. It creates a “farm setting” to look like the place where Billy grew up outside of Charlotte. Other family members—including Ruth Graham—wanted to have a quieter final resting place.
The Washington Post called the family “debate” a struggle worthy of the Old Testament, pitting brother against brother, son against mother. After Ruth’s death, Billy was trapped in the middle pondering what to do with her remains. The Post said Ruth had signed a notarized document with six witnesses, saying she wanted to be buried near her home. After her death her wishes were ignored, and Billy was talked into doing what Franklin wanted.
Ruth (whom I knew and liked and who was close to my mother) was laid to “rest,” against her wishes, in what amounts to an amusement park for the greater glory of—what? Consultants had worked with the Walt Disney Company to create a large “barn” and “silo” as a reminder of Billy Graham’s early childhood on a dairy farm near Charlotte. Today, visitors wishing to visit Ruth’s tomb pass through a 40-foot-tall glass entry cut in the shape of a cross and are greeted by a mechanical talking cow. From there, they walk on paths of straw through rooms of exhibits. At the end, a stone walkway shaped like a cross takes them to a garden where Ruth lies (as will Billy Graham when he dies). The Post also reported that tourists have more than one chance to get their names on a mailing list and later, therefore, to be solicited for funds.
And now Franklin Graham has dragged his father into backing Sarah Palin. As David Gibson noted in Politics Daily ("Sarah Palin's Visit with Billy Graham: Dinner, Prayer and a Photo-Op", posted 11/28/09)
[Billy] Graham was certainly effusive in his praise of the former Alaska governor and GOP veep candidate, releasing a statement after the meeting:
"It was an honor having Governor Palin and her family in our home this evening. I, like many people, have been impressed with her strong commitment to her faith, to family and love of country. I appreciated hearing her speak of her own spiritual journey and her life in Alaska. I shared with her my own memories of preaching in the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage in 1984. We had an opportunity to pray together. Life in the spotlight is not easy and I pray that whatever lies ahead for this family that their faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, would remain strong and that God would put a hedge of protection around her and all those she holds dear. Sarah and her family will always be welcome in the Graham home."
Graham's son and heir apparent, Franklin, told The Charlotte Observer that his father has "followed her career and likes her strong stand on faith...Daddy feels God was using her to wake America up."
He may also have burnished her thin foreign policy credentials, though only with the slice of the American electorate that reads the Bible looking for End Times scenarios. Franklin said Palin quizzed Graham what the Bible says about Israel, Iran and Iraq.
The evangelical/fundamentalist religion is no different in its core “values” from the celebrity-worshiping, entertainment-oriented society it claims to be a prophetic witness to. In this vein it’s no coincidence that Billy Graham’s alma mater, the aforementioned Wheaton College, also has a “museum” attached to its campus in which Disneyland-like experiences are offered. (The very same school from which Billy plucked his underage daughter to marry the son of a wealthy supporter his daughter had -- up to that moment -- never met!)
This attraction is described on the school’s website as a “journey through the Museum [that] takes you on a Walk Through The Gospel, with a stirring three-dimensional presentation of the Christian message.” But that is only after you have experienced an “encounter [with] one of the loveliest and most fascinating presentations of the basic Christian message in The Cross of The Millennium. From here, you’ll enter a major section of the Museum which highlights the Life and Ministry of Billy Graham.”
Since it turns out that Franklin Graham has cornered the market on his parent’s remains for his amusement/fund-raising/empire maintaining park, (much as Palin has cornered the market for what's left of the Republican Party) perhaps Wheaton can cut a deal for at least a lock of hair, toenail, or some other Billy relic, to be placed in a suitable jewel-encrusted reliquary, or, given today’s fashions, incorporated into a giant cross-shaped roller coaster ride. Now it looks like he's backing Palin in a bid to become her spiritual advisory/Rasputin.
Star power is seductive. Then again the Palins and the Grahams have family weirdness and dysfunction in common. Ruth Graham the daughter of Billy wrote to me after she read my memoir Crazy For God saying that she identified with my own journey out of the evangelical fold and saying that she and the other Graham children were "sacrificial lambs." Maybe Ruth Jr can counsel Sarah Palin's children in later years as they try to also get the ringing out of their ears of being thrown under the bus of public life for their mother's greater glory.
