A few days ago, I listened to a segment on a radio program by a forthcoming visit of the US evangelist and son of an even more famous evangelist Franklin Graham to the United Kingdom. He was invited to speak at an evangelistic meeting supported by various local churches in Blackpool in the North West of England.
The radio segment covered the controversy, and featured a number of criticisms of Franklin Graham, and finally a quote from one of the people who invited him. I should hasten to add that I don't know the ministry of Franklin Graham. I have never even really encountered the ministry of his father, although I know a number of people who were strongly influenced by it. It may be that there are things about Franklin that I don't know. What I want to comment on are the reasons why people are calling for him to have his visa revoked, as addressed in the radio program.
The main argument seems to be that he is allegedly an inciter of prejudice and hatred. The evidence put forward to support this claim was:
He supports Donald Trump.
Now, I must admit that I have my reservations about the current president of the United States. He is impulsive, too easily offended, too quick to offend, can't take criticism and I have not seen him admit to a mistake or failing and apologise for it, and far too quick to lie and deceive. Of course, similar things can be said about many politicians, not least his opponent in the election, except that Trump seems to display the same face in public as he does in private, while for others we have to rely on leaked emails to see how much they hold the average American in contempt. More seriously, Trump's immoral past life and lack of intellectual rigour makes him badly placed to counter the main problem facing Western societies, namely the rapid moral decay. At best his presidency will just be a pause in the decline of the United States. And, of course, there are many other controversial issues. His desire to tackle the problem of criminal gangs coming over from Mexico is commendable. I am not sure that a wall is the best solution to that problem, and promising that Mexico would pay for it was just stupid. It's your wall; you pay for it.
But he equally has a number of good points. His determination to reduce Washington bureaucracy, and return freedom to the people. His handling of the economy has been good, as I think most people should have expected. He knows and understands business better than pretty much anyone else in Washington, and it is business, not Washington, that creates national wealth. Although I wish that he would direct his tax cuts more to the struggling poor. His determination to reinvigorate US manufacturing (again, maybe his methods are badly chosen, but at least he is trying, and maybe he will succeed). Indeed, the export of low-skilled manufacturing jobs is partly responsible for the economic gap in the country. It is the poorer end of society that stands to gain most by brining industry back to the US. Of course, whether Trump's policies are the best way of achieving that aim is another matter, but at least he is doing something, which is more than can be said for any of his recent predecessors. I do believe that in many things his heart is in the right place, but he is let down by his temperament, inexperience and lack of understanding. But, of course, his worst excesses are limited by the people around him. The US needed a president willing to challenge what Trump calls the establishment. I just wish that it was somebody better than Donald Trump.
So while Trump may not be a great President, neither is he an awful one.
But not to his critics. There seems to be a general problem in today's politics, on both sides but I here want to concentrate on Trump's critics, that people don't understand the premises of their political opponents. Many on the left, in particular, immediately lash out, with cries of "racist, hater" and so on. They seem to make assumptions about their opponents motives without really properly examining what they are saying. For example, the thought process seems to be "I believe that all racial groups are equal; Trump disagrees with me; therefore Trump is a racist." The problem is that the modern right don't disagree with the idea of equality, but with the idea of racial groups, that is that we can divide people into groups based on a given characteristic and assume that they are homogeneous in other ways as well. Rather, each individual is to be judged solely on their own merits. These people don't oppose positive discrimination towards unrepresented groups because they are racist, but because they believe that positive discrimination is in itself a racist policy. The solution is to focus on correcting on the root causes of underachievement, including the breakdown of the family and deficiency in virtue.
The modern political right's (and Trump is only halfway there) main principles are based around individual (or family) liberty and individual virtue. The modern left (as far as I understand it) focusses on group liberty and consequentialist (and thus group -- the utilitarian principle is to maximise the greatest good for the greatest number) ethics. A racist ideology is an ideology about that takes a set of people grouped together on one criteria and assumes that they are homogeneous in a different respect. It is based on collectivist rather than individualist assumptions. It is thus primarily a left-wing problem. We have one group of people declaring that one race is superior and the other declaring that they are all equal, but they both make the same assumption that it is makes sense to talk about the equality or superiority of races as a whole.
