Saturday, March 3, 2018

Perspective: Billy Graham’s Legacy Is Conflating White Christianity And Patriotism | Lyz Lenz


[I]t’s also worth noting that the toxic brand of evangelicalism that has kneecapped American politics, the full merging of patriotism and Christianity, would not have been possible without Graham’s relentless pursuit of civil religion.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: HuffPost
By Lyz Lenz | February 22, 2018

Graham was in the White House on Jan. 19, 1991, the night America launched an attack on Iraq. 

There is a story we tell about America ― one that twists together the conflicting narratives of patriotism, guns and God. We tell this story every time we hold our hands over our hearts, intoning, “one nation under God,” or whenever we stand teary-eyed in a stadium honoring our troops, Blue Angels flying overhead, while someone sings “God Bless America.”

It’s there in our trucks, in the before-dinner prayers at tables in the heartland, penetrating our politics until faith and the White House become one in a nation founded on the principles of separation of church and state.

This wasn’t always the story of America.

World-famous evangelist Billy Graham died on Feb. 21, 2018. In the wake of his passing, there will be a grappling with and a whitewashing of his legacy ― his spiritual advisement to every president from Eisenhower to Obama and his loathsome attitudes toward LGBTQ people, for instance. But it’s also worth noting that the toxic brand of evangelicalism that has kneecapped American politics, the full merging of patriotism and Christianity, would not have been possible without Graham’s relentless pursuit of civil religion.

Graham’s rise came hand-in-hand with the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Both men had one mission: get people into pews. For Eisenhower, it was pragmatic. America was now at war with communism, which was perpetuated by atheists. Americans could differentiate themselves from the godless hordes by exercising their freedom of religion. In a speech given after the testing of the first H-bomb, Eisenhower exhorted Americans, “If there is no religious faith whatsoever, then there is little defense you can make of a free system.” Right before taking office, Eisenhower declared, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded deeply in religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” Eisenhower’s dictum was taken up by Graham, and soon going to church was more than just something for the religious, it was part of being a good American.

On Labor Day, 1957, Graham preached to a crowd in Times Square that stretched up Broadway, “Let us tell the whole world tonight that we Americans believe in God … that we are morally and spiritually strong as well as militarily and economically.”

His sermons often blended the military might of America with its spiritual strength. And in Graham, political power and spiritual power became one. He prayed with presidents and advised them. Graham encouraged Lyndon B. Johnson to pick Hubert Humphrey as a running mate. He was so devoted to Nixon that he once famously and wrongly insisted, “[Nixon’s] moral and ethical principles wouldn’t allow him to do anything illegal.” Graham was in the White House on Jan. 19, 1991, the night America launched an attack on Iraq.

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