Dear Mr. Franklin Graham, I’m Disappointed.

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Yeah, I’m “that girl”, who brings up the topic of Phil Robertson a month after everyone’s calmed down about it. This is a letter I wrote today to Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, in regards to an article he wrote about Phil Robertson. I’m not sure if he will respond, but I am glad I sent it nonetheless.

Dear Mr. Graham,

I recently read your article “Ducking the Issue” in regards to the comments about homosexuality stated by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty in your organization’s monthly publication, “Decision”.

Before I explain my apprehensions with your article, I’d like to tell you that I appreciate the legacy your father has created and that you have carried on. Because of him, thousands of people internationally have been reached with the gospel. Also, your organization, Samaritan’s Purse, provides relief for crises abroad and I follow and support the good you and your team do every day across the world. Thank you for your contribution.

That being said, I have concerns to express regarding your articles in the February issue of Decision. Being the compassionate man I know you are through your work in Samaritan’s Purse, I would not have expected such a slanted and disproportionately unfair use of words to come from an article you authored. I recognize that you write for a magazine by Christians for Christians, and as an occasional writer, I keep my audience in mind as well. However, your audience, as well as those outside of it, deserves a straight-forward piece free of condemnation, which I do not believe you provided here.

In “Ducking the Issue”, within three pages of text, you described homosexuals and their supporters and sins as the following: “the intolerant gay community and its vast network of immoral, liberal allies”, then “those who walk in the darkness of sin and pride”, then “the rising tide of evil and iniquity that threatens to engulf our nation”, then “members who deliberately pursue a sinful lifestyle in an open and unrepentant manner”. My goal in this letter is simply to shine a light on your effectiveness here , and the practical outcome of the tactics you’ve utilized.

Well-meaning pro-life advocates have been known to call abortive mothers and/or doctors “baby-killers” and “murderers”. Could one argue that those names are technically accurate? Well, sure, I guess so. But are those monikers wise to use if one’s purpose is to persuade someone into a pro-life mindset? Any clear-headed person would recognize that is an unequivocal “no”. Why? Because those names are hurtful, and destructive and ineffective in one’s mission to change minds and hearts. They’re simply fighting words. People’s minds and hearts turn away from someone hurling insults at them. Likewise, your reference to the homosexual community and its supporters in the previously-mentioned ways is, at its core, a damaging and fruitless way to refer to a people-group. Simultaneously, it causes you to seem as if you are above such “depravity”, which I’m sure you did not intend to do.

Many reference the current “culture war” of Christians vs. Gays or Christians vs. the Immoral. You even alluded to it within your article, by referring to it as “a full-scale assault against Christianity and the followers of Christ”. The question that surfaces in my mind daily is this: How would God and His son Jesus have us wage this war? It’s a legitimate question. It is one that forces us to examine our goals within the “war”. Is the goal to warn against hell-fire and shout the truth? Or is it to draw people into the love of Christ in hopes they experience life more abundantly? If it is the latter, we must plainly and honestly examine our strategies to see if the desired effect is being achieved in the form of transformed hearts and souls.

I can honestly say I don’t have a perfect answer to present to you, Mr. Graham; and it’s not my purpose for this letter. I don’t know the exact way in which Christ would have us fight for His holy name. Indeed, thousands search every day for the “right” way to be a light to the world. But what I do know is that Jesus stated that all other laws can be summed up in the “big two”, which I’m sure you know well: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself”. This This brings to mind the following story:

A few years ago I spent time on the parade route at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, where thousands of people of all kinds gather on the sidewalks to watch the parade. There was a church group there the night before the parade, out in the cold, passing out bags of popcorn, parade programs, and horseshoes stamped with John 3:16. As they handed each passerby a bag of popcorn and a program, they’d offer a cheery, “God bless you!” as people would enthusiastically say, “Thanks!” The next day, after the parade had finished, I noticed a group of people walking down the center of the parade route with signs that stated “Christ will return to judge.” And “After Death, The Judgment”. I observed carefully as some onlookers shouted at them and others looked confused or made obscene gestures.

Within that one day, I was presented with a dichotomy of evangelistic styles. It caused me to reflect on the question: which group was more successful in their goal of wooing people to Jesus? I would bet that the popcorn passing, horseshoe-stamping, “God bless you” uttering group planted 100% more seeds of God’s goodness that day than the silent-yet-yelling sign holders. The book “UnChristian”, chronicling a decade-long study done by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons of The Barna Group, unveils statistics that young people outside the church are NOT buying the overt evangelistic tactics put out by the church, and those statistics side with my estimation of the ineffectiveness of those sign-holders.

