The eldest son of Billy Graham, Reverend Franklin Graham runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, of which he is both CEO and President. In 2016, he had launched the Decision Tour America in which he held prayer rallies in all 50 states that drew 230,000 attendees. This past month, he has been visiting smaller churches and communities in Tennessee.
Those visits to “small community churches” inspired the pastor of one to write an open letter to Graham on May 21. In it he takes issues with much of what Graham has said during his sermons. To begin with, he disagrees with both Graham’s assertion that Americans face a loss of religious freedom and his definition of that loss. Peter the Pastor states that he has never “experienced anything in this country that could reasonably be considered a restriction on my religious liberty, much less persecution.” Peter then provides examples of what he considers examples of persecution, such as ISIS’ bombing a Coptic Christian church in Cairo on Palm Sunday in an attack that killed dozens.
Graham, by contrast, apparently had a very different idea of persecution or restriction of religious freedom. He was upset that a bakery that had refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple had been fined for violating laws against discrimination. Peter points out that the Apostle Peter had written a letter stating that God did not necessarily reward people who had been punished for breaking the law.
Peter goes on to write:
“But in any event, Frank, let’s get over this persecution complex. Stop with the drama already! You are not under attack just because you have to follow the rules like everyone else. Look, I understand the owners of this establishment you mention in your speech don’t approve of gay and lesbian people getting married. They don’t have to approve of them. But if they are going to do business in this country, they have to follow the law against discrimination-just like the rest of us.”
Peter then addresses Graham’s assertion that Trump was hand-picked by God to be a champion of religious freedom. He notes that Trump’s conduct is not that of a religious champion, and a lot of his behavior violates the Ten Commandments.
In his letter, Peter notes that the Bible depicted Jesus as being far more concerned with people’s treatment of the poor and vulnerable than with any of the issues that seem to drive conservative Christians. He then announces that he will answer Graham’s call to action – in his own way. He writes:
“I will be praying for the real victims of persecution-the victims of racial discrimination, sexual violence and bullying… I will be acting to establish health care as a right for all people; making the college campus and the workplace spaces where women and girls need not fear… rich, white celebrity males who feel entitled to grab them by the genitals. I will respond to your call for action by working for a society in which no one needs to worry about where she will sleep at night or where the next meal is coming from.”
Peter concludes his letter by dismissing the need for Trump as a champion and declaring that he and his congregation need only their prayers and scriptures to love both God and their fellows.