So what of the decision to ban people on the basis of their support for Trump? Does Trump promote violence? No. Does he promote fraud, theft or destruction of private property? No. Does he desire harm for his enemies? I see no evidence for that. Does he seek to restrict their freedom? Unless you regard an illegal crossing into the US as a necessary freedom, again, no. Certainly, his political views are unfashionable in some quarters. But so are those of Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama in other quarters.
Indeed, I am sure that many of Franklin Graham's critics would support Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition party in the UK. Corbyn is on record of supporting the government of Venezuela, a country noted for its oppressive regime and exceptionally poor management of the economy. Presidents Chavez and Maduro have done a great deal of physical harm to large numbers of people. It could thus be said that to show support for them is to hate the people of Venezuela. Vast numbers of people are suffering from food shortages and the crime and corruption that comes with a collapsed economy. You can't say that about Trump's America -- it is going in the opposite direction. And yet the labour party supporters of the Venezuelan regime are welcome. Trump's supporters are not. If it were about demonstrably bad governance, or governments causing harm to people, then it would be the other way round.
So does support for Trump automatically indicate hatred? I would say not. Trump genuinely believes that his policies are for the best for the people of America; the best to relive poverty, and combat the struggles of those groups of people trapped in destitution. That's what he claims, and I see no reason to doubt his motivation. Of course, there is still the question of whether his policies will have the effect he wants them to have. But if not (and it is yet to be proven), then that's not hatred, but only ignorance.
The next point raised against Franklin Graham is that he believes homosexual activity to be immoral. Here, the program directly quoted Nina Parker, pastor of the liberty church in Blackpool.
My concern about Franklin Graham heading the festival is that he portrays a trump-styled, hard-line and very hate fuelled version of Christianity. If we accept speech that is totally unrestricted and allow people to express hateful views then we are opening ourselves up to normalising hate in our society. We are doing a walkabout in Blackpool with a four meter high carnival model of Jesus with a rainbow sash, and the rainbow sash is symbolising that Jesus welcomes the gay community.
So I think the message came across reasonably clearly there. Graham is accused of hating homosexual people.
Now I cannot speak for Franklin Graham, but I can relay what many of those of a similar mind to him believe. First of all, the definitions. Hatred is to desire evil for someone. Agape love is to desire good. So the question seems to be whether homosexual behaviour is harmful or good for those who practice it. If it is harmful, then to warn against homosexual behaviour is loving. If not, then it is hateful. Those that accuse Graham of hate are thus transposing their own understanding of homosexuality onto him. They assume that, like him, he regards it as good, and yet that he still speaks out against it. Either that, or they have a rather strange understanding of hatred.
But there is, unfortunately, a question we have to ask before this. Because we have to ask the question harmful in whose eyes? The speaker, the hearer, the lawgivers, or based on an objective measure of good and evil. Obviously, the final one would be best, and it is what I would advocate for in general. To those who would respond that there is no objective measure of good or evil, I can only appeal to them to read up on in enough detail to understand it how natural law theory evades the usual arguments for moral relativism.
But when it comes to a matter of law (and revoking a visa is a matter of law), there is the problem that people aren't infallible, and politicians and civil servants perhaps amongst the most fallible of them all. If we go by an objective standard of hatred, and want to make it a legal requirement (beyond the obvious cases of inciting violence, rape or theft), one can argue that there is too much danger of a mistake being made. I certainly wouldn't want today's morally illiterate crowd to do it. I would not even trust myself with that responsibility, for while I believe my arguments to be sound, I am equally aware that I have (like everyone else) frequently erred. And this rules out the idea that the standard of goodness should be defined by parliaments or courts as well. They can't be trusted to do it well enough, except in obvious measures such as wife beating, honour killing, rape, theft, violence, and so on, about which all people of sound mind would agree.
