Dishonor thy Mother

The Billy Graham Library tells the story of a vile and sickening son

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 5, 2018 • Politics


WILLIAM MARTIN, author of A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, says Franklin Graham’s relationship with President Trump “will come to embarrass him.” But for that to occur, Mr. Graham will need the capacity to feel embarrassment, for which there’s no evidence.

Franklin Graham

During the funeral of his father, Franklin reminded his audience how humble the man had been, and that he would have disapproved of the attentions given him on the grounds of a 40,000-square-foot museum dedicated exclusively to his life and work, and no one laughed. Nor did the obituaries delve, as far as I’m able to tell, into the origins of this tourist trap, ludicrously called the Billy Graham Library and set up by Franklin to further milk the lucrative family brand by exploiting the memory of his dead parents.

The backstory of the Billy Graham Library tells you everything you need to know about the vile money-and-power-grubbing charlatan who now controls the $300M “non-profit” and tax-exempt Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, or BGEA, and its annual revenues in excess of $100M. Franklin Graham had the idea for the compound in 2001, and it soon became the occasion of a bitter family struggle in which he prevailed. A family struggle, because Franklin’s plan required the burial of his parents on the museum’s Charlotte, North Carolina, property, in violation of the wishes of his mother, Ruth Graham.

Ruth and her son often engaged in power struggles, and as a child, as now, Franklin was stubborn and aggressive. This was no different. Once Billy had transferred control of the BGEA to his son, Franklin took his proposal to the city and leveraged an eventual family shrine for a sweetheart deal on 60 acres of land adjacent the Billy Graham Parkway, where the business headquarters and Billy Graham Library now reside. BGEA then received funding for the Billy Graham Library, including $1,000,000 from The Charlos Foundation. (Franklin has arranged his affairs in a way that allows him to pay for nothing and to profit from everything.)

The Graham siblings denounced Franklin’s proposal, calling it tasteless and tacky and little more than a tourist trap and money-making operation, beneath the dignity of their father’s reputation. One of the daughters referred to the Billy Graham Library as The Cracker Barrel, and Ruth denounced it is as a circus. The conflict-averse Billy audited these views but refused to participate, saying only that wherever Ruth ended up, he would be buried by her side. And so it was. Billy Graham announced the final resting place of his wife on June 13, 2007, at the point when she no longer had the physical capacity to speak on her own behalf, or to object. “I know this goes against my mother’s wishes,” Ned Graham was quoted as saying.

All of this, and much more, is detailed in a December 2006 Washington Post article, “A Family at Cross-Purposes,” by Laura Sessions Stepp. From Stepp we learn that, while lucid, Ruth Graham was clear that under no circumstances was she to be buried in Charlotte. Her wish was to be interred where she had lived for many years, in the mountains, but Franklin had his scheme and would not be thwarted. Because he controlled the family’s resources, and because his personality tends toward dominance (like the grifter President he so often defends) Franklin bludgeoned his siblings, and likely also his father, into submission. Ruth Graham was buried on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, aka the circus, on June 17, 2007, nine days after its opening.

And a circus of a kind it is, a heavily subsidized, “40,000-square-foot experience” and Disney-styled cash cow—in this case, a singing animatronic cash cow who welcomes over 200,000 visitors each year along their “Journey of Faith” through the museum and toward Ruth’s Attic Bookstore and the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar. (One of the Billy Graham Library’s designers, ITEC Entertainment Co., is unsurprisingly a theme park contractor who has done work for Disney.) The website billygrahamlibrary.org helpfully informs prospective visitors that cash, personal checks, American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted. Admission is free, but donation boxes are located in the lobby for those who want to subsidize Mr. Graham’s paranoia, hate, cultural warfare, and generous annual compensation, which ranges from $880,000 to over $1,000,000.

Life in a time of moral clarity

My enemies are admitting they want to go back to a time when white men could own human beings. This is progress of a kind.

✎  Wayne K. Spear | December 12, 2017 ◈ Politics

UNDER THE OLD dispensation politics was a bipartisan craft and the interests of the country superseded those of the party. Or so was the theory. In any case, that was then and this is now. Not long after this article is published, Alabama may well have elected to office a man already twice removed from office, for refusing to uphold the oath which he had sworn. As Senator, Moore will go to Washington in the mode of a Trumpist, which is to say contemptuous of the rule of law, of the constitution, of the norms of the legal profession, of most of his colleagues, of the separation of church and state, and of the American culture itself.