This example of service vs. sign-holders translates to other evangelical styles. Studies show that the majority of those outside the church view Christians as people bent on converting them at all costs, talking at them and delivering the gospel in a rapid-fire manner that does not suggest compassion or empathy. Do you know what causes people to sit up and pay attention? Listening. Asking them their stories. Hearing their hurts and hang-ups and offering them a tissue and a shoulder when they cry. When we can build THAT rapport with a person, that’s when the door has been cracked open to begin showering upon them the truths of God. That’s when one has an open heart and listening ears. But before that point, our attempts to yell truth amongst all the other noise of this culture will surely fall on deaf ears. We must lead with compassion and sincerity. We must lead with love.

This is why I felt compelled to write to you today. I implore you to take time considering the potency of your words and the effectiveness of your strategies in this real war against Satan that we are fighting. Do our tactics echo how Christ would have us respond? Or as a religion are we taking part in the adult equivalent of the childish view “He hit me so I hit him back”? Should we brandish our “weapons” in this war in the same manner as those outside the church? Or should we shock everyone with our refusal to hurl grenades back at them and only display compassion?

Overwhelmingly, in my experience, the gay community is not a militaristic, hateful, deliberately sinful crowd bent on destroying everything Christianity stands for, and they never have been. What I have found they ARE is a charismatic, vivacious, friendly and deeply HURT group of people, trying to find their way in a rapidly shifting culture. Their hearts are covered in wounds – from their own families, their friends, the church, from fear of what they are -wounds which Christ can be the balm for. But Christ can only be that balm when we, His people, offer it to them.

Personally speaking, I don’t want just to warn people of hell, I don’t want to point out their sins, I don’t even want them to simply be “saved”, thus adding another notch to my Christian belt. What I want, and what I truly feel Christ has called me to, is to nurture relationships in my life that draw people in to the transforming love of Jesus Christ, who gives meaning to this otherwise meaningless life. I trust that your goal is the same, and that is why I felt it worthwhile to send you this message.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. If you have other ideas to point out, I’d love to hear them and begin a conversation on this immensely important and relevant topic. Again, thank you for the compassion your organization shows daily to those across the world. It is inspiring. That is why I know it is possible for your organization to reach the hurting in our own country the same way you have internationally. I will be praying that you consider these words; comparing them to the truths you see in God’s word and how they measure up. I promise to continue doing the same.

In Christ,

Miriam Bernard

http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/february-2014/ducking-the-issue/

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marlane
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 14:29:14

    This is a very relevant issue facing the Church today and one I find myself pondering often. I have friends who are faced with this issue up close and personal because they have a child who (has come out). I have listened as my friends have worked through the pain of this revelation and have chosen to love their child inspite of what the church teaches. I appreciate your words on this and your willingness to approach a man who so many in the church listen to.
    In His Love
    Marlane

    Reply

  2. sinaisara
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 09:48:42

    I left a message for Mr. Graham yesterday on something similar to this. Today, I saw your link and came here to read what you had to say and I must say that it is one of the most beautifully written prose/essays I personally have ever read. I have seen friends’ children “come out” – many of those kids I watched grow up and love dearly and nothing can change that. People I knew and know are gay and that does not change who they were or are in one bit. I also know a great many non-believers who have been completely alienated from Christ by the hateful rhetoric of Christians. This should never be. Your words are a gift and I am going to share them, your blog, your FB page as far as I can. A line from a song we sang all the time when our boys were young comes to mind. “Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed.” And it was only last week that I learned the writer and singer of this song, Ray Boltz, “came out” several years ago. Does that revelation lessen who he is or the meaning and depth of his worship through his music? Of course not. Would we still share his songs with our children and now our grandchildren? Absolutely. Your words have given me a blessing and peace today and I thank you. Kathryn Houseman Lobert

    Reply

    • miriambernard
      Mar 19, 2014 @ 11:47:25

      Kathryn, your words have touched and encouraged me today! These are the moments that I’m glad I chose to blog publicly – because perfect strangers can mutually encourage and inspire each other for the purpose of advancing God’s kingdom. I agree with you in every way. I had forgotten that Ray Boltz did indeed admit he was gay. I grew up on his songs and hold them dear, and will continue to do so regardless of his sexual attractions. I can’t even get through the song “Thank You” without crying! I appreciate your sharing my blog and letter to your friends. I would encourage you and those who also feel strongly about this to write him letters of your own, so that Mr. Graham continues to be faced with the crucial choice of addressing homosexuals as loved children of God rather than evil-doers. I have a book recommendation for you. It is called “Torn:Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate” by Justin Lee. It changed my heart and mind in the best of ways regarding this important issue, and I’m sure it would touch you as well. If you choose to read it I’d love to hear your thoughts, as you seem to be a compassionate, intelligent and God-fearing woman. Have a wonderful day!
      Warmly,
      Miriam

      Reply

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