On religious liberty: an open letter to Franklin Graham

Dear Mr Graham,

This week someone who has put himself forward as a candidate for the presidency of your great nation made a number of hate-filled and inaccurate comments about Muslims, and proposed some extreme policies on the back of those comments. This came to our attention here in the UK because one of the things he claimed, entirely erroneously, was that parts of London were so radicalised that they had become no-go areas for our police and security services.

Our national response was, as our national responses so often are, as mocking as it was derisive. The mayor of London led the way, but on social media many of us joined in with the humour. I know London well; I trained for ministry there, took my PhD there, pastored my first church there, made, with my wife, our first home there, and saw two of our three daughters come into the world there. My home has been elsewhere for eleven years now, but it is a city I still visit several times a year, a city that still has a significant place in my heart. For all these reasons, I know that the truth about London was expressed far better by a young Muslim Londoner caught on camera as our police arrested someone who had attempted violence, pretending to represent Islam. In a pure London accent he called out to the attacker, ‘You ain’t no Muslim, bruv!’

London is an exhilarating and sometimes disorientating coming together of people of different national backgrounds and of different faiths; London is also a city that is passionate that people come together, without denying who they are. London Muslims are truly Muslim, and devoted the the peace of the city also; London Baptists the same, as I know well. In London, the person who believes the two are impossible to hold together will be told, straightforwardly, ‘You ain’t no Muslim, bruv.’

It was with sadness, therefore, that I noticed that you had associated yourself with some of the policy proposals of that presidential candidate, specifically the suggestion that your nation should close its borders to Muslims for an indefinite period. I know that you have spoken strongly about Islam before, calling it a ‘religion of violence’ and so on; I know that your words then were as mistaken as they were inflammatory. I wish that you had taken the time to understand Islam a little before speaking so publicly about it, but I am a Baptist, and so I believe passionately in freedom of speech, even if that speech is damaging and inaccurate.

Which is why I am writing to you now, although I do not expect that you will ever read this. Your father is, alongside Martin Luther King, the greatest Baptist statesman your nation has produced; I do not know if you would claim to be Baptist also, but your most recent comments are unacceptable to any Baptist, and – as a Baptist – that concerns me.

Let me take you back to suspicious religious minorities in east London; the attack I referred to above happened in Leytonstone; not far away from there, just the other side of the Olympic Park really, is an older part of London called Spitalfields. There, in 1611, a religious radical suspected of violence and insurrection established a new congregation. His name was Thomas Helwys; his congregation tiny – perhaps in single figures. But that church was the very first Baptist church in England and the origin of the Baptist movement across the world. Your father’s faith, and so I suppose yours, can be traced, under God, back to those few believers in Spitalfields.

Helwys was soon imprisoned by the government; the immediate cause of his imprisonment, somewhat ironically, was a book he had written demanding the government grant religious liberty – not only to him and his followers, but to all. As the most famous passage of that book has it, ‘…man’s religion is between God and themselves … Let them be heretics, Turks [that is, Muslims], Jews, or whatsoever, it does not appertain to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.’

Did you know that the faith of your father virtually began with a plea for religious freedom for Muslims in (what was then) the greatest city in the Western world, Mr Graham?

It is not just Baptist beginnings, either. As your nation began, in the heady days of the revolution, a Baptist, Isaac Backus, was arguing the same point. Backus objected to the newly-independent States imposing compulsory church taxes to support the ministers of the majority, Congregational, churches. In his finest rhetorical flourish, he noted that the tax required of Baptists in Boston was the same as the tax on tea the British crown had so recently required. He was scathing of laws designed to protect (what some regarded as) the truth: ‘…truth certainly would do well enough if she were once left to shift for herself. She seldom has received, and I fear never will receive, much assistance from the power of great men; to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcomed.’ From 1611 to 1771, Baptists stood for liberty of conscience, unfettered by the laws of whichever land they found themselves in.

The story continues. The great Edgar Y. Mullins, so long the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, published his greatest work, The Axioms of Religion, in 1908. He changed the language for a new era, speaking of ‘soul competency’, but the doctrine remained: freedom to practice religion is the basic ethical demand of Baptist faith. Today, in your nation, Dr Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, continues to insist on a belief that freedom of conscience is basic to Baptist public ethics. On the call to close your nation’s borders to Muslims, Dr Moore – hardly a liberal – has written ‘Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty should denounce this reckless, demagogic rhetoric.’

I do not know if you ‘care an iota about religious liberty’, Mr Graham; I know that you should, and that such care has been at the heart of what it is to be Baptist from a tiny illegal London congregation in 1611 to the upper echelons of the SBC in 2015.

