Franklin Graham, son of famous ‘evangelist’ Billy Graham, has been in the news a good bit recently. He just keeps spewing out ludicrously false religious and political statements. Today I’m going to comment on statements found in this article: Rev. Graham: ‘This Country Was Built on Christian Principles’ Not Islam.
The article quotes Mr. Graham as saying this: “This country was built on Christian principles, it was men and women who believed in God and believed in His Son Jesus Christ who built this country,” said Rev. Graham. “We’re the greatest nation in the history of the world. It wasn’t built by Islam, and it wasn’t built by any other group. It was those who supported and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is much that can be said about the supposed “Christian principles” on which the USA was allegedly built. First, there is no doubt that the original European settlers of the various portions of this continent which have now been joined into one nation were “Christians” of various sorts. Almost certainly, those original settlers would not have had much sympathy with any would-be Muslim settlers – they couldn’t even get along with each other (other “Christians”), much less people from other religions.
When we think of the original settlers of the “American colonies”, we usually think of the “Puritans” and “Pilgrims” who settled New England (Massachusetts particularly). These were Presbyterians and Independents (Congregationalists) who were fleeing from oppression and persecution by the Church of England. They were seeking ‘religious liberty’ supposedly; but in actuality that ‘liberty’ was only for themselves. They were naturally convinced that their form of Christianity was “the correct” form, so of course they should have the right to practice it. However, those whom they didn’t consider to be correct in their form of Christianity didn’t deserve any ‘right’ to practice their ‘falsehood’ – at least not in Massachusetts which the “Puritans” had claimed for themselves. Baptists and Quakers wound up being publicly punished if they didn’t flee to some other area of the country. And of course those Anglicans (Church of England) would not be welcome, since the Puritans had to flee from them in the first place. Roman Catholicism was not even considered to be “Christianity” by most Protestants (whether Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Lutherans, etc.)
However, in Virginia the Anglican Church actually became the “established” church – which I’m sure didn’t make the Puritans of New England very happy. A number of the ‘founding fathers’ at the time of the War for Independence (Revolutionary War) in the late 18th century were at least nominal members of the Church of England. The Anglicans didn’t like the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Roman Catholics, Baptists, and Quakers.
In other areas which today are included in the United States of America, Roman Catholics from Spain and France were the original European settlers – particularly across the southern portion of the country, from Florida to California. The Protestant Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists considered the Papacy to be “the Antichrist”, though – not at all “Christian”. (Of course the Catholics ‘returned the favor’ by considering Protestantism to be the ‘Antichrist system’.)
So it’s fairly certain that such religious bigots would not have been happy about Muslim settlers. However, Muslims were actually brought to the colonies (and later the United States) by those bigoted “Christians” by means of the importation of African slaves. Some of those slaves – if not many of them – were Muslims, since Islam was quite prevalent in Africa.
So much for the “Christian principles” of the original settlers of what is today the USA. By the time of the American Revolution, with its Declaration of Independence and subsequent Constitution of the United States, though, things had changed quite a bit. ‘Liberalism’ and ‘Rationalism’ had made quite a bit of headway into religious and political thinking; many were ‘skeptics’ concerning the Bible and Christianity as ‘Divine Revelation’. Some of the ‘fundamentals of the faith’ were being denied by leading thinkers in religion, philosophy, and politics. Certainly many people were getting very tired of the bigotry and persecution among the different “Christian” sects.
The most well known of the ‘founding fathers’ (such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams) would not even be considered “Christians” by today’s outspoken fundamentalist religious-political leaders like Franklin Graham, Steven Emerson, Bryan Fischer, etc. They were generally Deists – or at least, in the case of John Adams, Unitarian. They weren’t in the least bit interested in establishing a “Christian” Government, since they themselves either did not consider themselves “Christians” or were not recognized as “Christians” by ‘orthodox’ Christianity.
