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Robert J. Elisberg: Graham Crackers, and Other Sins of the Father

2 September 2010 Huffington Post No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

The news the other week shocked a lot of people: 18% of Americans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. This sounds pretty dismal, until you realize that in a 2002 poll, 38% of Americans believed the United States should make Canada the 51st state.

Compared to that, the 18% doesn’t sound so bad.

More troubling though is the response of people who you’d think should know better. Like Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, who was speaking about President Obama with John King on CNN.

“His father was a Muslim; the seed of Muslim is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother,” Franklin Graham said, adding, “The President’s problem is that he was born a Muslim.”

Of course, Mr. Graham’s problem is that he was born the son of Billy Graham.

It’s not really his fault that Franklin Graham isn’t a crack ace on evolution or biology. After all, mothers don’t pass on a seed; that’s the father. Nor is it Franklin Graham’s fault that his statements about Islam have been so offensive that the United States Army withdrew its invitation to speak on National Prayer Day. We wouldn’t have ever heard of Franklin Graham if he wasn’t born the son of Billy Graham. And it’s the father’s seed that actually is passed to the son.

Troubling too was the response of Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader. Appearing on Meet the Press the other week, he not-so-coyly commented, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word.”

Given that Sen. McConnell (R-KY) knows he’s playing to a base that questions the president’s word on something as basic as his birth, at first I thought he was being smarmy in damning the president with faint praise on a matter of private faith. But then I realized, he’s actually on to something. All we really have to go on is a person’s word about what they believe in. And if you don’t really know a person, how can you trust their word?!

Just because Barack Obama, the man sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to be President of the United States, who we put our trust in as Commander-in-Chief of all American forces, says that he has been a Christian all his life, just because during the election his opponents blasted his ties to the Trinity United Church of Christ as a member for 20 years, just because he goes to church regularly and says repeatedly that his personal, devout faith to God Almighty is Christian — how do we really know? It’s just his word. Against ours.

So, all this got me thinking.

How do we know that Franklin Graham is a Christian? He says he’s a Christian. And he’s gone to church all his life. But so too has Barack Obama, and it’s just his word. But I take Franklin Graham at his word. Even if the U.S. Army may be wary.

Same with Mitch McConnell. He says he is a Christian. And I take him at his word. It’s just that I don’t take Mitch McConnell’s word for all that much.

But I take it more than John Boehner’s. So, I have to wonder — is John Boehner a Christian? He says he’s a Christian. And I take him at his word, too. Unfortunately I find John Boehner one of the most deceptive men in Congress. So, taking him at his word holds about as much weight as does a wet tissue.

And Sarah Palin. She “says” she is a Christian, though in fairness she hasn’t gone to church any more than Barack Obama, and her church, that called in a witch hunter, is pretty shady. And Glenn Beck says he is a Christian, the Messiah even. And so does Michelle Bachmann, who… well, okay, honestly, I’ve never heard Michelle Bachmann actually “say” she’s a Christian, so that makes her a little suspect. But if she did say she was a Christian, just like Sharron Angle, Sam Brownback, Jim DeMint, John Ensign, Jeff Sessions, and David Vitter, then I take them at their word — though that word is usually “nasty.” And John Ensign and David Vitter have a pretty poor record of keeping their word with the whole “sacred marriage vow” thing, but… well, I take them at their “word,” too, when they say they are Christian.

Mind you, I don’t know if any of them actually are Christians — Rick Warren, Pat Robertson and James Dobson either, for that matter, as well as Rush Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Pat Buchanan, and Hugh Hewitt — but they say they are, and I take them at their word.

You, too, although truly I have less reason to trust your word, since I don’t even know who you are. Those of you who “say” you’re a Christian… are you?? Or have all those years going to church just been a cover, to assimilate better in society? We only have your word. You “say” you’re a Christian, though, and I take you at your “word.”

Of course, the truth is that I don’t care if you’re a Christian. Or Jewish. Or Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Zoroastrian, or atheist. After all, I’m an American, believe in the Constitution, and I just figure it’s your life and private faith. But then, even if I wasn’t an American, I’d feel the same.

That’s what I say. You can take my word on it.

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