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I respect Billy Graham’s passing but I don’t celebrate what he preached

Written by gaytourism

Graham in 1966. | Photo: Wikimedia/Library of Congress

Billy Graham, a world famous evangelical preacher, died at his North Carolina home on Wednesday (21 February) morning. He passed of natural causes at the age of 99.

Many notable figures — including past and current US Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump — saluted Graham.

Obama described him as a ‘humble servant who prayed for so many’ on Twitter, while Trump said he will be missed by ‘Christians and all religions’.

However, while I acknowledge the figure he was and his impact on the world — he wasn’t known as ‘America’s Pastor’ for nothing — I cannot take the same celebratory stance as others.

Grappling hate with love

Death is never an easy thing, nor should it be celebrated.

I offer my condolences to Graham’s family, but it is difficult to make peace with the prayers he gave during his life and the pain he inflicted on the LGBTQ community.

For many, Graham offered guidance and moral leadership. His friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was notable. For others, though, a man who called AIDS a ‘judgment from God’ (despite later apologizing) became yet another voice of discrimination.

Later in life, he supported North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment One. His son, Franklin Graham, has continued this crusade. He called same-sex marriage the biggest sin and concern of US issues and also opposed making Stonewall a historical monument.

He also voiced anti-Semitic views and dismissed feminism (in fact, that weird thing about Pence never being alone with a woman other than his wife is known as the Billy Graham Rule).

When faced with death, reactions can be confusing, rushed, and hard to process.

However, it’s unjust to gloss over reality simply because someone has passed away. It erases the very real struggles large swaths of Americans faced in their every day lives. It does a disservice to our history, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.

Empathy and clarity are not mututally exclusive. It is possible to both understand the good Graham represented for people, while refusing to celebrate someone who spit on your community.

I won’t play along — even if it’s the more ‘socially acceptable’ way of things — because I am done with brushing these struggles under the rug.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Many others spoke about the difficulty of seeing Graham praised.

Gay author Eric Rosswood tweeted extensively about Graham’s passing and his anti-gay stances.

He described Graham as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, which is why it was disappointing for him to see people like Obama honoring him.

Ultimately, he wanted to share love for his community, rather than sinking into views that condemned it.

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