Maybe it’s difficult to be the kid of someone famous. Gandhi’s son converted to Islam and was trading in British imports at the same time his father was calling for a boycott (“Father to a Nation, Stranger to His Son,” The Guardian, August 9, 2007). Not being able to reconcile with his son was one of Gandhi’s late-in-life regrets. While Gandhi was a spiritual and political leader, not such a hero of parenting.
Maybe desiring parental approval is an instinct, like with Franklin the turtle who helped in the garden so dad said, “Excellent job Franklin. That was real grown-up work,” (season one, episode four). His cartoons start with a simple, happy song: “Hey, it’s Franklin…” which always makes me smile. Very catchy. That’s why I get momentarily confused where I hear/read stories about Franklin Graham, the eldest son of the renowned evangelist, Billy Graham. He’s no Franklin the turtle.
Near as I can tell from (not at all exhaustive) Internet research, Billy Graham is alive and about 97. Just like Gandhi, Graham regrets not spending enough time with his family. When he retired, he handed his kingdom to his eldest son Franklin. In one of his last interviews after retirement he said: “I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.” – Billy Graham, CT, January 21, 2011.
It is estimated that Billy Graham preached to 215 million people in his lifetime. Ordained in 1939, his career took off in 1949 after charismatic preaching in revival tents. He eventually expanded to television, radio, print publications, and filling stadiums. His moderate interpretation of Christian evangelism had a stronger emphasis on God’s love than sin. In his day, as he likely would be today, he was criticized for “being too liberal and refusing to play into partisan politics.” Perhaps the only way for son Franklin to distinguish himself from his prominent father is to pander to the element who criticized him. I would argue that Franklin’s harsh rhetoric is more about proving something to daddy than theology – though I’m not sure it matters.
Franklin has supported the Republican candidate’s proposed ban on the immigration of Muslims (Washington Post). He said, “We have allowed the enemy to come into our churches,” including all gays and lesbians as “the enemy.” Poor Franklin is not content with his nearly $1 million salaries (plural intended). He wants to be a political voice. And just like the Republican presidential candidate, he is willing to spew hatred and stir-up the people with the pitchforks to do it.
Still, I can’t bring myself to pity those who have been handed the world. Franklin draws two salaries from separate nonprofits. The link to the article below has a photo of Franklin with Sarah Palin. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association pays him $250,000 and the nonprofit charity, Samaritan’s Purse, pays him $650,000. Having worked in nonprofits most of my career, I can nearly guarantee you he is not working 80 hours a week. And even if he is, I can’t think of a single nonprofit leader who deserves $900,000. I remind you he claims to follow Jesus, yet Jesus traveled the countryside with no possessions whatsoever and regularly advocated for the outcasts. Apparently, Franklin wants to talk about Jesus, but not actually be anything like him. Well, mission accomplished.
Maybe right now you’re thinking of asking me who cares? You weren’t paying attention to the likes of Franklin Graham anyhow. It matters because he is part of the contingent that regularly confuses religion and politics. Part of the contingent supporting him are those for whom ignorance has become an ideology. Not only an ideology, but one that people are holding-up as admirable. Here’s a real live bumper sticker I saw in traffic a few weeks ago: “Fairy Tales Say A Frog Became a Prince ‘Scientists’ call it Evolution.” It was on a piece of crap car that also had a sticker on it for the Republican presidential candidate. I wanted to tell the driver that if you had bothered with a better education, you might have a better job, a better car, and not be so damn angry. These angry white folks are squawking about what they think they don’t have, yet the average Trump supporter makes $70,000 (Bill Maher). That is a far cry from people living in multi-generational poverty.
The latest book I’ve been listening to on the commute to work is Anna Quindlen’s Rise and Shine. You can read or listen to anything she writes without disappointment. In this one she uses the story of two sisters to teach us about New York and go inside of lives of those living in privilege and in poverty and she paints a fascinating picture. When the famous sister has a crisis and winds-up losing her job and her spouse in the same week, I found it difficult to empathize. I’m more of the thinking that those to whom much is given, much is expected. Like Franklin Graham: Franklin is just another self-promoting, rich white man with daddy issues. We have enough of those. Learn a lesson from Franklin the turtle whose best friend is Bear and plays soccer with Goose and Fox.