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Evangelicals criticise Franklin Graham

27 March 2015


"Listen up": Franklin Graham speaks at a music and evangelism festival, in Erie, Pennsylvania, in September

"Listen up": Franklin Graham speaks at a music and evangelism festival, in Erie, Pennsylvania, in September

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 Evangelical leaders.

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 Barbara Williams-Skinner.

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