Here's a woman whose husband associated closely with the Alaska secessionist party, which itself associates with lunatic fringe secessionist groups and far right militias nationwide. Here's a woman who stabs John McCain in the back, the man who brought this small town mayor and one time Alaska Governor to national prominence. Here's a woman who quit the job of governor to become a full-time rabble rouser in the style of a Munich 1930s of beer hall putsch.
And what's her backing? The Rupert Murdoch/Reconstructionist Empire, the marriage of hard right capitalism with harder right Old Testament would-be theocracy. And now the cherry on the cake: Franklin Graham signs on.
They belong together. Franklin Graham is a religious extremist. His hateful words make that clear.
Franklin On Muslims:
"The god of Islam is ... a different god, and I believe a very evil and a very wicked religion." (CBC, Sunday, October 22, 2006)
Franklin On Nuclear Holy War/Genocide against Arabs:
"But let's use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be and destroy the enemy."
Franklin On blaming gays for AIDS:
"I believe that God created one man and one woman. He gave sex to us, God did, and sex is to be enjoyed and is to be used within the bounds that God created.... In sexual behavior outside the parameters that God created, we're at high risk, and we're seeing the evidence of this with HIV/AIDS. We're outside of these parameters, and we have a huge global problem now."
Franklin On the Katrina tragedy:
"This is one wicked city, OK? It's known for Mardi Gras, for Satan worship. It's known for sex perversion. It's known for every type of drugs and alcohol and the orgies and all of these things that go on down there in New Orleans... There's been a black spiritual cloud over New Orleans for years. They believe God is going to use that storm to bring revival."
Franklin On Hindus:
"..we traveled to the subcontinent of India, with its hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism… These people were bound by Satan's power." Franklin Graham "Rebel With a Cause" (pg 138-139)
No wonder Franklin looked so at home giving the prayer and invocation at Bush Jr's inauguration! Bush/Graham they needed each other. And without Fox News Palin be nothing, just as without the evangelicals Bush would have been nothing. And without the 5 million Murdoch paid Palin for her book she'd be stuck scraping by on $100,000 speaking fees. Without the millions of evangelicals who are Fox News' audience Fox would not exist. And who ghosted the book for her? Another of Franklin Graham's good friends.
Lynn Vincent, the features editor of World, an fundamentalist flagship magazine.Vincent also ghost wrote the memoir of Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the former head of the Army's Special Forces Command, who believes that his job in the U.S. military was to defeat Satan for the Christian nation of America.
Of our enemies in Somalia, Boykin said, "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." And why does the world hate us? "We are hated because we are a nation of believers." And how do we defeat terrorism? "[W]e come against them in the name of Jesus."
And what about the founder of World magazine? Marvin Olasky the editor in chief is a far right Reconstructionist who (like Franklin Graham) has been working to more or less turn America into a theocracy ever since the late 1980s and early 1990s. The 16-book Turning Point Christian Worldview series was largely funded by far right banker-fortune Howard Ahmanson, Jr.'s Fieldstead Institute, which champions the cause of "total integration of Biblical law into our lives." (Ahmanson once donated 150,000 to one of my far right projects in the early 80s).
Ahmanson funded four of Olasky's 30 books, and Michelle Goldberg, author of the book Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, places Olasky in a crucial role to Christian reconstructionism and dominionism, saying "I’m not sure whether he actually identifies himself as a Christian reconstructionist, but he’s very close to Christian reconstructionism."
Olasky -- someone who used to be a big fan of mine and my late father and quoted Dad and me often when I was a religious right leader -- was an adviser on Bush’s first Presidential campaign, influencing Bush and the Republican Party.
So now we have it: a far right operative who -- with the help of a ghost writer who believes that Roosevelt was a secret communist -- trashes the Republican Party for her own personality cult agenda, was "blessed" by a preacher before she ran for governor who cast out "witches", who claims in her book the "God's hand" has been on her "every step in the way", and that she's going to "fulfill" destiny. She's funded directly via the huge advance by Murdoch and is coached by the Olasky/reconstructonist wing of the hard right. And now the Graham empire signs on to the emerging party of American theocracy.
As I said, between Murdoch, Sarah Palin and Franklin Graham we have "leaders" who believe torture should be legal but that health care should not be available to all. What would Jesus say about his American self-proclaimed representatives? Nothing. He'd be too busy throwing up.