So the British parliament, displaying again their boundless capacity for stupidity, decided that hate crime is one that was perceived as hateful by people listening to it -- not necessarily the victims, but anybody who heard the message and disliked it. Which, of course, means anybody can accuse anyone of a hate crime. If I overhear somebody ordering a chicken burger at the local fast food restaurant, and can come up with a semi-plausible argument that chicken is white meat and thus to show favouritism towards chicken is racism, then the court would, if it were to follow the implications of the idea to its logical extreme have to lock my adversary up because, even though my argument is completely stupid, it is still causing me distress. Facts and the motives of the people ordering the chicken don't matter, only what I construe those motives to be. More significantly, almost anyone can take offense at any statement. For example, suppose someone supports raising the minimum wage. Many people would say that this comes from a love of the poor, and a desire to help them. Thus to oppose the rise in the minimum wage is to hate the poor. On the other hand, others will argue that the only way to pay for the rise in the wage would be companies to raise their prices. This will leave those on a minimum wage little better off, and suck the next group up into poverty, because their expenditure increases while their income doesn't. Thus to support the rise is a sign of hatred to the poor. I don't want to argue which of these views is correct, but reasonable cases can be made for both of them. The point is, that whatever one says or doesn't say can be construed as a statement of hatred by someone. The only way to avoid this is to reduce our speaking to banalities.
Nina Parker accused Franklin Graham of hatred. Many people might say that to criticise her words is to join him in hatred. Others would say that her own words are a sign of deep religious hatred. If we base hatred on what other people say, then nobody can win. [Actually, those who control the courts will win, but that's a different issue.]
So we have two remaining possibilities. To say that somebody is a hater based on their own wider world-view and beliefs. Or not to accuse people of hatred, or invoke hate crimes, at all. The second of these is, of course, much to be preferred. But let us suppose we take the first option, and judge Franklin Graham by his own beliefs. What might we find?
Firstly, he might point to the significant health problems associated with the homosexual lifestyle. Secondly, there are the well-documented mental health issues. Of course, both of these can be argued against. The physical health problems are mainly (but not entirely) caused by rampant promiscuity. Many people, including the article I cited, suppose that the mental health issues are caused by prejudice against the homosexual community (although I have not seen and evidence put forward to show that this is the primary let alone the only cause; for example there is no sign of them diminishing as society grows more tolerant). So in each case, there are visible risks of harm to those who engage in same sex activity. So the loving thing to do, so the argument goes, is to discourage people with same sex attraction from living out those desires. It is then the gay activists who are truly the ones hateful towards homosexuals.
Then there are the moral arguments. I'm sure that Nina Parks believes that there is a strong moral case for encouraging same sex activity, as do many secular people. But that's based on ethical principles which I'm sure Franklin Graham would regard as distinctly problematic. Whether he adopts a natural law or divine command approach to ethics, in his view the moral case against the gay rights campaigners is overwhelming. Again, from his perspective, they are the ones promoting hate, while he is reaching out in love.
Then, of course, there is the straight-forward Biblical case. As an evangelical Christian, Franklin Graham will firmly believe the following statement to be true in its most obvious interpretation:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
An evangelical Christian cannot dispute this statement. It is clear to say that this passage is false (or to believe that there is no such thing as the kingdom of God and therefore nobody will inherit it so the statement is rather irrelevant) is in direct contradiction to the statement that the Bible is inerrant in all matters concerning faith and morals. It is also clear that the idea that the Bible, when interpreted correctly, is inerrant in all matters concerning faith and morals is one of the defining beliefs of evangelicalism. Thus the moment that somebody disputes this statement, they cease to be an evangelical Christian. [And yes, I am aware that there are disputes over the meaning of the Greek word arsenokoites, but I am also aware that given its reflection of the language of Leviticus 18, there can't be much doubt about the intended meaning.]
