On February 8th, Franklin Graham, the son of renowned pastor Billy Graham, wrote on his Facebook page, “I’m on my way to Puerto Rico – to remind people that God uses extreme vetting.”
This post echoed a sentiment expressed not too long ago by Bryan Fischer, a Religious Right leader, when he said, “Isn’t Jesus or God the Father doing some extreme vetting on who He’s allowing to spend eternity with him and who is not?”
Graham and Fischer are using the Bible to justify their approval of Trump’s refugee ban. This “extreme vetting” that determines who is and is not allowed through the Pearly Gates somehow implies that Jesus would approve of restricting immigration.
I’ve had experience with two radically different Christianties: the all-inclusive kind that says the gospel is good news for everyone, and the ultra-exclusive, Graham-Fischer variety that treats the gospel like American Idol: many will audition, but few will make the cut.
Fundamentalists like Graham make it pretty clear that being a Christian isn’t simply about professing faith in Jesus Christ. Graham’s “vetting process” filters out Christians with varying opinions on politics and social issues, many of which the Bible doesn’t directly address. For a man who insists that works won’t get you into heaven, his social media posts suggest the opposite – that True Christianity means checking off the Republican box, the anti-Planned Parenthood box, the literal six-day creation box, and more.
Graham’s “good news” is anything but to people with the misfortune of being born into non-Christian families and countries. His “good news” is anything but to people with life experiences that color certain issues in shades of grey, rather than black and white.
If the gospel is truly “good news,” it must err on the side of inclusivity. It must be designed so more people get into heaven than not (though we may be shocked by who is “let in” and who is missing). I wouldn’t say it’s unimportant to have correct theology (whatever that is), but it isn’t everything.
If God’s vetting process looks anything like Graham’s, then the entire system is rigged, and designed to hurt more people than it helps. Coincidentally, that sort of god looks a lot like Donald Trump – and that is not a god worthy of worship.
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