Billy Graham: A Life of Honor Lies in Honor
The U.S. Capitol is a momentous place — and Wednesday, it was occupied by a momentous man. On a simple pine platform, the same used by presidents and heroes before him, lied the coffin of the Reverend Billy Graham. After 99 years of laboring for God, the great evangelist finally rests. It’s no accident that his final act is bringing together both sides of that iconic dome, because honestly, that’s what he’s done his whole life — crossed the boundaries of race, stature, age, and politics armed with one simple thing: the truth.
In a rare hush at the Capitol, thousands of people are still filing through Statuary Hall — some driving for hours — just to get one last look at the man who changed their lives. Others aren’t there because Billy Graham was instrumental in their conversion but because they want to pay their respects to a leader who lived out what he preached. After Rosa Parks, Rev. Graham is the fourth private citizen to receive this honor — there, at the sight of so much history, turmoil, and tradition. To both parties, there was never any doubt that this was where America’s pastor belonged. “If there is anyone whose life deserves to be honored by lying in the U.S. Capitol, it’s Billy Graham,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Billy Graham arrived on the scene at a time when the world was looking for solutions — and this young, wiry son of a dairy farmer had the ultimate one: Jesus Christ. From the Cold War to the civil rights movement, Billy played a significant role in bringing evangelicalism to the mainstream of American life. It was a mission that endeared him the world over. By the end of his life, he’d been voted one of the Top Ten Most Admired Men 61 times, more than any other person ever. And he did that preaching a message that some would call hostile or offensive today: that Jesus loves and died for us all.
Some people in the wake of Billy’s death have taken the opportunity to lash out at the people carrying on that message. His son, Franklin, who’s devoted his life to ministry — including a worldwide outreach through Samaritan’s Purse — seems to be target number one. I once asked Franklin why his father didn’t often speak to the cultural issues like he did. Franklin’s response was simple: He didn’t need to. In the 1950s, when Billy Graham was rising to prominence, Americans had just modified the Pledge of Allegiance to include “one nation, under God.” It was the same time as our national motto, “In God We Trust,” was adopted and prayer was welcome in schools. Today, that same God isn’t welcome in our classrooms — not even in the form of posters with our national motto.
To compare Billy Graham and how he operated to today’s standards — when Christians have to fight for the right just to mention God at graduation — is misguided. The lines have been drawn in battles that didn’t even exist when Billy was in his prime. These days, Christians don’t have the option of standing on the sidelines. The fight is coming to them whether they want it or not — in workplaces, family businesses, schools, foxholes, sports, changing rooms, and even churches. Evangelicals didn’t choose that. Most of us would love to return to simpler times, when our biggest concern was what our kids were learning — not who was in their bathrooms. Or how we could promote marriage, not stop the institution from being redefined altogether. What Christians want now is what the people of Billy Graham’s time had: the freedom to live out their faith in every area of their lives.
As for Franklin, he preaches the same truth as his father: that we are all sinners and need the grace extended by God through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, that’s an offensive message today in a society where so many people have rejected the Bible’s standards. If Billy were alive and well, he would agree that Christians don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing what we want to believe in Scripture. He certainly didn’t. Over the past 10 years, as Billy retreated from the public eye and the cultural battles grew fierce, he took his share of public stands, staking out a very clear and uncompromising defense of marriage and religious freedom.
Billy would want to be remembered as someone who cared about the whole truth. And that truth is the same one he preached in his final message to the world.
Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening. There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city, and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God… I know many people will react to this message, but it is the truth. And with all my heart, I want to leave you with the truth. God loves you, and He’s willing to forgive you of all your sins. The cross is offensive because it confronts people. Even so, it is a confrontation that all of us must face.
For more reflections from DC, check out my interview from yesterday on C-SPAN.
Originally published here.
Papa John’s Tosses Partnership With NFL
When it comes to sending the NFL a message, Papa John’s delivers. After six months of back and forth with the league over its pathetic handling of the anthem crisis, the pizza chain is finally cutting ties with Commissioner Bob Goodell. Papa John’s, new CEO Steve Ritchie announced, will no longer be the official pizza of the National Football League.
With football ratings in the basement and fan disgust at an all-time high, the chain thinks it’s time to move its advertisement to players, preferably patriotic ones. This all comes, of course, after the very public spat between former CEO John Schnatter and the league’s management, who he blamed for the decline in sales. “We are totally disappointed that he NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago,” Schnatter said. “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago… NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders.”
Now, with the season in the rearview mirror, Ritchie said he’d had some time to think and talk with investors. There’s an overwhelmingly “negative consumer sentiment” about the NFL, he said in a call. And while pizza has historically been a big business for football, fewer people are sitting down to watch players insult their national anthem. Fewer viewers means fewer slices. As of Tuesday, Papa John’s said that its sales had dropped 3.9 percent in its final quarter. It’s time, everyone agreed, to “redirect investments.”
