You’ve probably heard by now that the evangelist Franklin Graham has been banned from preaching in the UK. He was scheduled to conduct a preaching tour of the UK in 2020, but a whole host of towns and local councils have now cancelled his tour dates, banning him from their venues. These include Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff and Milton Keynes. Why? Because Franklin Graham does not agree with homosexuality. He holds a different moral viewpoint, based on the Bible.
The Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, in banning Franklin Graham, stated: “Our city is a diverse city, proud of our LGBTQ+ community. We cannot allow hatred and intolerance to go unchallenged by anyone, including religious groups. It’s right that we have banned Franklin Graham. #loveconquersall.”
In other words, he is saying:
“We are so diverse, we won’t permit religious diversity or thought diversity. We are so tolerant that we are intolerant of mainstream Christianity.”
The management of the Liverpool Arena, where Franklin Graham had been booked to speak, said: “The event would have had a divisive impact on our city.”
Now, here’s the thing: every opinion is divisive. Opinions divide between those who agree and those who don’t. Opinions regarding issues of meaning and purpose and ethics are particularly divisive, because people place high importance on those issues. The opinion that homosexuality is acceptable is divisive, because not everyone agrees. The opinion that homosexuality is not acceptable is also divisive, because not everyone agrees. The Liverpool Arena management were very happy to cause division with their opinion; they just didn’t like Franklin Graham’s opinion, and the division that it would cause!
In Sheffield, councillor Julie Dawes said, “All my life I have worked hard to fight discrimination, to make sure we have an inclusive, tolerant and cohesive city that embraces diversity.” The hypocrisy is extraordinary! She speaks of being inclusive while being exclusive. She speaks of being tolerant while being intolerant. She claims to be a life-long campaigner against discrimination while being guilty of an act of gross discrimination.
Let’s be clear about what discrimination is, shall we? Discrimination is when someone is treated unfairly. Discrimination is when someone is banned, sacked, shut out, locked out or disadvantaged. Discrimination is an action, not the expressing of an opinion. The only people guilty of discrimination in this whole sorry saga are the councils and venue operators in the UK, not Franklin Graham!
Franklin Graham’s ban from these UK venues has nothing to do with diversity. In fact, quite the opposite! Diversity of thought and opinion is being squashed. Opinions are not being debated with other opinions; they are being shut down with bans. They are being repressed via acts of intolerance and discrimination.
And do you want to know the most extraordinary thing in all of this? Franklin Graham wasn’t going to the UK to speak about LGBTG+ issues. He wasn’t going there to run a campaign against homosexuality. He was going there to speak about Jesus Christ and what it means to have faith in him. His crusades were going to be a simple proclamation of the Christian gospel. Franklin Graham was banned, not because of anything that he was going to say, but simply because he holds a person moral viewpoint that differs from the current politically correct LGBTQ+ viewpoint. That’s all!
And, yes, Franklin Graham does adhere to the biblical view of sexual morality; that God created sex to be between a husband and a wife only. But he doesn’t make that the focus of his preaching. In fact, when he has been asked by members of the press who are looking for a headline, “Do you think homosexuals are sinners?”, he has consistently replied that everyone is a sinner equally in need of Christ’s forgiveness. He consistently turns aside from a discussion of specific sins, focusing instead on the greatest sin of all – rejecting the God who made us. The whole focus of his messages is a plea to turn back to our Creator and receive the forgiveness that Christ offers, and Franklin Graham is at pains to stress that we are all in the same boat in regard to our need for forgiveness. He was certainly NOT going to be making a big thing about homosexuality.
Here is the worrying thing. It is becoming increasingly common for people to be sacked, shut down and discriminated against for holding a personal moral viewpoint that has NOTHING to do with the carrying out of their job or whatever they have been shut out of. I have heard of construction workers being sacked because of their Christian viewpoint about homosexuality. I have heard of people being refused by some accommodation vendors because of their Christian viewpoint. And it’s getting worse.
I thought we had left behind the kind of repressive totalitarian states like Stalin’s communist Russia and Hitler’s Nazi Germany, where only one viewpoint was tolerated and those who differed were treated with contempt and hostility. I thought we had progressed as a society to the point where we valued the rights of individuals to think for themselves and not be force-fed the official party line. But no. It appears that we have done an about-face and are now sprinting back into that dark cave of repression and enforced uniformity.
Franklin Graham’s ban from speaking at these UK venues is being dressed up in all kinds of trendy, politically correct language like diversity, tolerance and anti-discrimination. But what is really happening is the exact reverse of that. The people banning him are guilty of discrimination, intolerance and the denial of diversity. And it’s a very troubling picture of what is happening in all parts of society.
I hope we wake up to ourselves and stop the rot before we degenerate into a mindless, Orwellian-like totalitarian state.
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