America’s Sins According to Graham

The lead article in the Christian Post (here) featured Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter. While brother Franklin is better known, Anne is more talented, and generally avoids hatemongering. But for her gender, she would be the natural heir to Billy. Evangelicals oppose a woman president. They don’t want women leaders at the pulpit, either.

Graham Lotz ‘confesses’ 12 National Sins of America, sounding much like an Old Testament prophet. But her depiction of the True Way is not only Un-American at times, it repeatedly contradicts Jesus.

The first Sin: “We confess our foolishness of denying You as the one true living God.” This is false. Americans overwhelmingly believe in God. Only 2 or 3 percent are atheists, and the public overwhelmingly disapproves of them. Forty percent openly tell pollsters they would never vote for an atheist. The public hates atheists even more than Muslims (38%).

The second: “We confess we no longer fear You, and thus we have not even the beginning of wisdom with which to handle the vast knowledge we possess.” Graham Lotz emphasizes the fear of God. Jesus told his followers to love God. These are very different. Love is the preferred alternative.

Graham Lotz claims that fear of God is necessary to “handle the vast knowledge we possess.” This is nonsense. Fear of God played essentially no role in obtaining that knowledge. In fact, the Pope and the Catholic Church declared much of it to be heresy, and placed it on the Index of Forbidden Books. Atheists, on the other hand, have played a hugely disproportionate role in generating this knowledge, as reflected in their Nobel prizes. They comprise a large proportion of professional scientists and technologists. They are, relative to any religious denomination, the best and the brightest. Graham Lotz simply rejects the facts.

The third Sin: “We confess to believing that the prosperity of our nation is because we are great, while refusing to acknowledge that all blessings come from your hands.” She apparently believes that God is responsible for everything that takes place. Why, under the evangelical leadership of George W. Bush, did the Muslims defeat us in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why did Vietnamese Buddhists in Vietnam defeat us when Billy Graham was supporting his buddy Richard Nixon and the nation? Why did Christians lose all those Crusades against the Muslims? This is either idiocy or sophistry.

The fourth: “We confess that we depend upon our military might and our weapons systems to defend us from harm and danger while denying, defying and ignoring You.” Would she agree to cutting the defense budget in exchange for mandated hours of prayer? A memorial to Masada?

The fifth Sin is particularly important: “We confess that we have succumbed to the pressure of pluralism and our desire to be inclusive so that we honor other gods as though You are just one of many.” Graham Lotz opposes freedom of religion. She seems to want a theocracy. Her brother Franklin asserts that Islam worships a different god, and an evil one. Perhaps she does as well. This violates the Constitution and is profoundly un-American, yet it seems to be a popular meme among evangelicals. Its counterpart is radical Islam.

Number six: “We confess that we have allowed the material blessings You have given us to deceive us into thinking we don't need You.” She apparently believes wealth is God-given. This has further implications. Recall that Jesus blessed the poor and damned the rich. In the Kingdom of God, Jesus declared, the poor will be first and the rich and powerful last. Evangelicals never talk about this.

Sin #7 is very special: “We confess that we feel entitled to what someone else has earned instead of taking responsibility for ourselves and our families as we trust in You.” Graham Lotz says God is responsible for our “material benefits” in Sin #6, but if you are poor, it is your own damn fault. Or maybe it is God’s punishment. In any case, keep your hands off our money, and cut taxes. This is another popular evangelical meme.

In fact, both Jesus and the prophets denounced rulers and the wealthy for not helping the poor. Amos (2:6-7) condemned the elite “because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes.” Jesus said repeatedly that his central teaching - the path to salvation - was to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Graham Lotz misrepresents the first part, and completely suppresses the second. Evangelicals virtually never talk about loving your neighbor as yourself. While this is central to nearly all religions and moral systems, “conservative” Christians want nothing to do with it.

#8 – “We confess that we live as though material wealth and prosperity will bring happiness.” It’s not clear that this is a sin. Her Sin #3 says prosperity is from God, and #6 says material benefits are from God. Does she think God’s prosperity and material benefits are designed to make us unhappy? Does God grant prosperity and wealth to the righteous and deserving, or is He capricious?

Sin #9 is actually two different “sins” that have little to do with each other: “We confess our greed that has run up trillions of dollars of national debt. We confess our arrogance and pride that has led us to think we are sufficient in ourselves.” Part A is a collective “sin” involving our national debt. She views the national debt as a sin, completely ignoring our collective assets and earning power. First, this is bad accounting and economics. Second, she asserts that the debt is a function of greed, which is absurd. The debt surged twice in modern history, under Reagan and under George W. Bush (some of which was recorded at the start of Obama’s first term). On both occasions, it was largely a result of massive tax cuts combined with large increases in defense/war spending. Is this greed? Greed certainly played a role in the financial crisis, but Graham Lotz never denounced the banksters and plutocrats.

The second “sin” involves assuming “we are sufficient in ourselves.” This would have been a natural place to emphasize loving one’s neighbor as oneself, but she is having none of it. Man is an island, with only God as company.

Sin #10 is good old-fashioned fundamentalist fire and brimstone: “We confess national addiction to sex, to money, to pleasure, to entertainment, to pornography, to technology, to drugs, to alcohol, to food, to television, to popularity, to ourselves.” She even includes demon rum! Sex has always been evil for fundies. She even claims technology is evil!! (The original fundies railed about the Model T because people - especially young people – used them to escape watchful eyes and make out.) Avoid pleasure! She doesn’t allow much besides work and prayer. (Ironically, this is the kind of fundamentalist rant that Billy Graham helped end.)

#11- “We confess that we have marginalized truth and mainstreamed lies.” Lies are a sin, but the claim is vacuous without the relevant truths and lies. The devil is in the details.

#12- “We confess that we have become one nation under many gods divided and polarized, with license to sin and justice that often does not follow the rules of law.” This is just pious mish mash.

Bottom Line

When it comes to the sainted Graham family, Anne Graham Lotz is as good as we’ve got. She’s a leading evangelical, firmly grounded in its fundamentalist tradition. While she omits many of the hateful traits of brother Franklin, her version of Christianity is nonetheless perverse. Not only does she completely omit the name of Jesus, she omits his central teachings, and repeatedly contradicts them. Evangelical Christianity has almost nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus – it is only about Christ dying to save their souls.