Is believing in that statement itself a sign of hatred? No, because, as is made clear by the next verse, the practice of homosexuality is seen as an accidental rather than an essential feature of a person. They would still be who they are if they didn't practice it. Indeed, in this view, by not practising it they would be closer to fulfilling their nature as human beings; they would be closer to righteousness. Is condemning them to hell on the basis of that practice a sign of hatred? No, it is a sign that the bar to get into heaven is set very high. It is not so much that people are condemned to hell. Rather, it is the path we all find ourselves on, partly by our own volition, though also partly through inherited nature. But nonetheless, a few are rescued from it through grace and repentance. If the people in heaven had not repented, but continued to act in evil ways, then it would not be heaven. The view expressed in this statement is thus seen like the law of gravity. Whether we like it or dislike it, we have to accept it, and work out how to act in a loving way given the truth of that statement. That, at least, is how an evangelical Christian will see it.
Now, of course, it is wrong for evangelicals to focus on one item on that list and neglect the others. I wish that Franklin Graham would spend as much time condemning greed, drunkenness and swindlers as he does on the homosexual issue. But maybe he does, but those condemnations are never reported. But in any case, he is convinced by the evidence for evangelical Christianity, and as a consequence of that he has no choice but to accept these verses. Those who practice homosexuality, and do not subsequently repent and be washed in the name of Jesus, will be damned. Nobody would wish that on anyone. For an evangelical to accept homosexual practice would be effectively to say, "If you do this, you will suffer eternal torment and humiliation, but go ahead and do it anyway with my blessing because that's what I want for you." What greater statement of hatred could there be? The evangelist doesn't want the person to suffer that, so they go ahead in the only way they can. They discourage homosexual behaviour, encourage repentance, and, of course, preach the truth and good news of Jesus Christ. If the hearer then decides to make nothing of it, then so be it. You can't force them. At least you tried.
So Christian opposition to homosexual practice is not motivated by hatred of homosexuals, but by love of homosexuals. You might disagree with their reasons, but don't call us haters for preaching love.
Finally, what do we make of the rainbow sashed Jesus? Again, given what the rainbow flag stands for -- a denial of the Christian theology of identity, a endorsement of the most serious vice of pride -- it is an image that is hugely offensive to most Christians. Far more than anything Graham has said is offensive to people like Nina Parks. But we wouldn't stop them parading. Christians know how to take offence. Yes, Jesus would welcome homosexuals, just as he welcomed tax collectors and prostitutes. But just as with the outcasts of his own day, his message to them would have been the same: repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand, and you don't want to risk missing out.
As well as the interview with Parks, the program justified its position with a few quotes from Graham:
Graham: Gays and Lesbians cannot have children. Biologically it is impossible.
Interviewer: They can adopt.
Graham: They can recruit.
So he makes a truthful statement, and that is produced as evidence of hatred. The context of this discussion is not revealed. I would guess that it revolves around the issue of same-sex marriage. The relevance is that the Christian definition of marriage is that it is an institution whose primary purpose is (alongside acting as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church) the procreation, support and protection of Children. That purpose, of course, might not be achieved -- in which case the marriage is not a non-marriage, but an unfulfilled marriage. But form follows function; so the form of a marriage is determined by its purpose, so it can only be between a man and a woman, since they are the only ones who can fulfil the purpose.
That final statement by Graham is possibly a reflection of the studies that show that same sex attraction is not wholly or even primarily inborn. There are numerous factors that make it more likely, among which are sexual abuse as a child and a distant relationship with one or both of one's parents. Many children have sexual uncertainty when growing up, but they usually grow out of it, unless it is encouraged. Thus by careful grooming, people can be added to the ranks of the LGBT. I do think that the word recruit is badly chosen. I would not have used it. But is Franklin Graham motivated by hate? No. He is trying to protect children. Once again, one can argue about whether his underlying beliefs are true; but in the context of those beliefs, what he said was a statement motivated by love, not hatred.
