Franklin Graham Brings Roadshow to Hartford
By William Cooney
Billy Graham would be so proud. His clone-like son, Franklin Graham, is carrying on the family tradition, a tradition that includes preaching, instructing, and otherwise mind-bending the masses of those either unwilling or unable to think for themselves. Franklin brought his message, thought by many to be intolerant, bigoted and hateful, to the steps of the Connecticut state capitol in Hartford today (September 1, 2016), and judging by the responses of the gathered throngs, it was frighteningly well received.
Graham is in the middle of a 50-city tour of every state capitol, urging his followers to get involved in Decision 2016, a not-so-subtle challenge to bring his evangelical brand of religion into the political process. Announcing that “our country is in deep trouble,” he prescribed a tonic of endless prayer and continuous solicitation for forgiveness from God for “all of the sins we have committed.”
Mr. Graham’s presentation on the whole was nothing less than a naked call for a theocratic nation-state, asking that people of God who may be so moved get into politics at every level, from mayor and councilman to representative, senator, and school board member. Graham suggested such a takeover was entirely within reach because, “there are many more of us than there are of them.”
It is the right, of course, of every otherwise qualified citizen to run for public office. Where secularists like us might have a problem is when religious people, once in office, try to infect public policy with their crude and tiresome dogma. As candidate Barack Obama said in 2006, religious people must express their concerns in secular terms rather than religion-specific terms precisely so that the reasoning being employed can be accessed by all.
A small and respectful band of protesters made our presence known at the rally, carrying signs and applauding at opportune pauses in Mr. Graham’s speech. Among the contrarians were Jason Heap, national coordinator for the United Coalition of Reason; Pat McCann, state coordinator for the Connecticut Coalition of Reason and president of Hartford Area Humanists; Klaus Kingstorf, president of Connecticut Valley Atheists; and Sarah Croucher, executive director of NARAL Pro Choice Connecticut, among others.
It must be said that many of us were approached by members of Mr. Graham’s army of followers, and much to our delight they were almost uniformly pleasant, inquisitive, and non-combative. A number of friendly exchanges between the two sides took place in what can truly be described as a respectful parting of the minds. What many of us heard, however, was indeed tiresome. One attendee was overheard to say to a local media outlet that she “felt so bad that all of those people (pointing to us protesters) were going to hell.” Another zealot tried to explain to me how it came to be that we now know so much about how the planets arrange and keep their orbits. It seems the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a very religious person, and he came upon the laws of planetary motion by a revelation from God during a prayer session. Apparently all of those mathematical proofs were nothing more than a superfluous ruse.
One gets the distinct feeling, judging by all of the negative and desperate warnings, that Mr. Graham would not be on this tour if he didn’t indeed think that the country was headed in the wrong direction. Graham and his ilk are plainly agonizing over the inevitable diminution of their cultural hegemony. They see their dominance whittling away, and they are afraid of what it might mean. Religious people in America are not accustomed to being in the minority. The surge of secularism has them in a panic. The more normalized atheism becomes, the less influence their Christian ideology exerts. Our primary task may inevitably be to somehow convince them that this sea change offers nothing to fear, to show them that true religious freedom is, in fact, a cornerstone of the American secular message.
In the meantime, Franklin Graham’s assertions that atheism is the work of the devil, that homosexuality is evil, and that accepting Jesus Christ as lord and savior is the only way to find salvation, are all messages that we as a nation, once more fully evolved and enlightened, will see fit to reject.