Billy Graham is often promoted as a preacher that all Americans can feel comfortable with, the representative of a common tradition that we can all look back to with fond nostalgia. The people who promote this idea, though, are of a certain sort, belonging to just one religious point of view, and one political point of view, in both cases harshly conservative. The truth is that many Americans don’t come from the tradition that Billy Graham represents, and don’t share his beliefs and opinions. Billy Graham represents a domineering agenda, determined to extinguish cultural diversity, not a common ground.
So, I wasn’t really surprised when I read that Billy Graham is joining a campaign to pass a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. It’s always disappointing to see a person promote bigotry, but Billy Graham has been promoting bigotry for a long time – even before he was caught on audio tape discussing how Jews were conspiring to destroy America with President Richard Nixon.
A spark of surprise did race across my mind upon seeing this news, though. I suddenly remembered that Barack Obama had met with Billy Graham. How can Barack Obama reconcile Billy Graham’s opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians when Obama believes…
… and that’s where the thought fizzled out. Barack Obama, of course, has expressed opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians himself. Obama has said that he opposes same-sex marriage rights – an opinion he hasn’t contradicted as President.
Still, there’s some part of my brain that equates Barack Obama with a progressive attitude, with tolerance and respect for diversity, with support for equality. There’s something about Barack Obama’s political personality that suggests forward-looking ideas, even when Obama embraces harshly regressive policies. I find myself wanting to believe that Barack Obama shares my liberal values, even though he’s proven over and over again that he doesn’t.
The gap between the image and the reality of Barack Obama is quite similar to the gap between the image and the reality of Billy Graham. Wise voters will remain skeptical of the image and pay attention to the facts… but how many American voters are really that wise?