I see there is controversy about the evangelist Franklin Graham of the USA being denied public venues to hold religious rallies. Some local authorities, universities and other owners of large facilities justify their refusal of venues by pointing to Franklin’s views on abortion and same-sex relationships. Users of abortion, lesbians and gays must be protected from the offensive utterances of this Christian fundamentalist.
I totally reject the kind of Christianity peddled by Franklin, but I wonder at the readiness of people who have themselves been the beneficiaries of vigorous public campaigns to deny public utterance to views they detest. I suppose Franklin’s mixture of quotations from Leviticus with his own right-wing prejudices could be classified as hate-speech, but that would ignore the sweet gospel gravity with which he expresses them.
A better case against him might be made based on his view of Islam as inspired by the devil, but perhaps Islamists who have shouted against truthful relationship education in schools are not best placed to argue against free speech.
No, let Franklin promote his pernicious nonsense, but let him be subject to the same public scrutiny as any other snake-oil salesman. The media especially should not be fooled by his so-called Christian faith into treating him with reverence.
There are many ills in the world, but fundamentalism is a disease of religion, and therefore one that religious people like me must try to diagnose and cure. I’ve thought about this responsibility over many years, and beg my readers’ indulgence for quoting a previous blog:
It is an urgent task, I think, for all genuine belivers in all religions to call time on all fundamentalisms. Secular societies are responsible for many evils but this one is the responsibility of religion. But how should we tackle it?
The first necessity is to identify it, and for that purpose I would like to offer to the world a cultural product of my native Glasgow: the bampot test. I should explain that “bampot” is a Scots term for a “foolish, worthless fellow,” otherwise called an “eedjit” or “nutter”. The chief characteristic of a fundamentalist bampot is his hatred of facts, especially those that might get in the way of his convictions. So, if you are in the business of electing a Minister, Imam, Rabbi or Guru, the first question prescribed by the bampot test is:
Is every word in our sacred writing equally and literally the word of God which must be believed and obeyed?
If the person answers ,”yes” he or she is a bampot, because he refuses to recognise the fact that all writings are written by fallible human beings.
If you have any doubts about the person’s bampotism, a second question can be asked: How did the universe come into existence?
If the person tells a story of how it was raised from the deeps by the sacred turtle of the south seas, or fashioned from nothing by the Creator God in one week some four thousand years ago, he or she is a confirmed bampot, because he refuses to recognise the facts about the universe established by the sciences.
Once you have made a firm diagnosis of bampotism, you should refuse to allow the sick person to exercise any authority in your religious community, while gently offering him or her free access to the debampotification course which I have devised and can deliver, under the title:
THE FACTS ARE FRIENDLY; GOD IS IN THE FACTS.
Once fundamentalists are refused employment and deprived of influence over decent believers, that is, once this illness has ceased to confer power, prestige or wealth, it may cease to be endemic to religious communities.
Christian readers may have noticed that my definition of fundamentalism applies mainly to the Reformed Churches with their reverence for the scriptures, while Roman Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches may seem to escape these strictures. Far from it. It’s just that in these cases the place of the Bible is taken by the Ruling Hierarchy of the churches. A Catholic who thinks that the Pope and the Bishops of his church are infallible is just as much a fundamentalist as any bible-basher from Bathgate. He or she is suffering from a bad case of Sancta Ecclesia Bampotissima and requires urgent treatment.
So, let good religion, allied with good common sense and good humour expose Franklin as a miserable bampot and laugh him back to the USA; but let’s keep a robust respect for free speech.