Let’s briefly look at these ‘founding fathers’. Benjamin Franklin was very liberal minded, and a Deist. I have had the good fortune to read his autobiography, written when he was 80 years old (or a few years older). Although it’s been many years since I read it, a few things stand out in my memory. He commented that he had his doubts concerning the Deity of Jesus Christ, though he didn’t consider it worthwhile spending time investigating the matter since at his advanced age it was certain that he would shortly be able to prove the matter through first-hand experience. 😀
He was a great fund raiser, and being a good friend of the famous evangelist George Whitefield, he willingly lent his efforts to raising money for Whitefield’s Tabernacle. He did so particularly because he felt that the wording of the constitution of the Tabernacle would even allow a ‘Mahometan’ (I believe that was the word he used – meaning Muslim) to come and preach there. (Take that, Franklin Graham! 😆 )
Benjamin Franklin liked to attend George Whitefield’s outdoor sermons – not because he favored the evangelical theology of Whitefield, but because George Whitefield had a very powerful voice and Franklin liked to see how far away he could stand and still hear the ‘evangelist’. Mr. Franklin also humorously commented in his autobiography that he understood his friend George Whitefield was praying for his (Ben Franklin’s) conversion; but thus far the Almighty had given no indication of an intention to ‘answer’ that prayer!
I also read a few years ago someone’s comparison of Ben Franklin to John Adams. Both were ambassadors to France, and neither knew any French when he first went to that country. John Adams learned the French language by reading and memorizing funeral orations; but Franklin learned the language by ‘pillow talk’ with his French lovers!
George Washington is frequently considered to be a pious Christian. As a matter of fact, however, though he didn’t speak much publicly about his religious beliefs, those who knew him personally did not consider him to be a “Christian” in any ‘accepted’ sense. He rarely – if ever – referred to “God” or “Jesus Christ” in his public speeches, generally preferring to speak in a general way of “Providence”. His pastor at the Anglican/Episcopal church he attended with his wife (Martha), and others who knew him, said that at best he was a Deist.
The story was told by his biographer that it was his practice to leave at the end of the regular service on those Sundays (once per month) when “Communion” (the “Eucharist” or “the Lord’s Supper”) was being observed. (Communion was served after the regular service ended; those who didn’t wish to partake would leave between the two services). He never partook of Communion. One Sunday the pastor publicly admonished Mr. Washington (without actually mentioning his name, however). He said that it was the practice of certain prominent persons to leave the service without taking Communion, and this set a bad example for the congregation. George Washington realized that he was the actual public person being referred to. Therefore he later wrote the pastor a letter humbly acknowledging the justice of what he had said; from henceforth he would simply not attend services on Communion Sunday. Thus he would not set a bad public example by walking out before Communion! 😀
Thomas Jefferson was also a nominal member of the Anglican/Episcopal church; but his “rationalistic’ approach to Christianity is fairly well known. He did not believe in ‘supernatural revelation’ and ‘miracles’. Jesus Christ was a pious man and a wonderful teacher of moral truths, but not ‘Deity’. Jefferson famously compiled his “Jefferson’s Bible”, which consisted of the four ‘gospels’ consolidated into one. He deleted from this “Bible” anything which he considered to be contradictory or unscientific – for instance the miracles of Jesus, including his virgin birth and resurrection. When he was running for President, American clergymen were issuing dire warnings that if Jefferson were elected people would have to hide their Bibles to keep them from being confiscated by the Government! Of course those ‘prophecies’ did not materialize; Jefferson was too much a lover of liberty to do such a thing.
Thomas Jefferson had his own English edition of the Qur’an (Koran), and in fact had a good bit of admiration for the legal and governmental aspects of Islam. (Oh my God! Jefferson admired Sharia Law!) In fact, the Islamic legal and justice system was one of the sources of his own governmental theory – along with Greek and Roman legal theories. Naturally he was not a ‘blind follower’ of Muhammad; he didn’t hesitate to make suggestions as to improvements to be made. For instance, he felt that it didn’t make much sense to cut off the hands of thieves; leave their hands intact so they could work and make restitution to those from whom they stole.