Let me be clear: this is not about any compromise on the truth. Helwys died in prison for his refusal to surrender his Baptist faith; Backus strove mightily to unify the Baptist churches of the new States. Dr Moore wrote in the same piece, ‘As an evangelical Christian, I could not disagree more strongly with Islam.’ These are people whose public commitment to the truth of the gospel deserves to be mentioned alongside your father’s. Precisely because of their commitment to that truth, precisely because they believed in the present Lordship of Christ, they denied the right of anyone, specifically of any government, to proscribe any form of religious belief. If I may quote Dr Moore’s essay one last time, ‘A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies.’

Mr Graham, you may feel secure against such persecution because of your friendship with the rich and powerful – or perhaps you cosy up to the rich and powerful when they make vile suggestions like this because you hope to gain enough influence to become secure. We Baptists have learnt down the years never to trust such promises or accommodations. Isaac Backus spoke for us and I remind you of the words: ‘truth … seldom has received, and I fear never will receive, much assistance from the power of great men; to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcomed.’

Mr Graham, when you have spoken wrongly about Muslims, I have regretted it; when you have unfairly demonised Muslims, I have grieved. Now, however that you propose denying Muslims their God-given right to freedom of conscience, I feel I must, as a Baptist, attempt to call you on it directly. To borrow the words of a Muslim citizen of a city I am proud to have called home, Mr Graham, you ain’t no Baptist, bruv.

 

 

77 Comments

  1. ruthg
    Dec 10, 2015

    Thank you!

  2. Eddie
    Dec 10, 2015

    Thanks, Steve

  3. lj
    Dec 10, 2015

    So well said Steve. If we desire freedom of speech for ourselves, if we ask for the right for freedom of religion then multicultural pluralism is not something to fear. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the gentile. Jesus is more than able to draw people of all fans and none to himself. I am confident of this.

  4. Lj
    Dec 10, 2015

    Err, that should be faiths

    Not fans

    • Catriona
      Dec 11, 2015

      Thank you

  5. Chris
    Dec 10, 2015

    Thank you for this Steve…

  6. Kent Johnson
    Dec 10, 2015

    Steve,

    I get the call for religious liberty, after all some of our ancestors (I am American) fled to America due to persecution in England. The question all countries are grappling with is: How can we protect ourselves from unknown assailants when they could be anywhere?

    Actions originate from thoughts, thoughts are developed through the adoption of core beliefs/ideologies. If an ideology is harmful to society as a whole what is the appropriate response?

    The playing field has evolved over the last 30 years. Wars are being fought in shopping malls, office Christmas parties, restaurants, etc.

    It is easy to criticize those who speak strongly against an ideology, a lot harder to provide an answer to the current crisis. One thing is clear the majority of terrorist attacks are being conducted by people who claim allegiance to Islam and take their marching orders from their interpretation of the Koran.

    • A J Griffiths
      Dec 11, 2015

      Just because you claim to be Muslim it doesn’t mean that you are – just as some groups claim to be Christian and are anything but in the way they conduct themselves. Eg I spent last week dialoguing with Muslims who truly believed that the KKK are actually Christian because they claimed this heritage for themselves and nicked a few Bible verses to stick on their propaganda. I found the mere suggestion of this deeply offensive but it gave me insight into how Muslims feel about Daesh because this is precisely what Daesh is doing.
      Daesh terrorists kill far more Muslims than they do people of other faiths – a fact that is conveniently forgotten by people like Trump. They are a threat to everyone who does not support them. The vast numbers fleeing the areas they control demonstrate that Muslims do not support them.
      If you spend time listening and talking with Muslims as I do then you would know that there are various ways of interpreting the Qu’ran – just as there are the Bible – and many are appalled and distressed at what is being done in the name of Islam.
      As Christians we should be more understanding than the rest of society because we know what’s it’s like to be tarred with the same brush as obnoxious fundamentalists and completely misunderstood. We don’t win this fight by ostracising the innocent or reacting with uninformed knee jerk reactions. We win it by being the people of grace and love we are called to be.

    • CB22
      Dec 11, 2015

      It’s tantamount to a scenario where Germany allowed the Nazi party to keep profligating it’s ideals after WWII. It would be like Hirohito continuing to proclaim himself the God of the Japanese. We didn’t let those things stand then. Yet today, if we call the ideals at the core of Islam wrongheaded and bad, we are bigots. I just don’t see it. During the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Carter closed America to citizens of Iran, which frankly was the right move. I don’t see why you wouldn’t take necessary precautions in the face of continued attack. It doesn’t make sense why we wouldn’t now.