Remember: hatred of a person is a desire for evil for that person. That is not what Franklin Graham was saying here. Now, if I have guessed the context correctly, some may retort that he is trying to deny gay people the right of marriage, and thus causing an evil for them. I cannot say how Franklin Graham would personally respond to this, but I can report what others of his views have said. Firstly, he is not denying anything to anybody. A homosexual man is just as able to find a consenting woman and marry her as anyone else. A lesbian woman is just as able to find a consenting man and marry him as anyone else. That they choose not to is not Graham's problem: the institution of marriage has always been open to them, but they turn it down. Secondly, they might argue that a civil union between two people of the same sex is not marriage, but a imitation and mockery of it (and don't forget, secular society's understanding of marriage parted from the evangelical and Catholic understanding a long time ago, certainly when divorce was made easier and probably long before then. When somebody like Franklin Graham uses the word "marriage" they mean something very different, and better, than what people like Justice Kennedy and David Cameroon mean by it). Since it is only an imitation and not the real thing, same sex marriage is not (from this perspective) a good. By speaking out against it, Graham is trying to prevent an evil for same sex attracted people. Although, I would imagine that his major concern is that it further normalises the secular understanding of marriage, which has already done immense harm to numerous opposite sex couples, and the nation as a whole.
Then we have this statement (a summary by the presenter rather than a direct quote):
Satan was the architect of gay marriage and LGBT rights.
Again, not language I would personally choose to use. But one can see why, from Franklin's perspective, it is a reasonable statement. Satan is the adversary of mankind, and the author of lies and deception. Gay marriage and LGBT rights are (in the view of someone who accepts the premises of evangelical Christianity) immensely harmful to the very people they purport to help, not to mention the numerous people left confused by the ideology. This is in part because these ideologies promote not only harmful actions, but also numerous vices such as pride.
But again, whether or not one agrees with the statement, disagrees with it, or finds it questionable, it was set forward as an example of his hatred for certain people. But how is he desiring evil in this statement? He would be if he supported gay marriage and LGBT rights, for then he would be saying that people were inspired by demonic powers and that was a desirable thing. But, as it is, he is saying that he wants them to be rescued from the demonic clutches. A Christian can separate out the accidental, such as an ideology or attraction, from the essential attributes of someone, such as their being. To call someone out as evil (in certain respects) is not to desire evil for them. It is the first step in helping them to change and improve. His language was counterproductive towards this goal, but in no way is this statement wishing evil on people. So it is not hatred.
The third argument raised was that Franklin Graham hates Muslims. The sole evidence to support this claim was the following quotation:
True Islam cannot be practised in this country. You can't beat your wife, you cannot murder your children if you think that they have committed adultery or something like that. I love the people of Islam and I work in Muslim countries all over the world but I don't agree with the teachings of Islam and I find it to be a very violent religion.
Once again, he could have chosen his words better. The reference to "True Islam" is troubling, because there are numerous different sects of Islam, beyond even the Sunni-Shia divide. Some of them are more extreme than others. I don't think it is right for someone who is not a Muslim, such as Franklin Graham, myself, or Theresa May to declare which of them is "True Islam." It is even more dangerous for a group of Muslims to do it, as the recent example of the Islamic State shows.
However, it is worth pointing out where the examples he quotes come from. The example of beating one's disobedient wife is inspired by the Qu'ran, Sura 4:34,
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
Muslims, of course, regard the Qu'ran as the direct, unaltered and uncorruptable word of God, a reflection of a heavenly tablet preserved from eternity. That means, of course, that if something is in the Qu'ran, it cannot be questioned (by a Muslim). Of course, one can still question the meaning and interpretations of various words (hence the disagreements between different Islamic sects), but in this case there has been little dispute. Some say that it is a last resort, and ought not be too severe, but almost all Islamic commentators have agreed that beating one's wife is, in certain circumstances, the right thing to do. They can't dispute that without disputing Mohammed's prophethood; and if they did that they would cease to be Muslim.
Of course, the Arabic word here translated as "strike" is one of those which is hard to translate from the original language. Some translate it as a light beating or chastisement. The English word certainly implies a severity beyond the Arabic original. The implication is that the beating should not be too vigorous or severe. There are various Hadiths which seem to contradict this verse, others which support it, and suggest that Mohammed himself beat his wives. There is a discussion of this Sura and its context here, and a further discussion from the opposite perspective here.
