Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Disinviting Franklin Graham from National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon

Forget disinviting Franklin Graham from the Pentagon observance of the National Day of Prayer, he should never have been invited to begin with! And that initial invitation is what raises concern.
Franklin Graham is who he is and believes what he believes. We should all defend his right to hold and express even those beliefs of his which are racist and stupid, as are his past claims that Islam is a wicked and evil faith. But how people in decisions-making roles failed to appreciate that such views, however constitutionally defensible they may be, are totally inconsistent with public spiritual leadership is actually a little scary. Maybe those who simply say we are not ready for a national day of prayer are right.
Perhaps we really have not evolved past the dueling triumphalisms of absolutist faith, as embodied by Graham, and totalitarian secularity as embodied by those groups which oppose the Pentagon honoring the national day of prayer altogether. But if that is the case, the vast majority of Americans are poorly served.


Most Americans believe in some form of higher power and almost as many pray. And even in a country with as many as100 million evangelical Christians of whom Graham is one, most of us do not share his views. So the real issue here is who will be held accountable for issuing an invitation which betrays the spirituality of most Americans?
I am not asking for someone to lose their job, but I am asking, especially as one who believes that a National Day of Prayer is a good and proper thing, that Graham’s removal from the Pentagon program not be the end of this issue. It should actually be just the beginning of what we should require of public spiritual leaders.
Public spiritual leadership need not shrink from its roots in any particular faith. Mentioning Jesus or Allah in a prayer does not disqualify one from public service. But reductionist hate speech directed at any other faith most certainly does.
If we are going to share a public celebration of prayer, then it must be done by those who respect the entire public, which includes millions of Muslims and even more people who neither believe in a higher power nor in the power of prayer. And by respect, I do not mean those who pray, however artfully, for such people to “see the light”.
This is not, as some defenders of Graham have tried to claim, about insulating ourselves from any ideas which any of us find controversial or offensive. This is about disqualifying from public spiritual leadership anyone who cannot, in good conscious, respectfully represent all those before whom they pray. Franklin Graham has made a career of failing that test and so did people at the Pentagon when they invited him.

  • interpreter

    Graham is absolutely right about Islam. Islamic conquerors are the 7th head of the beast to rule Jerusalem. They trampled Jerusalem for 1260 years as prophesied. Now the Muslims want to rule Jerusalem again and are hell-bent on starting the Battle of Ar Mageddon (which Muslims call the Mother of All Battles). The Euphrates was dry on 9/11 when the first shot was fired.

  • pagansister

    Surprise…..7th head of the beast yet again….interpreter…you’re so predictable!

  • New Age Cowboy

    Nice post Rabbi.

  • Reverend Carole Martignacco

    BRAVO, Rabbi Hirschfield! Alas, we may need to evolve as a species, perhaps nothing less than a whole new fold in the neo-cortex, before humans emerge from this ugly and self-destructive phase of religious intolerance. To see beyond all differences and recognize the reality of religious pluralism is, apparently, beyond our “kind” at present, collectively. Thank you for your vision, your courage in speaking hard truths, and your consistently compassionate and challenging message.

  • Kristy

    “This is about disqualifying from public spiritual leadership anyone who cannot, in good conscious, respectfully represent all those before whom they pray.”
    I would like to hear more about how someone could respectfully represent *everyone* in this pluralistic country. If someone tries to represent everything, I fear they would be so diluted in their message that they would ultimately represent nothing.

  • Ahavah Shirah

    Living in the “Bible Belt” I been battling that kind of problem. We lived in a Senior Complex, which was called “…Interfaith Manor” The management had requested to show respect to all faiths present, including ours, Orthodox Judaism, to pray in a manor during public meetings we attended, so that all could respond “amen” at the end of the Invocation, but more times then not, they disregarded that request.
    We don’t have a problem with our Christian neighbor, and made many friends, but the Tenant Council persons in charge, never enforced that. So I know how it feels to be excluded and to be called names.
    interpreter, have you read “You shall Love the L-rd they G-D, and you shall love your neighbor like yourself”? We may not agree with certain segments of a particular faith, but to make statements like yo did, shows selfishness, because it looks like YOU are advertising your faith and belief system.
    Rabbi, I am glad somebody like you with influence is speaking up for what is right.