    • BJohnM
      Dec 12, 2015

      The majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are, inconveniently for you, conducted by white American males. You have a far greater chance of being killed by a white male identifying as Christian, than by a Muslim. Statistics…often inconvenient.

      • CB22
        Dec 13, 2015

        They very rarely identify as Christians. Dylan Roof may be the only one to claim that since OKC. Even then, McVeigh rarely attended any Church. Do step off with the smears. They are unbecoming.

  7. John Weightman
    Dec 10, 2015

    Many thanks. I have spoken for many years that too often Christians fight the wrong battle: they fight for their own faith. If they fought for freedom for all – including those of no faith – they would inevitably include the Christian faith. Mr Graham fights, not even for the christisn faith but only for his particular view of it. This is not at all part of Christianity which he claims to follow. It’s made so much worse when he bases his case on untruths.

  8. Roger Haydon Mitchell
    Dec 11, 2015

    Well written Steve. Thank you.

  9. lyn Jackson
    Dec 11, 2015

    Excellent article. As an erstwhile Baptist, really appreciated the links back to that tiny congregation of radicals in London in 1611. We are so prone to insist on freedoms for ourselves while denying it to others. Ironic that Mr Graham, long associated with aid agency “Samaritan’s Purse”, seems to have completely missed the irony in Jesus’ story – the “apostate” or religious enemy is the hero of his tale of hypocrisy and lack of compassion.

  10. RuediG
    Dec 11, 2015

    Thank you!
    Perhaps if enough people put this on social media, Mr Graham will read it after all?

  11. Joe Davis
    Dec 11, 2015

    Thanks Steve. You’ve said this so much better and with so much authority than I could have (as normal!). Grateful for you. Keep up the great work!

  12. David Rowe
    Dec 11, 2015

    Harper Lee

    “Atticus stood up and walked to the end of the porch. When he completed his examination of the wisteria vine he strolled back to me. ‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you will get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view’ ‘Sir?’ “Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’ Atticus said I had learned many things today…” page 35 Harper Lee “To Kill a Mockingbird”
    This sounds all so relevant in this debate. We must not fall into the same trap as those who promote hate and intolerance. Christians must model a positive alternative…

  13. angela almond
    Dec 11, 2015

    Thank you for this Steve

  14. Gerald
    Dec 11, 2015

    I’m not sure why you identify yourself as “Baptist” rather than Christian. Also I agree with some of your takes, at the same time realize that Islam has an adgenda that is harmful to your religious liberty.

    • steve
      Dec 12, 2015

      On the first, freedom of conscience is a Baptist distinctive, not a general Christian one.
      On the second, yes, I know; I have numbers of good friends who are or have been missionaries in countries where missionaries cannot admit to their calling, and a couple of friends who are Muslim-background believers and have fled credible threats of violence as a result of their conversion. Somewhere near the heart of a genuine belief in freedom of conscience, however, is the need to grant it to people who you think are badly wrong…

  15. Linda Williams
    Dec 12, 2015

    We said!!!

    • Linda Williams
      Dec 12, 2015

      Well said!!

  16. Canon Rich
    Dec 12, 2015

    I certainly do not have any respect for Mr Trump . However Rev Franklin Graham I do .

    My grandparents spent 40 years in India and what is now Pakistan.

    I stand with Rev Graham on his view of Islam .

  17. Jake
    Dec 12, 2015

    Steve,

    I have a few follow up questions after reading your letter. First, I am curios about the motivations behind your open letter. Are you hoping to get a response from Franklin, or are you providing the general public with your opinion regarding Franklin’s opinion.

    Second, have you considered the possibility that judging all Muslims by the one interviewed on this occasion in London might also be just as dangerous as judging all Muslims based upon the two Muslims involved in the San Bernardino massacre?

    I look forward to hearing your response. Thanks for writing.

    • steve
      Dec 12, 2015

      Open letters are an ancient form – Zola’s J’accuse and MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail would be two famous examples. The form does not normally expect a direct response, no.

      There are two billion Muslims in the world, give or take. A tiny percentage are terrorists – a lower percentage than in some other groups. The guy in London (who wasn’t interviewed, incidentally, but caught shouting something by a camera) demonstrably represents the mainstream of the religion. The couple in San Bernardino demonstrably don’t.

      • Jake
        Dec 12, 2015

        Steve,

        I disagree with the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion and would argue that though violent extremists are not the largest percentage of Muslims they most closely resemble the prophet Muhhamed and adhere to the Qur’an.

        I do thank you for responding to my questions and appreciate the blog post. Interesting thoughts.