John Adams was one of the most “Christian” of those early ‘fathers’; he was definitely the most “Christian” of those who later became President. He was not a Deist, inasmuch as he apparently did believe in ‘Divine revelation’, and that the Bible in its original form was probably ‘revealed by God’. He believed in the miraculous, and considered Christianity to be the most pure and perfect of all religions. Nevertheless, even he falls short of being ‘truly Christian’ by fundamentalist standards, inasmuch as he was a Unitarian – he believed God is a Unity, not a ‘Trinity’; and Jesus Christ was therefore not “God” but a ‘creature’ of God like all other people. In other words, he was surprisingly close to the Muslim faith in certain aspects which ‘orthodox’ Christians consider ‘heresy’!
These men were not “Christians” themselves, and were certainly not inclined to establish the US Government on “Christian principles” – at least on principles that were distinctively and exclusively “Christian”. The reference in the Declaration of Independence to Government founded on “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” – rather than “the laws of the Bible and the Bible’s God” – was deliberate. “Natural law” is universal, not restricted to Christianity. Much, at least, in the laws of all religions (including Islam) is consistent with “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God”. That which cannot be derived through logical and reasonable study of nature, and requires ‘supernatural revelation’ in order to be known, is to be rejected so far as State Government is concerned (even though it’s in the Bible and is “Christian”).
They knew what they were doing when they stated in the Constitution that no religious tests were to be required of Government officials; and when the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution they said in the very first Amendment that Congress cannot make a law ‘establishing religion’. This not only meant – as some ‘Christians’ would have us believe – that no Christian denomination may be ‘established’ as the official State Church; it meant that no religion may be established (including any form of Christianity, even a generic form), thus protecting the religious liberty of all citizens of whatever religious belief (or non-belief).
The preamble to the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom – written by Thomas Jefferson – which preceded the US Constitution and served pretty much as a prototype for the US Constitution, was Jefferson’s pride and joy. He said this about it in his autobiography: “Where the preamble [of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom] declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the words “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” It was this same universal religious protection which was guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. It was truly a “separation of Church and State”, as Jefferson himself stated, providing that State Government would not rule on religious matters and religious Governments would not rule on matters of State.
Having spent so much time on the alleged foundation of this nation on “Christian principles”, I’ll try to briefly comment on one or two more of Mr. Graham’s statements. Concerning the Islamic terrorism which he claims the USA has been fighting since 9/11/2001, he had this to say:
When asked about Muslims who have condemned Islamic terrorism, Graham said, “First of all, you don’t have condemnation outside of this country. You’ll have clerics in this country who’ll condemn these acts. But these acts of terrorism are not condemned by the mullahs in Saudi Arabia or in Egypt, or Iraq or Syria.” “The reason is,” he said, “is because the Quran teaches this and so, if they condemned it, they would be condemning the Quran, and they’re not going to condemn the Quran.”
Here again, Franklin Graham is either outright lying, or he is displaying his amazing but willful ignorance. The Qur’an does NOT teach terrorism. If it did, then those American Muslims who condemn the actions of terrorists must be condemning the Qur’an! Have they then invented a new “Islam” based on something other than the Qur’an?? Of course not. American Islam is the same Islam as found in other more explicitly “Muslim countries”. It is founded primarily on the Qur’an, and has no need to ‘condemn’ that “revelation”. It is the terrorists who trample on the Qur’an by their outright violation of its explicit precepts, and their twisted distortions of its verses.
As to the allegation that it is only ‘American’ Muslims who denounce terrorism (as does the Qur’an itself) – “you don’t have condemnation outside of this country” – that is an absolute lie (or willful ignorance). Muslims in large numbers all over the world decry the distortion of the Qur’an which terrorists espouse, and denounce the terrorist actions they perpetrate. Just go to this site at The American Muslim to get an idea of how widespread the condemnation of terrorism is among Muslims.