  • Zvi I. Weiss

    I think that it is important to be a bit nuanced here. Much of Islam IS cruel and intolerant. There was an item that I saw today about how a someone recruited to “radical Islam” while in jail subsequently is charged with murdering his wife (after he got out) because she did not want to adopt his Islamic faith. One has only to look at Saudi Arabia to see how curel and intolerant Islam is toward other faiths. One hs only to read about the “Dhimmi” mentality to see ho much of Islamic thought regards anyone NOT “of their faith”. One has only to see the tepid (or nonexistent) condemnations of “behavior in the name of Islam” from the “Islamic Leadership” and note the SCARCITY of “moderate Islamic Leaders” (who, it seems can only live in countries which are not Islamic).
    so, to state that at least MUCH of Islam is cruel and intolerant is NOT bigoted — it is simply being honest (as opposed to “politically correct”). Indeed, on a “national day of prayer” it is cetainly proper to note that ALL faiths are to be respected and the “radical Islam” that permeates much of the world DOES NOT belong here and SHOULD be condemned.
    The real question is: What ELSE did Mr. Graham say? If h does, indeed, exhibit *racist* views — then it is certainly not appropriate to invite him to a “national day of payer” which is supposed to represent prayer for all faiths.

  • Michael K Fisher

    Bard what you’ve written “looks”” very good.. I’m a recovering addict & been told i should not mention the fellowship i attend,,It is world wide. And i could not begin to name the names of all the ..With over 19 yrs in recovery I stopped listening to this man & his daddy yrs ago!!!

  • Bonnie

    A thought provoking post, and very appropriate given the tensions that have been playing havoc with reason, compassion, and logic. Franklin Graham is stalwart of ignorance and intolerance, a throwback to the days of heretical floggings, tortures, and witch burnings. And may I add as a Jew, ‘honest! The plague wasn’t our fault!’

  • Beverley

    Enough about Franklin Graham. So many have spoken out about each other that I feel enough has been said already about every other faith and belief. Let us of us believe as we do. Continuing to criticize one another for what the other has said needs to stop. Just let each of us believe as we do and leave well enough alone. Franklin Graham is entitled to his opinion as the Muslims are to theirs. As a matter of fact I stand with him!

  • ish yashar

    Interpreter: Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic and Jew-hating. When Frankie said about Islam is similar to statements that his daddy made about Judaism!
    Zvi Weiss: people in glass houses…. The Torah preaches genocide;
    Jewish law (halacha) does NOT forbid slavery (unlike the Catholic Church since the 19th century); the Judge Samson was the world’s first
    ‘suicide bomber.’

  • Karen

    Hirschfield is a Jewish name, right??????? Islam is not peaceful, friendly or kind–where have you been?? Suicide bombers, death for allah??? If you have forgotten, they have already vowed to wipe Israel off the map if they had their way! So tell me where Graham is wrong? Last I heard how many Christian followers have you heard of that train to kill themselves along with other people? Jehovah Yahweh is a loving God (and by the way–not another name for allah!)! Wake up–liberal universalism one day will cause you to have to draw a line in the sand!

  • kevin

    Rav I think you speak in double speak. On the one hand saying that he has the right to believe what he does especially here in the United States of America, and than turning around and denying him access to the National Day of Prayer! Is the National Day of Prayer Jewish? I think not, since we pray every day and 3x at that. I think I would agree with those who have stated that Islam is evil, since it is intent on wiping out the State of Israel, which is in essence, wanting to anihilate and do away with every Jew. Of this and the Palestinians who seek Israel’s destruction as their end; I say send them back to the Arab lands and have them live in “peace” with their own brethren.