      • William McKenzie
        Dec 15, 2015

        John, 39, who asked for his surname to be witheld, revealed that he is not a Muslim himself but is angry that terrorist organisations such as Isis claim to represent Islam. – Sunday Times

        If he has not been interviewed, then why do YOU call him a Muslim if you don’t know?

        Be sure your sin will find you out. And you call yourself a Baptist????

  18. Barry Widman
    Dec 12, 2015

    As a fellow evangelical Baptist, you lost me in the first sentence when you characterized Donald Trumps policy position (and Franklin Grahams, by extension) as “hate-filled”. While you may disagree with the position, it is a rational defensible policy. I see no evidence of hate toward Muslims on the part of either person. Using words such as hate and Islamophobia only serves shut down rational thought and plays into the hands of the Islamists who use the clear words of the Koran to justify their murderously intolerant actions.

    • Curtis Freeman
      Dec 14, 2015

      Qu’ran is misspelled. And it might help if you read it.

      • Shadi Sidarous
        Dec 14, 2015

        I have read it. And there are most definitely those who use it to justify their murderously intolerant actions. Barry Widman is correct. And since the Quran has no universally accepted English translation, it doesn’t matter how you spell it except in Arabic.

        • Curtis Freeman
          Dec 14, 2015

          Shadi, good to see you on this. You are right about the Arabic original, though my point is Qu’ran, is the most agreed English translation, not Koran. Yet I disagree with Widman and more specifically with Franklin Graham. In the same way that I want to say that the KKK is a perversion of Christianity, and here I think we are agreed, I also regard ISIS or Daesh or whatever they are called as a perversion of Islam. I have many Muslim colleagues and friends who are just as quick to make the point about ISIS as we Christians are about the KKK. And Franklin Graham’s vicious diatribes against Islam and the Prophet are being used daily to radicalize young Muslims. I do not think it is too strong to say his language is satanic. He has become a destabilizing voice politically and missionally. His best response would be to take a vow of silence. He is doing far more harm than good.

          • Mike English
            Dec 15, 2015

            I offer this in love to get a serious answer, but weren’t you the one who quoted Niemoller to say “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
            Because I was not a Socialist.
            Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
            Because I was not a Trade Unionist. . .” Could this not fit Mr. Graham? Since I have only read the Koran (Qur’an, or Quran) twice, I am certainly no expert (since I couldn’t follow the teachings) but could it be possible that Mr. Graham should be taken seriously and refuted on his points – one by one, if possible? Maybe referring to him as Satan is not helpful. I am looking to our leaders in this time of confusion to help me understand – not create competing camps. Teach me how Christians should respond.

          • Curtis Freeman
            Dec 16, 2015

            Mike–I was very specific not to refer to FG as Satanic, but his language is. The great confuser. Actually he is calling for a kind of new segregation in America. You only have to read some of his FB posts and Tweets to see. Maybe he doesn’t personally write them, but they go out under his name. Steve has rightly imo called him out.

  19. Sharon
    Dec 12, 2015

    I’m not sure that a bunch of Christians arguing with each other is a good picture of love and unity. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another, (John 13:35). I think it’s more appropriate if you wrote a letter to Mr. Graham personally instead of on a public blog post.

    • Marion Pitman
      Dec 12, 2015

      I think if Christians, or those who call themselves Christians, are publicly saying things that are wrong and dangerous, it behoves other Christians to confront them publicly, or the public will assume all Christians support the things they are saying.

    • Mike English
      Dec 15, 2015

      I believe you are right on target. I see no difference in the tone of the responses and the tone of the original comments. I believe we should stand up for what we believe, but I seems to me that some of these Christian “leaders” should take a deep look at whether they are helping of hurting the situation – what would any intelligent person outside the Christian community think. If we are to truly show our love for one another the place we most obviously do that is on points of strong disagreement, not on points where we agree – Jesus pointed out that it’s not hard to love those who love you (and, in my words, not hard to love those who agree with you because it shows how smart they are).

      Something I think worth thinking about is when Jesus said “love your enemies” he might not have limited the command to those who were physical enemies but intended it to apply to philosophical enemies as well – note that he showed love to the pharisees and Sadducees, and seriously disagreed with them. Shouldn’t Christians demonstrate that when we disagree we don’t hate the person we are disagreeing with.

  20. Peter Jakobsen,
    Dec 12, 2015

    Well spoken and put forth! Needs to be said.