The second example Franklin Graham cited was honour killing. Now, it is important to remember that middle Eastern culture is very different from our own. In Western culture, the primary focus used to be on individual virtue -- which looks outward to help all people. Then it became human dignity. Today, it is perhaps tolerance, or equality, or rights -- again, looking beyond one's own people to the wider community. But for the Arabs, the most important thing is face and in particular family and tribal honour. This means that if you do something bad, you don't only disgrace yourself, but also your family and tribe. To restore the prestige of the family, your own brothers, sisters, parents and children have to act against you, to cut out the disgrace.
Honour killing is usually regarded as more of a cultural than Islamic thing. It was a practice in tribal Arabia before Mohammed, among other cultures, one which he did not command but neither did he condemn. Thus the practice continued beyond his time. It is not solely practised by Muslims, but the vast majority of people killed in this way are Muslims killed by their Muslim family members. The practice has widespread support in various Islamic countries.
So while Franklin Graham was wrong to cite this as part of "True Islam", he was also right to cite it as a practice that is very much linked to Muslim societies.
The third issue that Franklin Graham raised in this quote is that Islam is a religion that promotes violence in certain circumstances. Once again, the point is that Muslims are meant to follow the teachings of the Qu'ran and the example of Mohammed. So let us look at how a critic of Islam might summarise Mohammed's example, based on the records of the earliest Islamic biographies. Mohammed had the first of what he claimed were visions of the angel delivering the Qu'ran to him at the age of forty, in a cave outside his home city of Mecca. For the next ten years, he preached a largely peaceful message to the people of Mecca: abandon your idols, and support the poor. The Meccans rejected his message. After about ten years, his first wife died, and Mohammed's message started to become more confrontational and bitter. His visions also became more twisted; for example he had a vision telling him to marry a six year old girl as a third (and second at the same time) wife. Violence erupted between Mohammed's supporters and the Meccan pagans, and, fearing for his life, Mohammed fled to the Northern city of Yathrib, now known as Medina. Up to this point, Mohammed's message was largely peaceful and called for religious tolerance, although even in this period, as time passed, there was a growing sense of both grievance, arrogance and intolerance towards his enemies.
In Medina, he was quickly appointed as an arbiter between the Jewish and Arab tribes. He began a series of raids to loot caravans heading to Mecca, to take revenge for the injuries the Meccans had done to him by rejecting his message, and drew around him a group of desperadoes and bandits, lured by promises of loot and sex slaves in this life, and a heavenly brothel in the hereafter should they die in battle. When the Jewish tribes of Medina objected to his behaviour and criticised his "revelations", he first of all exiled some of the tribes, then, when he was stronger, he openly executed the men and divided the women amongst his followers. In the meantime, he fought several battles against the Meccans, growing gradually stronger. His first assault on Mecca led to a ten year peace treaty (which he broke after two years), so to appease his followers, he then launched an attack to wipe out the Jewish tribes he had previously exiled: the men killed, the women forced into marriage or concubinage. His final advance on Mecca led to their surrender, and, faced with the choice between death and Islam, almost all of the Meccans chose Islam. Mohammed then proceeded to conquer the rest of Arabia, killing all who would not submit to his religion. He died while planning an attack on the Byzantine and Parthian empires; one where his successors would, against the odds, triumph.
What this suggests is that the Qu'ran, were it arranged chronologically, would be in two parts. The first part, composed while Mohammed was a religious minority in Mecca, preaches peace and religious tolerance. The second part, composed largely, when he was in Medina and holding political authority and power, preaches warfare against the infidels until their convert or submit. A few verses composed by Mohammed during that second part of his ministry illustrate the point.
"They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and take no friends or helpers from their ranks." (Qu'ran 4:89)
"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." (Qu'ran 8:12)
"And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion is all for Allah." (Qu'ran 8:39).
"So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them." (Qu'ran 9:5)
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."
