Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, and a well-known preacher in his own right, has recently found himself in a great deal of controversy. Some church leaders in Winnipeg are demanding that Graham apologize over comments that he has made in the past that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion."
This is just the kind of fodder that Canada's broadcaster, the CBC, loves to see. For the net news item, go to this link. They no doubt will be following Franklin's every move in Winnipeg, where his organization has planned a large evangelistic outreach.
The multi-faith group getting the publicity have organized what they are calling "Operation Bless Our Enemies." Apparently the group is led by Aiden Enns, who is a well known activist and the editor of Adbusters magazine. It is made up of Mennonite, United and Anglican church members, as well as representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities.
While I would like to take this protest at face value - that they're simply trying to convince Mr. Graham to do the right thing by apologizing for his remarks, a short look at Mr. Enns' other causes would tend to indicate otherwise. You also have to wonder at the choice of venue for this protest by this group of mostly "Christians."
What would be the motive for handing out handbills to people attending the event and asking them to sign them and leave them on collection plates? The goal of the Winnipeg festival was to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a cause which, one would assume, Mr. Enns and his friends would support. It would seem to me that if he were sincere, he would find some other way to get his point across to Rev. Graham, rather than disrupting the proclamation of the Gospel and perhaps turning someone off to the message. My suspicion is that this has a lot more to do with politics than a concern for Muslim sensibilities.
That being said, should Franklin Graham apologize. His father, the Rev. Billy Graham, said on Larry King that he didn't agree with his son's position but that he had every right to hold it. In previous attempts at explaining himself, Franklin has said that he has nothing against Muslims but that the religion itself is based on error - an obvious statement for a Christian who believes in the Bible and the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. He has made his position clear in a public statement.
I think that, by and large, what Graham stated is true: Islam has proven itself historically to be a religion that advances with violence, seemingly endorsed by many of its leaders and its holy book. His statements were not politically correct and, therefore, made for great press and fodder for the liberal media. Franklin's father has always shied away from taking controversial public statements - as is his right. Apparently his son will say what he thinks.
But let's look at the evidence. Does Franklin Graham hate Muslims? As head of "Samaritan's Purse," a large Christian relief organization, he has overseen the ditribution of compassionate aid to millions of people, worldwide. His claim - and I have no reason to question this claim - is that more aid has gone from his organization to Muslims than to any other group in the world. That aid would total in the tens of millions of dollars. That doesn't sound like the efforts of someone who hates Muslims, does it?
Rather, it seems to me to be the outworking of a Christian leader who believes that the words of Jesus - "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me." - are true. Therefore, all other claims to the contrary are false. Christianity and Islam have fundamentally different teachings and therefore they cannot both be true at the same time. Rev. Graham is making the very logical statement - as a Christian minister - that Christianity is true and Islam is false. I would like to suggest that Mr. Enns and the other "Christian" leaders with him either lay down their label or explain how two contrary and opposing views could both be true at the same time.
To wrap it up, could Franklin Graham have been more sensitive? Absolutely. Should he have stated his position more diplomatically? Almost certainly. Should he apologize? If you read his statement, I believe you'll find that he clarifies his position well: he is opposed to the Islamic religion, but loves and respects Muslims as individuals. For that position he need not apologize. Opinions welcome!