  21. Doug
    Dec 12, 2015

    Political diversions aside, I’m concerned much support for the modern concept of religious liberty is masking a more serious issue–moral relativism. I fear it’s masking a failure by religious leaders to stress the exclusivity of the Lord and the moral absoluteness of his word. No doubt there’s strong support by Christian leaders for the modern concept of religious liberty. Do those same leaders deny religious liberty in their own congregations? Would a Presbyterian be allowed to sprinkle his infant in a Baptist church? I fear the modern concept of religious liberty has eclipsed the common view held in the day of our political Founders. Their concept of religious liberty was more akin to what we would call Christian liberty. My own state of Virginia still has in its Constitution the explicit definition of religious liberty as Christian: “[I]t is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

  22. Christy
    Dec 12, 2015

    Beautifully written and words I wish Mr. Graham would heed – especially after reading the comments on his FB pages. He seems to deliberately post the most provocative statements to whip up hysteria. Should these sentiments gain traction I worry that our nation (I am a US American) will be irretrievably diminished.

    • Alan Spence
      Dec 12, 2015

      Thanks Steve, very helpful.

  23. David Pitman
    Dec 12, 2015

    Nothing worse than false piety and nothing weaker than fake posturing. How dare you question Franklin Graham’s commitment to world evangelism and international compassion!

    • steve
      Dec 12, 2015

      I didn’t. I questioned his commitment to religious liberty.

      • David Pitman
        Dec 12, 2015

        I find Mr. Graham’s concerns vital to evangelism and compassion. And I, sir, am a Baptist for whom you do not speak.

        • Tim Goocg
          Dec 14, 2015

          If you don’t support religious liberty as has been accurately portrayed by Steve, you don’t speak for Baptists because you aren’t one.

  24. John Weightman
    Dec 12, 2015

    It’s difficult to understand the view that says because Islamic countries do not permit Christians to operate freely we should be similarly restrictive. Does not Jesus Christ’s directive to do to others as we would have them do to us not require that we should welcome plurality even when we profounly disagree with people? And don’t forget that Mr Graham, in endorsing Trumps’s politics, was not just saying we should be concerned about terrorism but that all Muslims, should be excluded from our societu. Should we assume that if Mr Graham has respect for the Sermon on The Mount he would like Christians to be excluded from other countries?

    • Doug
      Dec 12, 2015

      John—Governments, as enforcers of law, must have an ethical basis for law. The concept of religious liberty for all is an impossibility in society, and would make that society defenseless against any group that religiously disagreed and had ambition. For example, ISIS is clearly acting out of religious belief. To truly believe the modern concept of Religious Liberty would be to provide them no resistance at all. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

      • John Weightman
        Dec 12, 2015

        I don’t think it is obvious that ISIS is operating from religious belief: more likely political. And surely, all muslims are not ISIS. It appears that you – and Mr Graham – believe in religious freedom. So long as it is your religion. In Mr Graham’s case his particular version.

        • Doug
          Dec 14, 2015

          Church leaders are not called to promote religious freedom—the freedom to worship any god—but to call men to repentance and faith in the one true God.

          Acts 17:29-31 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

  25. Robin
    Dec 13, 2015

    It is very obvious that you do not know Franklin Graham. Have you done any research, at all, on the work that he and his organization does in Islamic countries around the world? Do you have any idea of his integrity and the passion he has for the gospel and for ALL people to hear it?
    Your words: ”
    Mr Graham, you may feel secure against such persecution because of your friendship with the rich and powerful – or perhaps you cosy up to the rich and powerful when they make vile suggestions like this because you hope to gain enough influence to become secure. ”
    This paragraph was especially offensive and an outright distortion of who this man is. You may want to make an appointment to actually meet him and get to know him before writing an “Open letter” to him. The pious and “better than though” attitude tone in your letter reminds me why I’m no longer associating myself with Baptists. I lived and worked among Muslims for more than 20 years. I understand your point and your concern, but I’m afraid I can’t hear past your sounding gong and clambering symbols. You may want to try a little love. II Cor. 13.

    • John Weightman
      Dec 13, 2015

      You make Steve’s point rather well! Mr Graham works in ‘Muslim’ countries (despite, some might say, America’s involvement in bombing); he does not want such freedom reciprocated. He does not appear to wish to “do to others…….”

  26. K
    Dec 13, 2015

    Do you have any evidence that Graham is making these statements so that he can become more influential?

  27. Brian Davison
    Dec 13, 2015

    Well said Steve!. You ain’t wrong Bruv!

  28. Matthew Tennant
    Dec 14, 2015

    Amen.

  29. Curtis Freeman
    Dec 14, 2015

    Thanks for taking time to write this, Steve. Unlike his father, Franklin Graham has become a highly divisive force. His rants against Muslims caused great controversy at our university. His public declarations about Islam imperil the work of Christian missionaries and inflame the hatred against America. I can only assume that it is all part of his plan to ensure that Hiliary Clinton will be the next president.