There are many more examples I could have chosen. The second part of the Islamic scripture is the hadith, the traditions passed down and eventually recorded of the lives of Mohammed and his immediate disciples. These outline in detail the various wars and, according to Islam's critics, atrocities of Mohammed in detail. It is certainly a matter of historical record that for over a thousand years from the time of Mohammed until they were beaten back by Western technology, the various Islamic Caliphates led a continual war of agression both in the West (Europe) and in the East (India). Take, for example, the battle of Yarmuk, the decisive battle in the early Muslim/Byzantine wars as an example of Islamic attitude and practice in this time.
Now, of course, many Muslims today would dispute this record as I painted it above. For example they would say that the Jews that were exiled had violated the constitution Mohammed had drawn up when he first came to Medina and thus lost his protection; point out the various grievances that Mohammed used to justify the wars he started across Arabia; mention that the Muslims took the captured women into forced marriage or as concubines because, after the deaths of their husbands and fathers in battle, there was nobody else to provide for them. They would say that the violent verses of the Qu'ran were revealed in a particular context, and only apply in that context (and it is certainly a fair criticism that I did not discuss the context either in the Qu'ran or in the history of Mohammed in my selection of verses above; were I giving a more detailed account of the violence of Islam I would have to do so, but that would be too much of a digression for this discussion). For an Islamic response to these allegations of violence, see here.
But certainly, looking at the plain reading of the Qu'ran and the history of Islam, it is clear that there is substantial evidence supporting Franklin's view that Islam is a religion that promotes violence in certain circumstances and the suppression of non-Muslims. It is easy to see how someone can read the sources and come to that conclusion. There is, of course, also some evidence to the contrary. To argue that Islam, in some interpretations, supports violence is very far from saying that all Muslims support religious violence, although it is also clear that some, claiming to take the Qu'ran and example of Mohammed as their inspiration, do.
So all three of Franklin Graham's contentious statements have justification, albeit the first and especially the third more than the second. But recall that the charge against him was not that he spread falsehoods against Islam, but that he promotes hatred of Muslims. Is there anything in that statement, given the wider context of an evangelical world-view, which desires evil towards Muslims?
We must distinguish between Islam and Muslims. To be critical of Islam is not the same as being critical of Muslims. Indeed, if Islam is false and Mohammed was not a prophet of God, as evangelicals such as Franklin Graham believe, to be critical of Islam is to help rescue Muslims from a dangerous untruth. One that leaves them worse off in this world, and most likely facing torment in the next -- there is no salvation from sin and the wrath of God in Islam, but only through Jesus. And of the three things that Franklin Graham highlighted, let us think who the victims are. The victims of Qu'ranic inspired domestic violence are Muslim women. The victims of honour killing are also predominately Muslim, and the majority of them women as well. And while Muslim terrorist attacks and raids in places such as Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria garner the most headlines in the Western world, in practice by far the majority of people killed or wounded by Islamic motivated violence are other Muslims, as one sect tries to punish the heretics as they believe that Mohammed taught them. For example, the Sunni against Shia conflicts in Iraq. Each group (and I am talking about the extremists who perpetuate this violence here, not the average Muslim on the street) views the other as heretics and hypocrites, and thus not only are they deserving of death for making a mockery of Islam, but it is their religious duty to personally put them to death. So Franklin's three points of contention can hardly be anti-Muslim rhetoric or based on anti-Muslim hatred, since he is desiring that certain acts of evil against Muslims cease.
Could one argue that by calling out the failings of Islam he is encourage people to despise the people who follow that religion? No, because Franklin separates the people from the teaching. It is strange that the best evidence that the BBC could come up with as an example of Franklin's purported anti-Muslim hatred is one in which he states that he loves the people of Islam as much as he finds the teachings of Islam troubling. If Islam is false, then Muslims themselves are its biggest victims.
