By Alan Bean
I have never met Lisa Sharon Harper, but she’s been reading my mail.
Why, she asks, was Franklin Graham unwilling to apply the term “Christian” to president Obama?
Graham has trouble seeing the president as a fellow believer, Sharon Harper argues, because white Christians are rarely forced to wrestle with systemic injustice and are therefore uncomfortable with Christians who make this issue front and center.
I have a few minor quibbles with the argument below.
Many, perhaps most, black evangelical churches are just as fixated on personal salvation as white evangelicals. Martin Luther King didn’t enjoy the enthusiastic support of most black Baptist churches in the South, and his social gospel remains suspect in many corners of the black church.
Secondly, Franklin Graham’s daddy, the iconic American evangelist Billy Graham, wasn’t quite as racially advanced as this post suggests. True, he did open his crusades to black worshippers before most white evangelicals were comfortable with integrated evangelism, but as Darren Dochuk points out in his excellent study of California evangelicalism, Graham realized that segregation was becoming an embarrassment in America and thus an impediment to evangelism. (more…)