Before Roy Moore was notorious as a Gadsen, Alabama deputy district attorney with an appetite for teenage girls, he was the notorious champion of a Ten Commandments monument who was removed from office for (among other things) refusing to follow the law and for abuse of administrative authority. Roy Moore’s career has been a lifelong effort to play a both-ways game, as a simultaneous officer of the law and a conscientious objector to the law. Courts and judges and rules and norms are all fine and good, for you and for me, but Mr. Moore recognizes the legitimacy only of the subjective interpretations of his personal God. The law is what Judge Moore decides that God wants it to be.

The Trumpists have not simply endorsed or welcomed Moore, they have made him into a figure of existential significance. And it’s not wrong-headed for them to do so. Either the Party of Trump is going to take the country further along the trajectory of autocracy and vengeance, and in doing so flourish, or else it will stall and maybe even perish. The bits of their souls “establishment” Republicans were unable to sell they’ve now given away, by making a final bargain with the racists and authoritarians of which Moore is of a piece. Let’s go over the inventory: candidate Moore is now on record for linking 9-11 to American godlessness, for glancing nostalgically upon the era of American slavery, for recommending elimination of all constitutional amendments 11–27, for wanting to keep women and Muslims out of politics, for comparing homosexuality to bestiality, and for supporting Birtherism. And this is only a partial list.

His opinions are not illegal but they are necessarily a matter of law, or will be if once again the people of Alabama choose to hand Moore the power to legislate. It’s not hard to imagine what laws a Senator Moore would champion. He’s told us time and again. But apart from any individual law, Roy Moore is eager to take America back to the cultural norms and atmosphere of the 1800s, when African Americans were property and women knew their place and the South had not yet suffered ignominy. To get there Moore will doubtless support Trump in the work of persecuting, prosecuting, firing, intimidating, or otherwise eliminating any and every critic and obstacle, including institutional and constitutional checks and balances.

The onset of my adulthood arrived roughly at a time when the Roy Moores of our world were in retreat, forced by the advances of civil rights and feminism to rephrase themselves. The terms of that long yet superficial armistice have now been repudiated. We are now firmly in the Trump Era, where abolition of the 15th Amendment is a Twitter hash tag and where deliberations of the coming white ethnostate are occurring in an urban coffee house near you. Donald Trump has clarified the landscape in an exhilarating way. The people who love and admire him are emboldened to undertake his cause, and the rest of us should likewise be emboldened—to fight and to prevail. We are living in a time of moral clarity, and that’s progress of a kind.

God’s Men In Washington

As weird as it may seem, “Theocracy” is the logical description of Trump’s Administration.

✎  Wayne K. Spear | October 31, 2017 ◈ Politics

THERE’S A GAME I sometimes play on Twitter, and it begins whenever I find a vicious troll in a Twitter feed. If you use Twitter, you know the type of person I’m talking about. He (or she) confuses your / there with you’re / their, uses the words snowflake and libtard, has a thing for all-caps, and loves Donald Trump. Now for the game. You must guess the precise wording on his (or her) Twitter profile. Follower of Jesus? Proud Christian? Lover of God? Five points if you correctly choose “Bible citation” as your answer, ten if you pick the chapter and verse.

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It’s petty, I know. But it’s also revealing. Across social media the Jesus People are handing hourly beat-downs to their fellow-Americans, oblivious to the irony. Perhaps there is no irony. Evangelical Christianity is an angry and self-pitying creed, obsessed with persecution and impatient for a strong leader to initiate the final battle against the enemy. Soon enough the social media wars will be transposed to the streets, and when they are I won’t be surprised to see Christians trading their bullet-points for bullets, once again with no sense of irony.

Eighty-one percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump, a man who enjoys the support of a pious rogue’s gallery including, but not limited to, Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Jerry Falwell Jr (Liberty University), Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Ralph Reed (Christian Coalition), and Pat Robertson (700 Club). In the days after the Unite the Right rally, in Charlottesville, several of the President’s advisory boards disbanded, appalled by his non-denunciation of neo-nazis and white supremacists. But the Evangelical Executive Advisory Board remained intact, minus only one member, the African-American and megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard. Evangelical Christian support for Trump has been strong from the beginning, and it looks as if it’s going to stay that way until the red heifer comes home.

