NAACP Faith Leaders Speak Out on Rev. Franklin Graham
UPDATE: Just one day after NAACP faith leaders issued an open letter to Rev. Franklin Graham regarding statements questioning the faith of President Obama, the evangelist offered an apology to the President. Read the entire apology here.
Open Letter from Leaders of Faith Regarding Statements by Franklin Graham
As Christian denominational leaders, pastors, and, most importantly, followers of Jesus Christ; we are greatly troubled by recent attempts by some religious leaders to use faith as a political weapon. We were disturbed and disappointed by statements made by Rev. Franklin Graham during an interview on MSNBC that questioned whether President Obama is a Christian. Rev. Graham also seemed to imply that the President may be a Muslim, despite the fact that the President has repeatedly expressed his faith and belief in Jesus Christ. By his statements, Rev. Graham seems to be aligning himself with those who use faith as a weapon of political division. These kinds of comments could have enormous negative effects for America and are especially harmful to the Christian witness.
Many of us are working around the world now to advance the cause of peace and religious tolerance, and we believe that statements like Rev. Graham’s have potentially dangerous consequences domestically and internationally. The world is looking to America’s faith leaders to help build bridges of understanding and mutual respect, not to further erect barriers of doubt and mistrust. It is unsettling and counter-productive to American values and interests to engage in this kind of misleading rhetoric cloaked in religion that divides our nation and international neighbors over matters of religion and faith.
We can disagree about what it means to be a Christian engaged in politics, but Christians should not bear false witness. We are clear that the teachings of Jesus and the prophets call us in our imperfection to put the most vulnerable among us ahead of our self-interest. The gift of grace we received through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ should remind Christians to enter the arena of public service with a spirit of humility. As Christians we must respond to the forgiveness we received from Jesus by serving our neighbors and protecting the vulnerable and “the least” among us. This is how we as Christians strengthen our walk with Christ and use our faith to build unity.
We are also concerned that Rev. Graham’s comments can be used to encourage racism. We urge him to be mindful of the unprecedented verbal attacks on President Obama based on his race and be careful not to allow his own voice to be used to help drive such hateful words.
As committed Christian servants, we deeply believe that Jesus defined what it means to be a Christian when he gave his disciples a new commandment that they must “love one another.” As Christian witnesses and leaders, Jesus calls us to follow his ethic of love. We call on Rev. Graham and all Christian leaders to exemplify this essential teaching of Jesus and refrain from using Christianity as a weapon of political division.
Dr. Carroll Baltimore, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Dr. Dale Braxton, President, National Convocation of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ
Bishop John R. Bryant, Senior Bishop, AME Church
Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow, Chairperson, Black Methodist for Church Renewal
Dr. Julius Scruggs, President, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
Dr. Stephen Thurston, President, National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.
Bishop George W. C. Walker, Senior Bishop, AME Zion Church
Bishop Henry Williamson, Eighth Episcopal District CME Church
Dr. Amos C. Brown, Chair, NAACP Religious Affairs Committee
Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, Member of NAACP Religious Affairs Committee and Pastor Friendship West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
Bishop Roy A. Holmes, Member of NAACP Religious Affairs Committee and Midwest Episcopal District, AME Zion Church
Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention
Rev. Julius C. Hope, Director, NAACP Religious Affairs Department
Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, III, Vice President, NAACP Stakeholder Relations