Franklin Graham’s Facebook response to the idea of the Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower of Duke University Chapel has ignited a fracas and thrown new fuel on the culture wars.
Nuanced campus debate about religious establishment, sacred space and pluralism involving Muslim students immediately was overwhelmed when Graham decried the Muslim call to prayer as promoting Islamic followers to rape, butcher, and behead Christians, Jews and anyone who doesn’t submit to Sharia law.
In the post, he called on donors to withhold support until the Durham, N.C., school reverses the policy.
Polls show that many believe that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, and voice substantial support for police profiling of Muslims.
But more important is the name “Graham,” said Aaron Griffith, a doctoral student in American Christianity at Duke Divinity School. The son carries the power of his father’s name, and controls the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Billy Graham, who retired in 2005, was seen as the embodiment of a moderate evangelicalism.
He refused to take a hard line on biblical inerrancy. He moved away from speculating about hell or who would be there.
On Islam he once said, “I have some wonderful friends among the Muslim people and have great respect and tolerance for them. Because we are a pluralistic society, we are going to have to recognize that we are no longer just a Jewish and Christian society.”
As CEO of the Graham organization, Franklin Graham has frequently criticized President Barack Obama publicly and has taken up other culture war issues.
A cover story of its publication, “Decision,” asked “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” (with a blood-stained knife pictured prominently for effect). Others warned of the dangers of compromise on scriptural inerrancy and posit hell as the likely result for those who do not toe the evangelical line on moral issues like homosexuality.
The legacy of the Graham name has taken on a new layer, Griffith said, “for better or worse.”