by Steve Kindle
Today, representatives of the major world religions gathered at 9/11’s Ground Zero memorial to commemorate the lives lost and comfort the still-grieving families. The centerpiece, of course, was Pope Francis. However, the presence of Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, Baha’is, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Christian Protestant leaders was striking for its omission: Franklin Graham was not on the stage.
The opening visual was of the rabbi and the imam waking to the microphones, pausing to embrace one another. A Jew and a Muslim hugging. A more appropriate beginning to a prayer service on behalf of the whole world could not be imagined. No wonder Franklin Graham was nowhere to be seen. For he represents a different notion of Christianity, typified by blaming 9/11 on Islam, calling it a “very wicked and evil religion.”
It’s easy to blame the fundamentalists in Islam who wage jihad against all perceived enemies. But what about Christian fundamentalists whose only concern is the world domination of all people and religions under the guise of the Great Commission, typified by Graham? Conservative American Christians keep adding fuel to the fire of antagonism by insisting that only Christianity is valid, and all other religions are of the devil. When we get blowback, what did we expect? A warm welcome?
The idea that a pope could address a joint session of Congress was unthinkable until maybe the installation of Pope Francis. And the message he brought? Learn to live together in our diverse world. Perpetuating the animosities of the past only serves to prolong them. Finding ways to acknowledge the good in peoples other than one’s own serves to diminish age-old antagonisms.
The absence of Franklin Graham from the prayer service at Ground Zero speaks volumes. In another day, we would have expected his father, Billy Graham, to be on that stage. Apparently some apples do fall far from the tree.