Once again, one of iconic pastor Billy Graham’s progeny is in the news. While son Franklin keeps up his unrelenting background drumbeat of anti-GLBT rhetoric, Graham’s daughter, Franklin’s sister, Anne Graham Lotz, pushes her own assumptions as gospel.
Speaking of the 16th anniversary of 9/11, Lotz announced that God has abandoned Americans because of their attitude towards transgender rights, evolution, and the separation of church and state.
Whence comes the siblings’ absolute certainty? Had Anne–or Franklin–even heard the word “transgender” in September 11, 2001? The nature/nurture question has still not been determined, but my opinion is that in the Graham household, like that of the Phelps clan of the Westboro Baptist Church, feelings of if not self-righteousness, then self-rightness, were inculcated directly through dominant, patriarchal figures, Billy in the former, Fred Sr. in the latter.
I never met Fred, but I did encounter Billy back in 1952 in Jackson, MS, at Tiger Stadium. Tall and commanding, Graham towered above the throng sweltering in the August heat. “I know I’m saved,” he boomed, “Do you?” Well, no. So I, along with hundreds of others, went forward.
Afterward, my cousin Jim and I found ourselves separated from our parents. On the roadside, a stranger stopped and offered us a “ride.” I pulled my cousin back toward the arena, where the only folks visible were the Reverend Graham and an assistant. I was awed, but approached and, looking up at Graham, asked if he would sign an autograph. He glanced down briefly and replied, “If I gave you one I’d have to give one to everybody.”
There was no “Where are your parents?” “Can I help you?” I was nonplussed as the scales fell from my eyes. I had undergone perhaps the briefest conversion in history, receiving an inoculation immunizing me through the following 65 years.
There’s more to Graham’s three weeks in Jackson, some good, some examples of “situational religious ethics;” more of that, later. The long lesson has been that while a healthy ego and self-confidence are necessary to thrive and progress, rigid certainty about anything, from the shape of our planet to being privy to the mind of the Creator, allowing no room for consideration or change, has caused untold misery and suffering.