Religion

Christian Leaders Slam Rev. Franklin Graham’s 'Obey' The Police Command

| by Michael Allen
Rev. Franklin Graham.Rev. Franklin Graham.

Rev. Franklin Graham recently gave some controversial advice in response to police shootings in the U.S.

Rev. Graham didn't acknowledge the high number of U.S. police shootings, which were noted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post.

Robinson wrote that the FBI's statistics for 2013 found 416 justifiable shootings, which are voluntarily reported by states, but Robinson noted that media-reported police killings were at about 1,000. Robinson added that there was not one fatal U.K. police shooting in 2013, only eight in Germany over the past two years and about a dozen in Canada.

Without mentioning any statistics, Rev. Graham wrote on his Facebook page on March 2012:

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"Listen up — Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong — YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority 'because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.'"

Graham failed to note that Jesus and his disciples regularly violated laws, and that the Apostle Paul wrote about obeying authority while sitting in a jail in Rome.

In response to Graham's posting, Lisa Sharon Harper, senior director of Mobilizing for Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization, posted an open letter signed by numerous Christian leaders opposing Graham's advice:

"Your words hurt and influenced thousands. Therefore, we must respond publicly so that those you hurt might know you have received a reply and the hundreds of thousands you influenced might know that following your lead on this issue will break the body of Christ further.

"Frankly, Rev. Graham, your insistence that 'Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else' 'Listen up,' was crude, insensitive, and paternalistic. Your comments betrayed the confidence that your brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those of color, have afforded your father's ministry for decades.

"Your instructions oversimplified a complex and critical problem facing the nation and minimized the testimonies and wisdom of people of color and experts of every hue, including six police commissioners that served on the president's task force on policing reform.

"In the nadir of your commentary, you tell everyone to 'OBEY' any instruction from authorities and suggest that the recent shootings of unarmed citizens 'might have been avoided' if the victims had submitted to authority.

"And you bluntly insist, 'It's as simple as that.'

"It is not that simple. As a leader in the church, you are called to be an ambassador of reconciliation. The fact that you identify a widely acknowledged social injustice as 'simple' reveals your lack of empathy and understanding of the depth of sin that some in the body have suffered under the weight of our broken justice system. It also reveals a cavalier disregard for the enduring impacts and outcomes of the legal regimes that enslaved and oppressed people of color, made in the image of God — from Native American genocide and containment, to colonial and antebellum slavery, through Jim Crow and peonage, to our current system of mass incarceration and criminalization."

Sources: The Washington Post, Sojourners, Facebook
Image Credit: Leszek Janczuk