Is he calling out for violence against Muslims in revenge for acts of some people of that religion? No. Firstly Franklin is right-wing, and so campaigns against identity politics, where individual responsibilities are absorbed into the group dynamics. Some blacks have been oppressed therefore all blacks are oppressed, even those who are elected President. Some whites are privileged therefore all whites must be discriminated against to even the scales. Some forms of marriage have been oppressive, therefore all forms of marriage are designed to enslave women. Some Muslims are violent therefore all Muslims must be punished. That is precisely the ideology that the political right, and I would strongly agree with them here, rejects most vehemently. Instead, every individual must be treated on their own merits, and only their own merits.
But more importantly, Franklin Graham is an evangelical Christian, and that means that he preaches and follows commandments such as,
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In other words, the best way of dealing with someone who wants to do you harm is to do good to them. You get the satisfaction of having done good, and they have the pain of knowing that you aren't stopped by their hatred.
Was Franklin Graham calling for Muslims to be banned from the US? No, he was calling for the practices of domestic violence and honour killings to be banned in the US. Note that he spoke of "True Islam", not Muslims. Those Muslims who speak in favour of such things have no place in the US, according to Graham -- but why is that controversial? But those Muslims who disapprove of such practices, he says nothing against them. He acknowledges that not all Muslims are the same, and not all follow what he (foolishly) calls "True Islam."
So the evidence presented that Franklin Graham desires evil for homosexuals, lesbians and Muslims shows nothing of the sort. His disapproval of the homosexual lifestyle and the Islamic religion is instead motivated by a desire for their good.
But what of Franklin Graham's critics? Take the Labour Member of Parliament for Blackpool who commented,
We are a town that is welcoming and open to all sorts of people. The idea that someone is coming to Blackpool having made his reputation with these sorts of unpleasant and extremist comments is not good for our town and I don't think that it is conducive to the public good. I have no quarrel with the concept of the Festival of Hope as a concept in itself or indeed in the evangelism that comes with it. But I think that the presence of Franklin Graham in Blackpool at this time given everything that he has said will be disruptive, will cause offence, and therefore it will be better for him not to come.
So here we have somebody who believes himself to be welcoming to all people. Except, of course, those he doesn't like. Are Franklin Graham's comments extreme and unpleasant? Are they offensive and disruptive? Perhaps, but then this MP's comments are even more so. He just doesn't seem to realise how divisive and offensive his own political views are in some quarters. That's partly because evangelical Christians are so used to being offended and hated for their love that they don't tend to make a fuss over it.
Indeed, I could see how somebody who did not know better than to try to read the minds and motivations of other people could jump to the conclusion that the various protestors hate Franklin Graham. They want to deny him the good of coming to the UK. They want to deny him the good of being able to speak freely. They want to deny him the good of practising agape love as he sees it. And not just him, but by implication all those who share his views. They seem to desire genuine evil towards the evangelical speaker. So if hatred of a religion were a crime, these critics of Franklin Graham, I am sure some would argue, stand very much among the guilty.
The organiser of the festival put it succinctly:
When you put into context the things that he has been heard to say, the quotes that he has been heard to say, were nothing other than orthodox mainstream Christian belief, and actually there was never any intention at any point to exclude anybody or to offend anybody.
The protestors aren't just saying that they don't think that Franklin Graham is not welcome in this country. They are saying that every Evangelical and Catholic Christian is unwelcome. They are saying that they would rather shut us out than to try to understand our viewpoint. they may well still disagree with us at the end of it all, and that is fine (just as I try to listen to what people such as this MP say, but but usually come away even more convinced that they are wrong). But many people like this MP give the impression that they would rather dismiss us as "racists" and "haters" than to actually think about the true motivations of those who hold a different world-view. The hypocrisy of those who define themselves by their welcoming and open attitude is staggering.
I'm not saying that it is always bad to cause offence. Quite the opposite. The truth is offensive to people who don't accept it. Extremist love is offensive to those who don't understand it. It is impossible to go through life without giving offence to your opponents. I'm not saying the offence is a good, but it is an unavoidable side effect of open debate. Far more important is someone's ability to take offence without letting it affect them, and to try to understand where the other person is coming from. It is a very rare person who desires what they regard as evil for others. They just have a different understanding of what is good.
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