White evangelical Christian best describes the Tribe of Trump. Not everyone who supports this President is an evangelical, but an evangelical is highly likely to support this President. Tucker Carlson identifies himself as an Episcopalian, but his contempt for the Episcopal Church makes it clear that his religious views are fundamentalist. Sean Hannity is the executive producer of a recently-released conversion-porn movie called Let There Be Light, about a miserable and alcoholic atheist who finds god in a near-death experience. Hannity plays himself, although not very convincingly according to a review I found online.

There are enough evangelicals in Trump’s cabinet to cast a movie called Let There Be Theocracy, starring Mike Pence as the Vice-President, Jefferson Sessions (Attorney General), Rick Perry (Energy), Betsy DeVos (Education), Ben Carson (HUD), Sunny Perdue (Agriculture Secretary), Tom Price (HHS), and introducing Scott Pruitt, as the godly EPA Administrator who says that “true environmentalism, from my perspective, is using natural resources that God has blessed us with.” In Let There Be Theocracy, Sean Hannity also plays himself, again not convincingly, in the role of a Fox News host who believes that Hillary Clinton is the President and that she should be prosecuted for colluding with Russia.

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Steve Bannon and Seb Gorka went to the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit recently to declare war on behalf of the Judeo-Christian West. Bannon put one of the Bible’s most poetic books, Ecclesiastes, to a cheap and nasty use: “There’s a time and a season for everything, and right now it’s a season of war against the GOP establishment,” he said. The many evangelicals and conservative Catholics around the President keep telling us that Donald Trump is fighting for Christian (or “Judeo-Christian”) values and doing a great job of it. Who am I to argue?

America’s evangelical Christians finally have God’s man in Washington, and God’s man is stuffing the government with Theocrats. We will soon learn a lot about their God from this administration, and it’s going to be a long, long time before we’ll forget what we discover.

The Ones Who Know Jesus

Trumpetsound, a fissure of sky. A midnight darkness visible yields to His glory. The firmament echoes of angelsong. Jesus has come, and the many see and fear.

Hallelujah! He has come!

For centuries He has tarried. For millennia His people have waited, reciting His words. “Soon,” they whispered. In the streets they declared: He will return! The people of Jesus have held to His promises, lo these passing generations, and now He is returned.

Thy Kingdom, come.

The people of Jesus behold his greatness. The people of Jesus rejoice. A time of greatness has begun.

The first to speak is the Holy Press Secretary.

“Hello everyone,” says the Holy Press Secretary. “This is a massive crowd, the greatest crowd ever. Much larger than the crowds of Satan, our adversary. Look at this crowd! And now, I would like to introduce your King, the Son of Man, Jesus.”

The Host of Holy Angels parts, and Jesus floats into view. He wears a business suit and a red tie. He smiles, waves to the adoring crowd. He gives a thumbs-up to someone in the audience. He claps, just as they are clapping. It is a good day, and Jesus is smiling.

“It’s great to be here,” says Jesus. “I love Florida,” says Jesus. “Tremendous people. The best people.”

The people of Jesus are ecstatic. The Chosen One is among them and the time has come to fulfil the Promise.

“Blessed are the businessmen,” says Jesus. “The CEOs, the hedge fund managers. The heads of companies, tremendous people, the best people. They are going to help Me make the Earth great again. That is why I have appointed them to lead you during the transition.”

Then a voice among the crowd: “Blessed are the weak and the poor!”

“Get him outta here,” says Jesus. Two angels comply. They take the man by his arms and walk him to the edge of the crowd, where they shove him to the pavement.

Later, the Holy Press Secretary will explain that Jesus did not say “Blessed are the poor” or that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” The Holy Press Secretary will explain that these words are the product of the lying media. These words are fake news. What Jesus said and what was written about Him are two different things, the Holy Press Secretary will say.

In the meanwhile Jesus tells them there will be streets of gold and rivers flowing of milk. “Our hard-working dairy farmers, tremendous farmers, are the best. My infrastructure plan will put gold on every street. You’ll get tired of seeing gold, there will be so much gold.”

The people of Jesus are thrilled by these promises. Jesus says they will live forever, and that all tears will be wiped away. He tells His followers that He will build a mighty kingdom, and He will smite their enemies. And it will happen fast, He says, so fast. You won’t believe it, He says. Believe me, He says.

