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Poverty Bus Tour

Rev. William Barber

National Emergency Truth and Poverty Bus Tour Swings West

The Rev. Dr. William Barber and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis brought their National Emergency Truth and Poverty Bus Tour to my neck of the Kentucky woods the other day.

Barber is from North Carolina, also the home state of the Rev. Dr. Franklin Graham. So I asked Barber what he’d say to Graham if he were on the bus.

Hogs will fly, and kids will stop shooting hoops in Kentucky before Graham makes common cause with Barber and Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign. Graham is Trump's archbishop of bigotry.

Of course, hogs will fly, and kids will stop shooting hoops in Kentucky before Graham makes common cause with Barber and Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Graham is Trump's archbishop of bigotry.

Anyway, Barber smiled at me and said, “I love Brother Graham, and love him enough to tell him he needs to stop telling his lies. You notice that most of the time he says ‘the Bible,’ not ‘Jesus.’ He can’t say ‘Jesus’ about most of the stuff that he claims are the nation’s problems.”

Of late, Graham’s “stuff” – I’d use a stronger word—has included a call for Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg to repent of his “sin.”

“Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian,” Graham tweeted to his fans of the Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can't-stand-youpersuasion. “As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised, or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman — not two men, not two women.”

Graham takes The Good Book as the literal, absolute, inerrant word of God. So do a slew of white, conservative evangelicals like him. A ton of them are my fellow Kentuckians.

“God Said it. I Believe It. That Settles It,” is a popular bumper sticker in deepest western Kentucky, where I've lived all my 69 years. (Hereabouts in Trumpistan, the sticker is sometimes on vehicles that sport Trump-Pence and NRA stickers and novelty Confederate flag license plates.)

Anyway, I used to teach European history in a community college. When I’d lecture on the origins of Christianity, I’d tell my students to get to get ready to hear what Jesus said about homosexuality. The warning would rouse even the most zoned-out, semi-slumberous students.

Then, from my lectern – silence.

Poverty Bus Tour

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

If Jesus said anything about gay people, it’s not in the Bible, I’d remind my students.

To hear Graham tell it, the Bible isn't just anti-gay, it leans Republican. To be sure, he's not the only white, conservative preacher who talks like "GOP" stands for "God's Own Party" and that unfettered, union-busting capitalism is scripture-sanctioned. Barber prayerfully disagrees.

He said he'd also ask Graham, “Why are you always saying so much about what God said so little about and so little about what God said so much about?”

I'd love to hear the "archbishop's" answer.

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The Bible is clear about what the Prince of Peace considered “front burner” issues, according to Barber—“poverty, taking care of the least of these, the sick, the stranger. You don’t hear that from him.

“All you hear from Brother Graham is that he is against gay people and against Muslim people, which is so anti-Christian, and, in fact, it’s heresy.”

I was reared Presbyterian. But I’m not a regular churchgoer, and I’m far from an authority on the Bible.

But, I know “Christ” is the root word of “Christianity.” Hence, if Christ isn’t on the record condemning homosexuality, how can Christians who believe the Bible is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, damn folks Jesus didn’t?

It’s also true that some Old Testament scripture condemns homosexuality. So does Paul in the New Testament.

But if you’re a Christian, don’t the words (sometimes printed in red for emphasis) of The Chief Cornerstone top everybody else's commentary in the Bible? (Jesus also didn’t consign to perdition lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.)

I don’t get why homosexuality so vexes people like Graham. (Maybe it’s my live-and-let-live, judge-ye-not, Frozen Chosen rearing, of which I am proud.)

Graham and his soul-mates preach and practice what historian Richard Hofstadter dubbed “the paranoid style” in American politics.

“I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind,” he wrote in 1964 in response to the Goldwater movement. The “paranoid style” fits Trumpism, too.

When I was a kid, it was Reds under our beds and fluoride in our water. Now LGBT Americans are the great right-wing wig-out.

Buttigieg is wedded to a man. Graham and his fellow Religious Right culture warriors hiss that same-sex wedlock is a dire threat to the whole institution of marriage, if not to all Christendom. To hear them tell it, same-sex marriage equals apocalypse now.

This emeritus (fancy word for old retired geezer) history prof doesn’t know of any civilization wiped out by same-sex matrimony. Generally, well-oiled military machines do the trick.

At any rate, I recall from Sunday School that love is supposed to be the core of Christianity and that Jesus told His disciples they would be known by their love. I don’t get how Graham squares that with his gospel of hate.

According to Ed Kilgore in New York Magazine, "Graham has no problem presuming to reject the work of [the]…creator on grounds that he knows better because of sparse and random condemnations of homosexuality (never by Jesus, it should be noted) in a book whose unmistakable themes are God’s unfailing and unconditional love for all of His creation — and the particularly sinful nature of human self-righteousness.

“Next time President Trump has press availability, someone should ask him if he agrees with Graham’s belief that all gay people are depraved and cannot practice Christianity without renouncing their orientation or at least heading back to the closet. Granted, the president knows about as much about religion as he does about the U.S. Constitution. But he should at least accept some responsibility for the hateful views of some of his most fervent supporters — or challenge them to repent."

This lapsed Presbyterian is your amen corner, Brother Kilgore. Yours too, Rev. Barber.


Berry Craig