Here are just four of the many links found at that site:
“Abu Dhabi conference – 500 Muslim scholars challenge extremist “fatwas””
“6,000 Indian Ulama Islamic scholars endorsed a fatwa, called the Hyderabad Declaration, that declares that all forms of terrorism are against the spirit of Islam. 2008”
Here are some statements from the “Abu Dhabi Conference” link: Last year, a prominent Muslim preacher from Qatar issued a fatwa allowing the killing of Israeli pregnant women and their unborn babies on the basis that the babies could grow up to join the Israeli Army. He also said that killing “all Americans, civilian or military” in Iraq was allowed.
Condemning such fatwas, the scholars also emphasized that the declaration of Islamic legal opinions and fatwas should be left in the hands of experts. … There have been other campaigns against such fatwas. A petition sent to the United Nations by over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries has called for an international treaty to ban the use of religion for incitement to violence. It also calls on the UN Security Council to set up a tribunal to try “the theologians of terror.” Most of the signatories are from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states plus Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine.
Hundreds of Arab writers and academics are collecting more signatures to the petition, including Jawad Hashem, a former Iraqi minister of planning, and Alafif al- Akdhar, a leading Tunisian writer and academic. The signatories also described those who use religion for inciting violence as “the sheikhs of death” and asked the UN to order its member states to stop broadcasting the “mad musings of the theologians of terror.”
Here is one final quotation from the Franklin Graham article: “So, the teaching of the Quran permits slavery, it permits the killing of Jews, permits the killing of Christians, and it’s a very, very dangerous world in which we live and we need to be aware of the truth,” said the reverend.
If he is going to castigate the Qur’an for permitting slavery, then he needs to look at his own Bible. The ‘Old Testament’ specifically allowed – even commanded – the Israelites to enslave people from other nations. The ‘New Testament’ itself never attacks slavery, but also permits it to continue – though Christian slave owners are exhorted to treat their slaves with kindness. Christian slaves are exhorted to always obey their ‘masters’.
Christians defend this by saying that the ‘New Testament’ couldn’t just abolish slavery; but it did place regulations on Christian slave owners to keep them from mistreating their slaves. In one instance, Paul requested a slave owner (Philemon) to free his slave Onesimus. Onesimus had run away, but became a Christian believer after meeting Paul. Paul then sent him back to Philemon, acknowledging Philemon’s right to Onesimus’ service – and indeed his right to punish Onesimus for running away. But Paul requested that Philemon set Onesimus free.
The Qur’an also does not outright abolish the slavery which was prevalent in the time of Muhammad. However it goes further than the Bible toward that goal in that: 1) the requirements for how slaves were to be treated were such that the slaves were to be treated as family members; it was hardly slavery at all as we normally think of slavery. 2) Believers were frequently exhorted to free their slaves as a good deed which would receive a reward at “the judgment”. Sometimes those who were guilty of a sin were required to free slaves as an act of penance – a good deed to offset the evil of the sin. 3) One of the uses of the ‘zakat’ tax (similar to the ‘tithe’ many Christians pay) was to free slaves. In other words, though the Qur’an did not outright condemn slavery in so many words – even permitting it to continue in a very regulated way – it strongly emphasized that freeing slaves was much to be desired.
As to permitting the killing of Christians and Jews, that’s just pure nonsense – except for any Christians or Jews who themselves first attacked the Muslim community and sought to kill Muslims. Muslims were certainly permitted to kill Christians, Jews, and anyone else in the case of self defense. The idea, though, that the Qur’an exhorts Muslim believers to kill people just because they’re not ‘Muslims’ is an outright lie. Franklin Graham has no excuse for not knowing better – if in fact he doesn’t know better and is not just deliberately slandering Islam.
Thus again, Franklin Graham is either woefully ignorant or a deliberate liar. He is certainly not worthy of the respect of anyone.