The people of Jesus believe. They are, after all, believers. They believe in Jesus and they believe in believing in Jesus and they believe in belief. It is by faith that they live and are are saved. Believing in belief in belief, hungering and thirsting for things unseen, fingers in the darkness.

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Jesus has come with a sword. Those who question Him are deserving of fire. His people gird for war. The unbelievers, the doubters, the naysayers, the blasphemers—all are deserving of their perdition. “We are the persecuted,” say the followers of Jesus. “But no longer. The time has come for battle against our enemies.”

In the kingdom there is bottomless provision for war, abundant provision for force. Provision for weapons, provisions for the squadrons of angels who now patrol the streets, provision for displays of threatened violence against dissenters. Jesus reminds them each day that they are one People under God, one in thought and in belief and in nature. They are one nation under the Leader, and the Leader is leading them to greatness.

“No one gets to the kingdom except through me,” says the Leader. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The people know that their Leader speaks the Truth. There ought to be no room for dissent or challenge, no opportunity requested for clarification, no court of appeal. Those who question the Leader are unpatriotic traitors, and the vile filth of their nature will be remembered.

The Leader withdraws to His mansion. He delegates His work to minions. He makes occasional appearances where He basks in the adulation of His people. He becomes obsessed with the doubters and non-believers, issuing threats against them. “They treat Me so badly, so unfairly,” says the Leader. “But I will prevail.”

The months pass. Somehow the streets remain paved, not of gold, but of dehiscent tarmac. There are no rivers of milk. The tears that were supposed to be wiped away instead wet the faces of children. The Leader tells them that greatness is coming, that the Kingdom will be the best kingdom they have ever seen.

“The Leader said nothing about milk,” reports the Holy Press Secretary. “The greatness is coming, only our many enemies encircle and frustrate us. The ones who are against us are and against you. Look to the enemy!”

It doesn’t matter what happens, or what does not happen. It doesn’t matter what the Leader says, or does not say. Nothing matters, save that the people believe in Him. Fear and loathing of their enemies keeps them strong. What the Leader hates, they hate also. They have built their church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Leader enjoys His throne yet He is restless. He is a jealous Leader, desirous of universal adulation. Every knee must bend or be cast into a lake of fire. When the Leader is not enjoying the repose of His many stately properties, He broods over the resistance. Why are there some who do not believe? Why do they take His name in vain? Why do they not honor Him?

The frustration and anger of the Leader grow. He dismisses every Judas among Him, but another Judas soon rises. He cuts down every obstacle, but another obstacle springs from the earth. This work of His will take longer than He realized.

Once again, He appeals to His people. “I am your Leader,” He says. “And our enemies are against Us. We must wage war against Our enemies.”

“Yes,” they say. “We must fight our enemies. And then the Kingdom will come.”

If You Think Aronofsky’s Noah is Wacky, Try Reading the Original

Russell Crowe in Noah

ENTIRE NATIONS have now banned the film Noah. In the United States, Christians are unhappy with a Hollywood movie that substitutes, for the all-knowing and all-mighty LORD God Almighty, a distant, Pagan deity known vaguely as “the Creator.” Aronofsky’s Noah, an emo environmentalist with a too-voguish commitment to veganism and animal rights, is widely denounced, as is the film’s non-biblical (if not anti-biblical) theme – that human sin is against Mother Earth, not God, and that redemption must be found through earth-friendly living.

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I Don’t Look Forward to Fred Phelps Rotting in Hell

Fred Phelps Sr.

ACCORDING TO A Facebook post of his estranged son, Nathan, Fred Phelps Sr, the founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, is dying. There’s an undeniable aesthetic appeal in the prospect of Mr. Phelps soon meeting his Maker, but this indulgence presumes far more than I can manage. My own view, if you care to know, is that Phelps will die and dissolve and remain forever in a condition of no condition whatsoever.

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How is Arizona’s Bill 1062 Not Discrimination Against Gays?

Roccos

REPUBLICANS HAVE AN extraordinary talent at crafting eye-grabbing viral legislation, and in recent years they’ve been upping the bar in the field of contentious law and law-making. My standing pick for sheer legislative chutzpah is North Carolina’s Motorcyle Abortion Bill, but it won’t be long before this triumph is surpassed. The GOP is playing a game of Neknominate, only using the country’s institutions and laws. Neklegislate, I guess you’d call it.

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