THE "crude, insensitive, and paternalistic" comments made by
Franklin Graham, chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association, about police shootings, have been condemned by
On 12 March, Mr Graham, who is Billy Graham's son, wrote on
Facebook: "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. . . 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'."
At the time of his comments, "liked" by more than 200,000 people
on Facebook, protests were taking place in Ferguson, Missouri,
where an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a policeman last
year (News, 22
August). The demonstrations followed the resignation of
Ferguson's police chief, which came after the publication of a
report by the Department of Justice alleging racial bias in the
town's police department.
An open letter to Mr Graham, signed by more than 30 Evangelical
theologians, church leaders, and writers said that his comments had
"betrayed the confidence that your brothers and sisters in Christ,
especially those of color, have afforded your father's ministry for
decades. Your instructions oversimplified a complex and critical
problem facing the nation and minimized the testimonies and wisdom
of people of color and experts of every hue."
The letter accuses him of a "lack of empathy and understanding
of the depth of sin that some in the body have suffered under the
weight of our broken justice system". It also says that he has
"misappropriated" scripture, and calls on him to "seek wise counsel
and guidance first from those who bear the weight of the injustice
and second from other experts in the field".
Signatories include the President of Sojourners, Jim Wallis, and
the co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network, Dr