An Open Letter to Conservative Evangelicals: In response to Franklin Graham

So...Franklin Graham said something stupid again. If you have not read it, here it is (taken from his Facebook page):

Four innocent Marines (United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in ‪#‎Chattanooga‬ yesterday including a policeman and another Marine--all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized--and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we've got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.

My initial reaction was to write an open letter to Franklin Graham but Carl Medearis already wrote a great one! Consider the hyperlink to be my endorsement or signing of the letter.

I also thought about writing a post openly criticizing Franklin Graham and his fear mongering rhetoric but those too have been written. In fact, there has been a good deal written and said since these words came across Facebook on Friday. Unfortunately most of what has been written has come from progressive Christians or Muslims.  This caused me to wonder, "Where are all the conservative evangelical leaders?"

An open letter to all conservative Christians and Evangelical Leaders

I know times are tough right now for you. We are witnessing the fall of Christendom. There is a lot of uncertainty going around right now.

Christians, I realize that many of us are coming to grips with the SCOTUS/Obergefell decision. For some, this has caused great mourning. For others, this has caused great heartache as you have witnessed the reaction of your faith community. To one degree or another, many of you feel like the sky is falling right now.

Christian Leaders, in addition to working with people experiencing the above fears and uncertainties, you are prayerfully attempting to keep the peace. The ship appears to be sinking or you at least have all hands on deck trying to stay afloat. Lower attendance causes shrinking budgets which means lots of insecurity for you and your family, and for those on staff with you. The fear of losing one more family from your congregation is a real threat to your survival.

And now a Muslim has shot and killed four Marines.

Friends, we have to stop reacting to situations and really begin reflecting on everything that is going on. Fear is the broken compass to uncertainty. My hope is that after considering the following situations you will join Carl Medearis and others in renouncing the words of Franklin Graham. They are not the words of Jesus.

Under Attack? Graham says that our country here and abroad is under attack by Muslims as they seek to honor their religion and prophet. I ask you to consider the facts (according to the New York Times):

  • Since 9/11 there have been 20 plots by American Muslims that have resulted in 50 fatalities.
  • On the other hand, there have been 337 plots by right-winged extremists that have resulted in 254 deaths in the same time period.
  • And for every one person killed by an American Muslim extremist, there has been 4,300 persons killed for other reasons.

So let's ask the question: Are we really under attack? And if so, by who?

Responding to Attack If anyone has the right to feel attacked right now, it is the black community. I realize this may cause some of you to turn away but before you do consider this:

  • A white male, who is a member of a white supremacy group, went into a church and shot 9 people dead simply for being black.
  • In the aftermath of the shooting, 6-8 black churches were burned to the ground.
  • And neo-nazi recruiting is on the rise.

Graham's response to what he perceives as an attack is to discontinue all immigration of persons from Muslim countries. The family members of those slain by Dylann Roof, on the other hand, offered public forgiveness.

So let's consider this for a moment. Which is more powerful: denial of rights or forgiveness?

The Words of Jesus For some reason, many in our conservative evangelical circles do not like talking about love. This confuses me because Jesus talks about it a lot. I see three directions in which he speaks of love. I do not consider them to be differing types of love but a point of matter for Jesus. Jesus discerned it necessary for us to understand that love has no boundaries.

  • Love one another (John 13:34, 35). This appears to be love for those within our circle of faith.
  • Love your neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). This appears to be love the other, or the ones who appears to be outside our circle of faith.
  • Love you enemy (Matt 5:44). This appears to be love for the ones you cannot get along with.

The black community has long hoped for the Church to see themselves as brothers and sisters in Christ. To see us all in the same circle of faith, or family of God. Yet so often they continue are rejected. Charleston happens and black churches burn.

The Muslim community, for the most part, does not see themselves as a part of our circle of faith (in the Christian sense). But Jesus still encourages us to love them as a neighbor. When speaking to pastors and other Christians about my work with Muslims, Imams, and Islamic Centers, I am often congratulated for loving my enemy as myself. I want to make it clear that I am not loving my enemy but my neighbor.

Muslims are your neighbors. They want to be your neighbor and your friend. If there is a religious persecution happening in America, it is Islamophobia. Get to know your Muslim neighbor. Ask them to share their experience here in America, and then compare it to your experience as a Christian. Do you still feel persecuted?

Do you think Muslims are called to hate, enslave or kill Christians? Do you believe they're incapable of loving their Christian neighbor as themselves? Were you aware that American Muslims raised $100,ooo for the black churches burned after the Charleston shooting?Muslims are raising money for these black communities while Franklin Graham is calling for the discontinuation of Muslim immigration and encouraging American people to hold all Muslims suspect as radical jihadists.

Let's ask ourselves, who is living and loving like Jesus here?

Let's Review A person of the same faith is called a brother or sister. A person of another faith is called a neighbor. A person who kills one of your own may be called an enemy. I think we could all agree here, right?

Now. Franklin Graham calls all American Muslims potential terrorists and calls for the discontinuation of immigration from Muslim countries. Does this represent the love of Jesus?

Black churches are burned. Muslims raise $100,ooo to help these communities rebuild while (to my knowledge) predominately white churches (those most associated with Graham) do nothing. Who is living and loving like Jesus?

After a confessed white supremacist shoots and kills nine black members of a black church and the families of the deceased offer public forgiveness without recourse or a call to war against the Council of Conservative Christians who radicalized Roof. After the Chattanooga shooting Graham calls for actions agains Muslims but offers no response to white supremacy groups.  Who is representing the love of Jesus?

Call to Action Christians and conservative Evangelical Christian Leaders, I recognize that times are difficult. There is a lot of social unrest and congregational uncertainty. Speaking against Graham by renouncing his words may be costly but it is absolutely necessary. This is the second time in recent months that Graham has spoken unwisely. The first was directly against the black community, telling them to learn how to respect authority. When 1oo Christian leaders signed an open letter to Graham at that time there were no white conservative evangelical names listed (that I recognized).

I am not asking you to attack Graham, or write violent words against him. I am simply asking that you join me in asking Graham to consider the life and teachings of Jesus before posting to Facebook or speaking in any public forum. I agree with Medearis, Graham is a fellow brother in Christ who has done great work for the Kingdom. He is a wise man, I am sure. But these words are not from Jesus.