  • Leon

    This is most inciteful. I only wish it could be printed in the Atlanta newspaper that ran a radical contridictory opinion on Graham’s uninvite. This country seems currently pursuing the differences among our people instead of embracing the Golden Rule. Perphaps it’s the hard times we’re going through, but we need to change or else we’ll face a terrible demise in what this country is supposed to stand for.

  • Laugesen

    I had other comments prepared but my laptop intervened. Suffice it to say that I could not disagree more with, nor be more disappointed by, the comments of Rabbi Brad. Apart from the preaching of some notable rabbis of the value of hate, and recognition that as clearly stated in the Torah G-d Himself can and does indeed express hate, and notwithstanding Islam’s hate-filled pronouncements against non-Muslims, as opposed to true Christianity which espouses love for one’s neighbor, I doubt that I am alone in finding Rabbi Brad’s own ad hominem statements toward Franklin Graham to be hate speech (to say nothing of disputable and flatly incorrect).
    Regarding Graham’s attitude toward muslims, I suggest the good Rabbi and like-minded followers read Graham’s own statements in the link above.
    Additionally, Rabbi Brad might also consider that should he one day be invited to pray at the Pentagon, or any public place for that matter, that he, the rabbi does not and by insistence upon his own Jewish faith can not “in good conscious [sic], respectfully represent all those before whom” he prays, if that audience includes gentiles (and/or muslims, buddhists, jains, shintoists, hindus, atheists, etc., along with christians). He may well pray for them but he cannot pray as one of them. Accordingly, he is in no position to “represent” (them).

  • Jack

    To Karen: Allah is the arabic name for God. Where so you get your information?

  • Homer Wiggins

    allah is a poor translation for the name of the one true GOD.
    NO MUSLIM believes we worship the same God. Moshe would not be happy using that name for the name of G-D. HE is the -D OF ABRAHAM , ISAAC , AND JACOB .
    I am always surprised by those who claim to be the most libeal who use the words racist , and stupid so easly.

  • Irene Dodson

    The Bible God’s Holy word, Tells us we must believe in Jesus Christ as God’s son to enter the Kingdom of God. Those who do not will be condemed forever.

  • pagansister

    Isn’t it interesting how everyone believes they worship THE ONE TRUE GOD and everyone else’s isn’t the RIGHT GOD? Thus conflict…which makes no sense, but seems to have been this way for centuries. IMO, all religions are valid, and each should get a life and stop trying to prove they are RIGHT!
    Franklin? Pain in the perverbal A**.

  • http://flipperthedolphin Phillip Smith

    Some really interesting responses on this topic. How anyone can condone Franklin Graham’s vitriol, is incredible. In “Living the Questions 2″, which we did last year, and completed this year, in sesson 11, I think, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence”, is speaks of Graham’s appaling attack on the victims of Hurricane Katrina, in which he called New Orleans, to paraphrase”A city of sexual perversion”.
    In response to “Pranksters” comment, I could use another term to describe Graham, but it wouldn’t be appropriate on this site!!
    Thankyou so much, Rabbi, and all the best.

  • Cyndi

    “Maybe those who simply say we are not ready for a national day of prayer are right.”
    This is the 21st Annual Day of Prayer.
    When did our country get ‘not ready’?
    Maybe the author does not like Mr Graham’s views.

  • AG

    I could think of several reasons why Rev. Franklin Graham may have been invited and then ‘disinvited.’ Perhaps it revolves more around a political agenda’a motive; verses what is considered appropriate in respectful spiritual principle through a national day of prayer. In conclusion, perhaps it is not about ‘failure.’

  • pk

    There is only one and true living God. Savation is made possible by God through his only begotten son Jesus. No other way.

  • pagansister

    That is your belief. Fortunately it isn’t a universal belief.

  • Otter

    Graham is an interesting specimen of the New Evangelicalism: he’s very engaged socially in relief efforts, and I can say first hand that he’s got no doctrinal test for who receives his aid, or didn’t after Katrina. But on the other hand, there’s always this waiting. I think when you believe that the problem is hell and Jesus is the solution, it’s very, very difficult to have good relationships with people unless they believe as you do. His comments about Islam reflect that.

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