“Great American brands distinguish themselves by creating exceptional products and putting customers first. Everything else is a distraction,” expert Adam Johnson points out. Like us, he’s watched the fall of household names like Kellogg’s, Target, GrubHub, Penzey’s Spices, Starbucks, and others because they decided to focus on politics, not products. It’s a sad commentary on our times that CEOs seem more preoccupied with pushing their brand of morals than merchandise.
In this case, Papa John’s seems to be doing its part to hold a politically correct league accountable. Unfortunately, out of desperation or pressure — or both — some businesses are still trying to woo customers with political correctness. Most CEOs find out the hard way that it doesn’t work. (Look at the mess Delta Airlines is in this week for its attack on NRA members!) At the end of the day, Americans respect — and reward — companies that stay neutral in the culture war. And thanks to organizations like 2nd Vote, it’s a lot easier to know which companies those are. With its app, you can make sure your dollars aren’t lining the pockets of businesses that will only use the money to mock your morals. You aren’t just buying pizza or lattes anymore — you’re buying into a company’s beliefs. So make sure you know where your favorite brands stand. And don’t just voice your values — shop them!
Originally published here.
Capture the Flaggers: SPLC Joins YouTube’s Censors
Censorship can be a full time business — just ask Google. The parent company of YouTube has a virtual army whose sole job is to flag content that it thinks is inappropriate. Back when this “flagging” program was announced in 2014, YouTube explained that it has a “zero-tolerance policy” on any videos that “incite violence.” There’s just one problem: Who decides what’s doing the inciting?
“Our review teams respond to flagged videos around the clock,” the company said, in a tone that was meant to be comforting, “routinely removing videos that contain hate speech or incitement to commit violent acts. To increase the efficiency of this process, we have developed an invite-only program that gives users who flag videos regularly tools to flag content at scale.” Lately, as more and more conservatives find themselves on the losing end of political correctness, people want to know: Who are these invited flaggers?
This week, the Daily Caller identified one of them that might surprise you — the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC, which has fallen out of favor with almost any organization that cares about its reputation, has apparently found a home at YouTube, filtering out (shutting down) conversations it considers “hateful,” which, based on its prior, reckless labeling, could include anything from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Now, I don’t know about you, but an organization that’s inspired at least two gunman to shoot conservatives isn’t exactly who I’d trust to define violent speech.
For the longest time, Google was able to keep the identities of its “super flaggers” anonymous. It even went so far as to demand non-disclosure agreements so that its sources would never come under public suspicion. It doesn’t have that luxury now that reporter Peter Hasson has dropped the mask on one of its most controversial participants. Although no one knows when SPLC joined the program, they do know what it means for conservatives: discrimination. After all, mainstream Christians, conservatives, churches, and organizations have found themselves recklessly and fraudulently labeled under SPLC’s definition of hate (which it includes as any belief that’s contrary to SPLC’s).
Hasson explains that a lot of YouTube’s policing is done by algorithms that search for certain words or content.
The algorithms make for an easy rebuttal against charges of political bias: it’s not us, it’s the algorithm. But actual people with actual biases write, test and monitor the algorithms. Google’s anonymous outside partners (such as the SPLC) work closely with the internal experts designing the algorithms. This close collaboration has upsides, Google’s representatives have said, such as in combatting terrorist propaganda on the platform. But it also provides little transparency, forcing users to take Google’s word that they’re being treated fairly.
This is particularly worrisome, Bloomberg explains, “given the increasing tendency of powerful tech companies to flex their muscle against hate groups. We may see more and more institutions unwittingly turned into critics or censors, not just of Nazi propaganda, but also of fairly mainstream ideas.” For conservatives, who’ve watched SPLC try to turn conventional beliefs into grounds for government punishment, these developments are more than a little troubling. Fox, meet henhouse. Making matters more interesting, while everyone else — from the FBI and U.S. Army to Obama’s Justice Department — backed away from SPLC (either for its ties to domestic terrorism or for its dangerous extremism), Google seems to be embracing a group whose tactics even Politico called “a problem for the nation.” The last organization anyone should be relying on for neutrality in the public debate is Morris Dees’ group.
As for Google, YouTube may be a private entity, but it’s virtually monopolizing the public square. And with that responsibility comes a higher expectation that civil conversations will be allowed. Just because Google or its flaggers disagree with someone doesn’t meant they should shut them down. This growing understanding that Big Tech is picking and choosing who can speak in the virtual public square may help explain why there’s been a jump in the number of Americans who want to see more government regulation.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.