Saturday, April 11, 2015

Shame on Franklin Graham

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  Gandhi

The face of Gandhi in old age—smiling, wearing glasses, and with a white sash over his right shoulder

Franklin Graham. 

If you are a Christian, you probably feel pretty strongly one way or another about Franklin Graham.  Take his recent facebook rant:

Listen up--Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.” Hebrews 13:17

Truly spoken like a privileged white guy who doesn’t get pulled over for the color of his skin, the clothes he wears, the condition of his vehicle, the music he plays.  Spoken like a man who, if he ever was pulled over (or rather his driver) would feel nervous about keeping his hands in plain sight, about having to ask permission to reach into the glove box to get vehicle registration.  Spoken like a guy who has never had to live with racial bias or the threat of mistreatment by white police officers.  Spoken like a guy who probably doesn’t even know a Black person who has had to face an unjust system. 

It sounds like Franklin Graham believes that if you don’t want to shot by police, you should stop being Black.  

The mark of a good teacher, it seems to me, is the ability to empathize, to be able to put yourself in another's shoes, to see the world from another's perspective.  Entitled Franklin does not seem to have that ability.

Fascinating that Franklin says that we should obey authorities blindly, that unnecessary shootings could have been avoided by people (read: Blacks) simply laying face down on the pavement with their hands behind their backs would have avoided these horrifying events.  It is the Blacks fault because they didn’t obey.  Because they resisted.  Because they ran. 

They should simply OBEY.  And that Franklin invokes the B-I-B-L-E makes it the truth.  Because slinging the Bible around means you are speaking the WORD of GOD.  Right?  Because Franklin believes that FRANKLIN’S WORDS=GOD’S WORDS. 

That’s what Jesus did, right?  He blindly obeyed authority because it told him to in the B-I-B-L-E. (Hebrews is a New Testament book, which relied heavily on Old Testament quotes.) 


It was only because Jesus disobeyed the law that he demonstrated that he was greater then those laws.  He hung out with the unsavory, he interceded in the lawful stoning death of a woman accused of adultery (They were saying this, testing Him, so that they may have grounds for accusing Him.  But Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground.  But when they persisted in asking Him, he straightened up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  John 8:7 ), he healed the sick on the Sabbath, he flipped over the tables of the money changers in the temple (And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN"   Matthew 21:12).  The authorities were ticked at all of these and many more of his actions and words that revealed them (and those laws) as hypocritical.  Good thing too.

Many other great leaders who knew that the way to change wrong practices, practices that defied logic and righteousness, was to stand up to authority.  Indeed that is how most of the greatest changes in our cultures have occurred – by standing up to injustice.  How about the Sons of Liberty and the American Revolution?  There was some disobedience there.  How about Gandhi and his salt march – the beginning of the end of Britain’s wrongful imperialistic rule over India?  Lots of disobedience.  How about those who opposed slavery?  It was completely legal at the time.  Martin Luther King Jr.?  Rosa Parks and the other strong, brave, beautiful Civil Rights leaders who led our country out of oppression of minorities?  (Not to say that the battle for a free and equal society is over).  If not for courageous, strong souls who stand up for injustice, there would effectively be no change. 


I remember Billy Graham.   He was my wife’s grandmother’s hero.  He was an evangelist too.  But he wasn’t just a Christian leader.  He was a Christ like leader.  Sadly, his son Franklin gives Christians a bad name.  Shame on him.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Heidi found this post on Facebook and insisted that I watch.  I love Fred Rogers.  I used to try to make it home to watch Mr. Roger's Neighborhood with my boys when they were little .  I think I enjoyed him as much as they did.  It takes a few minutes to watch, but I defy you to watch the whole thing and not tear up.   

I found an old post about Mr. Rogers from my archive.  I wrote this about 5 years ago.  He was such a simple, complex, loving, honest, caring, straightforward guy.  

Last week I was looking for a quote by Fred Rogers. This was for a presentation at a big conference. I had read this quote before. It has to do with using what we learn about language and mathematics and how those powerful tools may be used for good or evil.

It took a while to find it, but along the way I ran across many wonderful ideas penned or spoken by the amazing Mr. Rogers.The guy was brilliant. His words were simple but elegant, easy to understand but deep.
The search for that quote reminded me of the time when my own boys were really young and we would watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood when I got home from school. This was before we had cable and the only channels we could pull in on the old rabbit ears were ABC, NBC, CBS and Public Television. Thank God for ETV for Kids. Watching Mr. Rogers with my boys was a treasure.His messages of love and self-worth were not just for the very young.

After all those years, reading his words again rejuvenated me. They reconnected me to that special time when Devin was about 3 and Colin 1 ½. Both boys in diapers and nothing else. That was such a special time for us. Such an intimate sharing. After the show we might hold on and watch Magic School Bus or head outside to romp around near the lakeshore.

All of this came flooding back as I read through quote after quote.What a smart guy. What an inspiration. Little kids hooked on Mr. Rogers were lucky. Grown-ups hooked on Mr. Rogers (and few of us would actually admit it out loud) were lucky too.

Finally I found the one I was looking for. When I first rediscovered the words it was pretty late. Heidi was already asleep. I read it aloud to myself to see if it would work to begin my presentation. I copied it word for word from the computer screen. For the next several days I carried it with me, pulling it out occasionally to practice reading it so when the time came to read it aloud to a big bunch of professionals, I wouldn’t choke up.

You know with the No Child Left Behind legislation and pressure on teachers and students to perform well on high stakes standardized tests, Fred Rogers words help me to keep it all in perspective. It’s not enough to merely be able to read. I want my students to laugh when they read something funny and to cry when they read something sad or touching. I want my students to read like they can’t wait to share something they have learned or well-crafted words they have read. I want my students to be moved by what they read.

Likewise, it’s not enough to merely be able to write. I want my students to be compelled to write, to convince, to share who they are and what they know. I want my students to choose their words wisely and to be able to move others by what they write.
So Fred’s words were perfect. They said, in few words, what it took me many to say. It is an honor and a privilege to share them with you.

"It's easy to convince people that children need to learn the alphabet and numbers. How do we help people to realize that what matters is how a person's inner life finally puts together the alphabet and numbers of his outer life? What really matters is whether he uses the alphabet for the declaration of war or the description of a sunrise, and his numbers for the final count in Buchenwald or for the specifics of a new bridge" (Fred Rogers)