Beliefnet
American Jewish leaders reacted with shock and outrage at Billy Graham's apparent anti-Semitism after tapes released last week revealed that the country's most famous and beloved preacher made anti-Semitic comments to President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office 30 years ago.

Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that Graham's comments were "chilling and frightening, even today, 30 years after the statements were made." Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called Graham's remarks "unconscionable," and noted, "These tapes give eloquent testimony that 27 years after the Holocaust, America's most powerful political and religious leaders were still very comfortable with anti-Semitism."

Many Jewish members on Beliefnet's message boards expressed similar outrage.

Some called Graham's comments an example of the latent anti-Semitism in the evangelical world. "The comments of Billy Graham are very unfortunate from one of the biggest leaders in the Christian world. It actually exposes the real face of the evangelical camp," wrote member baruch_shmuelovitz (Respond).

Member clyde5001 concurred. "I have heard the ugliest anti-Jewish comments from people who didn't know I was one myself. Where does this come from, even among liberals? It has to come from the history of the church," he wrote, describing himself as a Jew who converted to Christianity at a young age (Respond).

There was also the question of whether Graham's comments, alleging a Jewish "stranglehold" on the American media, truly constituted anti-Semitism. "If you don't consider scapegoating and stereotyping bigoted, then, no, Graham's statements weren't anti-Semitic," argued member VigCyn (Respond).

But member davidhoward explained that he was appalled by Graham's comments, but "not because I believe he is an anti-Semite. I don't think he is."

He continued, "I just think he made a career, like thousands of clergy of every denomination, of conforming to whatever opinion powerful political and business leaders held. He curried favor with LBJ because LBJ was president; then he curried favor with Nixon because Nixon was the next guy in the White House. That's all (Respond)."

After the tapes were released, Graham issued an apology and claimed to have no recollection of making the anti-Semitic comments. He said, "Throughout my ministry I have sought to build bridges between Jews and Christians. I will continue to strongly support all future efforts to advance understanding and mutual respect between our communities."

Some Jews on the message boards were skeptical of whether Graham would be able to continue to advance Christian-Jewish relations, given last week's revelation.

"One of the most disappointing things about his apology is how patently stale, fake and flat it is. Claiming he doesn't remember that conversation is definitely taking the easiest (and most obviously bogus) way out because one can only conclude if he was throwing these canards around with Nixon, there were other conversations in this vein," wrote member VigCyn (Respond).

"By having been part of this brigade of evil, Billy Graham just lost all claims of moral authority he might previously have had. It's a shame, but it's a fact," agreed clyde5001 (Respond).

Member bunsinspace, however, didn't fault Graham for his comments, citing his expertise and intelligence in the field that he was known for, Christian theology. "BG was never known for his perception of the world," wrote bunsinspace. "What BG says about things non-Christian does not interest me in the slightest. But ask BG what he believes about G-d and the people of the world. Then his seemingly dormant brain comes to life and you can see a love for humanity that can only come from G-d.

"If anyone wants to talk intelligently about Christianity, they can talk to BG and quite possibly learn something positive about one non-Jewish religion. Anything else of BG and you might as well be holding a conversation with a wall.(Respond)."

To read more Jewish responses to Billy Graham's comments, or to add your own, visit one of these message boards:

  • Billy Graham
  • Billy Graham's comments on Jews
  • News article
  • Join the Discussion
    comments powered by Disqus