    • Barry Widman
      Dec 14, 2015

      Mindless drivel. Also, Hillary is misspelled.

      • Curtis Freeman
        Dec 14, 2015

        Thanks for catching the spelling error. Barry. I depend too much on spell check to take care of that. And sorry you think I am a mindless drone. Unfortunately, what I say about Franklin is true. Wish it were not, but he’s become a religious troll.

        • Barry Widman
          Dec 15, 2015

          You decry public statements that Franklin Graham has made regarding Islam, but what has he said that is not true?
          The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens. There is no right to enter our county. Restricting Muslim immigration at this time of global Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with religious liberty or the First Amendment. It is common sense. In the words of Alexander Hamilton: “To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens the moment they put foot in our country, would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty.”

          • Curtis Freeman
            Dec 15, 2015

            His equation of Islam with terrorism is as false as the equation of Christianity with the KKK. Stop the hate.

  30. Shadi Sidarous
    Dec 14, 2015

    Steve, as a Baptist from Egypt living in the United States, please allow me to respond to your open letter. In your statement, you recall Helwy’s historical statement, but you do so without understanding the clear distinction he does: The separation of Church and state. The Church should not discriminate for any reason whatsoever, be it race, color, creed, religion, or even violence. Yes, even Jesus said that if they strike you on your cheek, that you should give them also the other. That is call that each individual and the church as a collective body must accept if there is any hope of being a life-changing witness of the love of Christ.
    A government is not under such obligation. In fact, a government’s first and most sacred responsibility is to the safety of its citizens Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists! From both foreign and domestic violence. Not everyone in this nation or any other lives by the Christian mandate to serve. No one has claimed an indefinite ban. Trump himself said that it should be temporary until the government can come up with an acceptable and transparent process that better ensures violent elements who wish to take advantage of the Western hospitality to those who desperately need and deserve to be protected.
    And protected from who? Their own radical neighbors who believe they are the true believers of their religion; following in the footsteps of their greatest prophet; living their book out in modern times. It perplexes me to hear so many claim Islam as a religion of Peace. It is no such thing. First, the word Islam means surrender not peace like so many have incorrectly stated. The simplest way to illustrate this point is to look at the leaders of each religion, how they lived their lives and what they did. That is the religion.
    I see no problem with government doing its job to protect its citizens first, then meeting its global duty to help the world, then, on a separate plane, the Church going out into the world to meet the physical and spiritual needs where ever we (individuals and the Church collective) are called. Not everyone is expected to endure the entire spectrum of persecution. Let there be lands of safety from which Christians can be exposed to the need for help gradually and for those already escaping the perils of human strife.

  31. JP
    Dec 14, 2015

    Steve,
    On which planet do you live? Thankfully, Franklin has his head screwed on right and has the facts! Soft-soaping terrorism is not a Christian virtue, last time I read. It probably won’t be very long till you and your ilk will be faced with the devastating ideology you so fondly espouse. This is not a Baptist issue but a biblical one!

  32. Claudette Roper
    Dec 15, 2015

    Hogwash – pure hogwash. Nice stories, but they in no way parallel our situation today. How can you compare a man who wanted the religious freedom to be a baptist to people who terrorize civil societies for their religion. Did he have a history of murdering people who disagreed with him? NO. We are dealing with warriors who live for one thing – to destroy Jews and Christians. Until we can tell the few “good guys” from the “bad guys” we are fools to accommodate them.

  33. Greg
    Dec 15, 2015

    1. The Imams who issue fatwas against the West believe they are Islamic. The ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq believe they are Islamic. The terrorist who bombed the WTC on 9/11 believed they were Muslim. There are 900 cases of Islamic sympathizers being investigated in the US right now. There are many terror attacks both in Europe and the US that have been thwarted where the suspects pledged to be Islamic. We (Franklin Graham included) don’t make up a label to put on these people. They call themselves Muslim. It is foolish for us not to believe them. 2. The US has a dilemma. How do you tell the difference between a “Muslim bruv” and a non-Muslim bruv?” How do you keep Americans safe from terrorists intent on destroying our very existence while not discriminating against the individual with no ill intention? ISIS has murdered over 10,000 of their own in Iraq and Syria and continue to do so to this very moment. ISIS has pledged to infiltrate America by using our porous border and refugee crisis. There are many reports of ISIS terrorists training to answer our questions correctly in order to get through the process of getting onto our soil without detection. 3. Christians are called to forgiveness. Christians are called to be peacemakers. Christians are called to share Christs love with ALL people. The argue with Franklin Graham over his stance on protecting his fellow citizens without first reaching out to him to work out a solution seems to go against the essence of what Christ would want from HIS followers. So before going after the speck in his eye maybe you should examine the plank in your own? The investigation into the San Bernardino terrorists is still unfolding but it shows that our Government missed LOTS of clues that could have prevented this attack. Until we can keep our citizens safe it is perfectly logical to temporarily block entry to people with certain backgrounds…not because we hate them but because we have no way to protect them or vet them. While I respect your opinions and your right to dislike Rev. Graham, I ask you this: What would you do? You point out differences and his failings but what solution do you offer to the crisis? Jesus said, “You who are without sin should cast the first stone.” Maybe you should think a bit more before lobbing a bolder over the pond. You ain’t no American “bruv!”

    • JP
      Dec 15, 2015

      Mr. Weightman,
      Don’t they all follow the same Koran, Moderates or Radicals?

    • Robin
      Dec 16, 2015

      I so agree with this response. It’s easy to throw stones…

  34. John Weightman
    Dec 15, 2015

    People – including Mr Graham – appear to use th words ‘muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ interchangeably. They are confused. No-one is defending terrorism. They are just not saying that all Muslims are terrorists. Mr Graham does not want to simply exclude terrorists; he wants to exclude all those of a different religion ie Islam.

  35. john weightman
    Dec 15, 2015

    Christians all follow the same bible. Some use it to kill people at clinics. Others have used it for apartheid and slavery. There are some who, just like some Islamists, who would use the bible to justify executing adulterers and homosexual people. Read some of the comments on Mr Graham ‘s facebook page.

    • JP
      Dec 16, 2015

      Just a quick response for your consideration:
      1. Christians don’t all follow the same Bible. Some “Christians” don’t follow the Bible at all; some only parts of it, and many have flawed and inconsistent interpretations of the Scriptures.
      2. It is true that some use the Bible to kill people at clinics. Needless to say, either they’re not genuine believers or they have (falsely) misinterpreted the Bible for their own agenda.
      3. Just using the term “Christian,” doesn’t make one such.
      4. However, it is incumbent on every Muslim to follow the Koran.
      There are well over 100 texts that clearly and unequivocally advocate the use of violence to overcome the infidel or unbeliever.
      5. Moderate Muslims are not tolerated by those who follow the Koran literally. They too are in danger of being persecuted. Why, as a rule, don’t the moderates defy the radicals?
      6. Comparing a few radical “Christians” to massive Islamic slaughters throughout the world is hardly a valid comparison! They not only slaughter the “infidels,” but also their own!! Case in point: Syria. Case in point: Shiite versus Sunni and vice versa!
      7. Are you claiming that Mr. Graham has not done his homework?
      8. Facts are facts and truth is truth. And the Bible is true! For example, what a man sows, that will he also reap (Galatians 6:7). Also, Jesus proclaims in John 12:48, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My words has that which judges him; the Word that I have spoken will judge Him in the last day.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
      9. If you want mercy and God’s love demonstrated, the place to find it is in Christ and in Him alone!

      • John weigtman
        Dec 16, 2015

        I hardly know where to start with such a contradictory and confused post! So when Christians do wrong we say ‘they’re not really Christians’ but all those claimimng Islam are Muslims!
        Americans kill more Americans each year than there are Islamic terrorist acts in the US. Americans kill Americans in pretty big numbers.
        The greatest terrorist act in Europe in recent times was in Norway when all those children were killed by someone claiming to want to rid the country of Muslims..
        You mention Syria: half the population has tried to flee terror, not participate in it.
        Yes, Mr Graham has not fond his homework. Of if he had, he has chosen to ignore the facts. He also plays with truth. He claims not to endorse any presidential candidate but his support for Trump could not be clearer.

        And I can find many texts in the bible which, taken alone, advocate some dreadful things.

        A bit of humility would go a long way. We don’t have much to be proud of.

  36. RuediG
    Dec 16, 2015

    What a sad testimony this discussion has become!

    First of all, most replies have little to do with the blog’s thesis, which could be summarized as something like “True Baptists defend religious freedom for all.”

    Of course religious freedom is only a sub-category within the larger issue of the relationship between religion and state. Even though I am a US citizen, but I am firmly convinced that my responsibilities as a member of the Kingdom of God come first. As Christians in the USA, have we forgotten where our primary allegiance should lie? Just one simple example: My “national security” or my “personal safety” never ever trump my biblical responsibility to care for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the persecuted, the imprisoned. Jesus laid down his life for us; we should do no less for others.

