Tag Archives: Christianity

Dishonor thy Mother

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

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


ILLIAM 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.

Podcast 97: White Evangelical Authoritarianism, with Guest Christopher Stroop

Podcast Season 5

Visit freelance writer and scholar, Christopher Stroop, at chrisstroop.com and follow him on Twitter

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


NDER 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.