Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Franklin Graham's Response to Students Walking Out on Mike Pence at Graduation: Quintessence of Christofascism

Diane Winston, "A Pence Presidency Would Give Margaret Atwood's Dystopian Vision a Run for its Money": 

Online and off, the term Christofascism is creeping into conversations. Christofascism, a word coined by theologian Dorothee Sölle, refers to Christian authoritarianism, an outcome sought by some in the Religious Right. Theocracy is a terrifying vision for many Americans, but for those born between 1946 and 1964 Pence's ideas are especially repugnant. That's because for America's 75 million baby boomers, Pence is one of their own. And if you're a boomer opposed to the current administration, you're likely wondering how things went so very wrong.

Reverend Franklin Graham and many people allied with him are now disparaging and attacking Notre Dame graduates who chose to walk out of their graduation ceremony when their commencement speaker Mike Pence began to speak. These students were rebellious, they're saying. They were rude. They should have been forced to sit and listen to Pence, who is a strong Christian man. 

Graham's response to the Notre Dame students who walked out is the quintessence of Christofascism. It points to a model of Christianity that is all about repressing protest and quelling legitimate expressions of free speech. It points to a model of Christianity that wants to impose narrowly construed Christian values and ideas from above, and to do so by force and coercion, whether those subject to this imposition like it or not. It points to a model of Christianity that privileges the strongman leader.

None of this has much at all to do with the gospels or with Jesus — except as a description of what the gospels and Jesus stand against in the most fundamental way possible. 

At the very same graduation event that is causing such fury among Graham and his followers, an ordained minister of the Christian gospel, Father Gregory Boyle, received Notre Dame's Laetare medal and gave an address to the graduating class of which Graham and his followers appear totally ignorant. Boyle told the Notre Dame graduates that they are called to step outside their circle of comfort to find God on the margins of society, where God is much more richly present than in the circles of comfort at the center of society. He stated,

You imagine the circle of compassion and then you imagine no one standing outside that circle. You go from here to dismantle barriers that exclude. And there's only one way to do that, and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins. For if you stand at the margins, that's the only way they'll get erased. And if you stand with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless, you stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear. 
And you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop and with the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. You go to the margins, and, indeed, you have to brace yourselves, because people will accuse you of wasting your time. But the prophet Jeremiah writes, "In this place of which you say it is a waste, there will be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voices of those who sing." You go from this place so that other voices can be heard.

Graham and Boyle, both ordained men, both ministers of the Christian gospel: one of these two is preaching the Christian gospel and sounds like Jesus.

The other does not.

P.S. In case you have not seen my new footnote at the bottom of my last posting, my apologies for getting the conversation between Lisa Sharon Harper and Deborah Jian Lee exactly backwards when I posted about that conversation at Religion Dispatches yesterday. I have now fixed that posting to show that it was Harper and not Lee who made the comments the posting highlights.

As you'll see if you click on the YouTube video of Father Boyle's Laetare address at Notre Dame's recent graduation, the video was uploaded by the university to YouTube.

No comments: