Richard Eber: Franklin Graham crusade not at all political




Richard Eber, California Political News and Views,  6/6/18

Being a news hound of sorts, I eagerly attended the Decision America rally in Berkeley last week put on by Evangelistic Preacher Franklin Graham. It was said by political pundits that his tour of 10 California cities was intended to gin up support in the June 5th primary election in favor of conservative candidates.

As it turned out what transpired was anything but political.  The only time the son of fundamentalist icon Billy Graham ever mentioned politics is when he asked the audience of approximately 3500 worshippers at Caesar Chavez Park to pray for political leaders Donald Trump, Gavin Newsom, Diane Feinstein, and others.

Franklin Graham made it clear in his message that his mission was not about Republicans or Democrats but rather the people in California embracing the teachings of Jesus Christ.   He especially stated his love and hopes for Berkeley even though the locale for this event is in the bastion of Progressive thinking that those in attendance soundly rejected.

As might be expected there was a small band of not so spontaneous protesters at Caesar Chavez Park. After holding a press conference at the corner of 6th and University, they matched across the bridge over Hwy 580 chanting “No Hate, no fear, Franklin Graham get out of here”. This group composed primarily of the usual local LGBT-Anarchists contingency, soon dispersed after arriving at the venue.

Curiously, the protesters who numbered no more than 25 or so, received about one third of the local TV coverage. Inside of the rally few of the attendees even knew about those who disapproved of their meeting.  For them this event was about Franklin Graham and his message of the world being better off with people giving their lives to Christ.

Hot button social issues were barely mentioned. Graham made one reference to the evil of abortion but did not elaborate any further.  The only comment that might offend the protestors was his pronouncement that sex outside of marriage to a man and a woman was a sin. However, he did add that Christ forgives mankind these indiscretions and all others with his unending compassion.

There was a long list of candidates for political office in the June primary milling about park passing out fliers to those who would accept them.  This group was all one trick pony pro life advocates that had no chance of being a major factor on Election Day.  There just was not a lot of enthusiasm on the part of attendees that their political actions were the key to cleaning up the moral cesspool of California.

Typical of where this fundamentalist crowd stood was a lady who said to me “There many things we don’t like about Donald Trump but compared to Hillary Clinton he is a blessing.  We will pray for him and hope he does the right thing for our country.”

Patriotism was very much in evidence in the Decision American proceedings. Religious pop singer Jeremy Cann led a spirited version of “God Bless America” in addition to his other songs which have made him a well known entertainer in Evangelist circles.

Although Cann, who is also a minister helped fire up the crown saying “this country is all screwed up”, he sung of peace, love, and devotion to Christ. Those in attendance embraced Cann’s words as they did the speech and prayers of Rev Graham when he followed the mini-concert.

Graham spoke primarily of his faith and his wish to spread the message of Christ around the world.  He recounted his experiences in Africa with the Samaritans Purse program as part of his simple message of love for all.  Unlike his late father, the younger Graham was very low key and rarely raised his voice during his sermon.

This sense of calm and reassurance seemed resonate with those gathered to listen to him. The crowd, many that came to Decision America by bus, more resembled a reunion of the Lawrence Welk Show (minus the Lennon Sisters) than a band of political activists. To a person they all seemed to enjoy the entire program.

There was no attempt to collect money to help pay for Franklin Graham and his traveling troupe. They utilized seven semis in traveling to 10 California locations including such places as Chico, Fresno, Santa Clara, Modesto, Bakersfield, Oxnard, and Pasadena.  Free tee shirts, which resembled apparel sold on rock concert tours, were dispensed to all that desired them.

This contrasts to politicians in California led by Gavin Newsom who constantly beg for donations on the internet.  In addition, virtually all office seekers in this election make promises to reduce crime, green house gasses, homelessness, provide better public transport, and more abundant water supplies, for their prospective constituents.

It would seem Graham’s strategy of prayer has a much better chance of achieving these lofty goals than empty euphemistic words of political hacks,

Any resemblance to an Elmer Gantry like event was not to be seen. No tents could be found. If one was expecting a program that compared to what might find with most TV preacher shows, they would not be pleased.

In all I was a bit disappointed that there was not more political discussion and attacks on California’s over the top progressives; who to me embody the essence of Sodom and Gomorrah.  With this said, I left thus event with respect for Graham’s followers and their desire to do good for all mankind.

Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.

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