    And yet, so many Christians nowadays put their personal interests and well-being above their responsibilities as followers of Christ. Where in this discussion do we see the Beatitudes (blessed are the poor, the humble, those who weep, the peacemakers)? Didn’t Jesus say something about “loving our enemies” because if we just love our friends, we’re no better than pagans? What about the Greatest Commandments? Or the story of the Good Samaritan? What about that famous chapter on a love that is not self-seeking, always trusts, always hopes? Or the Fruit of the Spirit which includes love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness?

    Somehow I don’t find much of these in our new politically conservative Christianity. How is this anything but a sign of the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of a large swath of American evangelical Christianity?

    Please tell me I’m just wrong.

    • john weightman
      Dec 16, 2015

      You’re not wrong! (an observation from a Brit)

  37. Ann Johnston UK
    Dec 16, 2015

    Thank you for expressing so much better than I am able where Franklin Graham is bringing Christianity, the BGEA, Samaritan’s Purse and the American Baptist denominations into disrepute. Apart from FG’s support for Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch , the NRA, the Tea Party Republicans and Fox News I am appalled by his homophobic postings on his Facebook page and the racist and unchristian comments of so many of his semi literate followers. I was also very disturbed some 18 months or so ago by his campaign against another evangelical organisation World Vision.

  38. Barry Widman
    Dec 17, 2015

    In earlier posts Curtis Freeman and several others have claimed that Islamic jihadists are either not Muslims or are not correctly following the teachings of Mohammed. While there are many fine Muslim people who eschew violence, there can be no denying that these terrorists get their inspiration directly from the Quran. They truly believe they are faithfully following its teachings.

    For example, in Quran 9:5

    “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

    We Christians believe (do we not?):
    1. that the Quran is not inspired by God,
    2. that a person cannot find salvation by following Islam,
    3. that Islam is a 7th century Judeo / Christian heresy authored by one man (not God), and
    4. In its essence, Islam is a supremacist religion intent on subjugating all other religions, (including the one true religion) to itself.

    It is therefore not surprising that some Muslims will take the Quran literally to justify jihad and mass murder, as many other Muslims have done for the past dozen or so centuries.

    As a Christian, I seek to love all people, including Muslims in all their flavors, but as Sergeant Joe Friday used to say, we must be willing to face:

    “… the facts, Ma’am, just the facts”.

    P. S. In my previous post I asked if Franklin Graham had said anything concerning Islam that was untrue. I did not get a response to the question.

    • jon Weightman
      Dec 17, 2015

      Jesus Christ:do to others as you would have them do to you.
      Franklin Graham: I demand absolute religious freedom of belief but I want to deny you the same.

  39. Clinton Rempel
    Dec 23, 2015

    Dr. Holmes, this is not the forum I would choose to address you, I would prefer to address you personally via email rather than in this public nature however I do not have access to that. I, sir, am concerned with the recent fashion of addressing brothers in Christ via “Open Letters” when one considers them to be in error. I am fairly certain that if your intent is to bring correction to Mr. Graham you could have found a method of doing so in a more biblical manner than via an open letter which you yourself profess that he most likely will not read. Rather than bringing correction to a brother, this merely serves to fragment the body of Christ.

    • John Weightman
      Dec 23, 2015

      Franklin Graham has done the very same thing on his fb page. Do don’t worry too much. Argue content not means.

      • Clinton Rempel
        Dec 23, 2015

        I think that when Scripture gives us “means” it is appropriate to talk about means as well. Condoning our actions based on another’s error hardly seems to be a standard we should strive for.

  40. RuediG
    Dec 24, 2015

    Clinton Rempel, I respectfully disagree with your position. Franklin Graham has made public statements, and whether he reads this blog or not, he and his statement need and deserve to be publicly rebuked and corrected.

    The blog post does not fragment the body of Christ; it only recognizes that the body is already fragmented. Whatever good FG and his organization may do at times, in this case FG is a false prophet whose incendiary and unbiblical statements misrepresent the Gospel and bring public shame on our Lord himself.

    We owe it to his faithful disciples to clarify in public that some “Christian” opinions are motivated by the Evil One. We also need to clarify for the watching world that both God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son speak constantly of loving and serving the foreigner and the even the enemy. Since FG seems to have forgotten this, I for one am grateful that there is a public forum such as this blog where as a believer and follower of Christ I can distance myself publicly from him.

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  1. Stephen Holmes – Mr Graham, you ain’t no Baptist, bruv – An open letter to Franklin Graham | Persona - […] (Source, HERE) […]
  2. On religious liberty: an open letter to Franklin Graham | Baptist News Global Perspectives - Conversations that matter - […] On religious liberty: an open letter to Franklin Graham Tags: Baptist history, curated, Franklin Graham, Islam, muslim, …

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