Beliefnet
In the days following our posting of Beliefnet editor-in-chief Steven Waldman's critique of Franklin Graham's planned relief work in Iraq, we received many emails--both supportive of and opposing Waldman's views--from Beliefnet members. We particularly liked this well-thought-out letter from Randall D. Smith, an Israeli-based American Christian who directs the Wilderness Tabernacle and Christian Travel Study Programs. In the letter he explains the evangelical argument for evangelization.

I want to respond to the opinion you offered on Franklin Graham's relief work in Iraq. I do appreciate your right to voice your view, and want to cordially respond by making it clear that there are literally millions of us that understand what you are saying, and find your position to be completely undefensible legally (in U.S. law), morally (in the Biblical sense of the term) and logically.

I offer these comments to be clear, and they must not be understood as an attack on you (for I have not had the pleasure of meeting you), merely on a position that you have taken.

As a Christian who has lived in the Near East for more than a quarter of mylife and served in Muslim relief, I would like to express a point of viewthat I believe to be well-informed in this matter. Before I do, I want toanalyze what I believe you said in your article, in order that I may notsimply be dismissed as an unthinking fundamentalist. I understood theessence of your issues as five basic areas:

1. Your legal argument. You believe that Franklin's religious liberties are not as essential as two other concerns: a) the safety of coalitionforces; b) the happiness of other Muslim regimes in the area that may reactbadly to the potential spread of the Christian message.

2. Your moral argument. You argue that Graham's actions (should theycontinue their relief plans and work in Iraq) is immoral, and that because"half" of his motivation in relief is the spread of the message of JesusChrist, this is improper and wrong.

3. Your historical argument. You raised the specter of President Bush's use of the term "Crusade" in the opening, apparently to engender an image of anevil army of Christian invaders to a peaceful Muslim society long ago.

4. Your logical argument of bias. You accepted that Graham has a goodreputation in relief work, and did not accuse him of any fault but his overtposition against Islam, a religion he believes is "very evil and wicked." You use terms like "Islam-bashing icon" to reveal your level of distaste forGraham's opinions (if not his person).

5. Your Biblical argument. You admit your knowledge of the Bible may beinsufficient to debate with Mr. Graham, yet you decided to use the Bible aspart of your defense, citing Mattew 10:5 and concluding that the record ofJesus' teachings may not support the sharing of the message of Jesus at thistime.

Now, I would like to answer the issues you raised as I have categorized themabove:

1. Your legal argument. American history and tradition does not include the notion that one should only defend free exercise of religion and freedom ofspeech when it will not cost lives. In essence, you argue that the potentialsafety threats are exacerbated by the exercise of the same liberties thetroops came to bring to Iraq. How curious!

If you reverse the situation, should the American President tell Muslims living in America that they cannot take a stand against the war? Of course not--this would be a breach of free speech. Our courts have upheld that one's free speech is only limited to immediate causative harm, as in the case of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre. They have offered a similar formula for the limitation of religious liberty (i.e. medical care for a child who belongs to a group that forbids such care is limited to the most extreme cases, and carefully monitored by the court).

You cannot establish any data that will verify that people in Iraq or anyother Muslim nation will kill or harm more American troops if Samaritan'sPurse offers relief services and includes the free expression of the messageof Jesus with their services. In fact, the history of the organization'swork in places exactly like Iraq negates your premise. I am not saying Graham's statements concerning Islam will ever be well-thought-of in predominately Muslim countries, simply that your argument will not stand up in any court in the United States. If the President should be compelled to act, he would be a party to doing that which the Constitution specifically prohibits Congress from doing. He would be liable. If not taken into court action, he would still be operating outside the custom of U.S.law.

2. Your moral argument. Your suggestion that Graham is immoral in hisactions is equally spurious. It is possible that your definition of moralityis quite different from those of us who use the Bible to form the definitionof morality, and therefore we have a conflict with this position. Moreover,I find repugnant the notion that because Graham deliberately wants to persuade men and women to believe in Jesus by his expression of the message of Jesus (backed up by selfless and giving love actions), he is immoral.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus