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An Open “Letter” to Those Who Wrote an Open Letter to Franklin Graham

FRANKLIN GRAHAMI just joined Franklin Graham’s Facebook page. I’ve always admired his father for his years of tireless effort on behalf of the kingdom of God, his ability to maintain integrity and grounding in the administration of a world-wide multi-million dollar ministry, and, if not in full agreement with everything he’s done in terms of the way he conceives theologically of evangelism, the simplicity of his message and his ability to avoid controversial topics that sidetrack from his main objective. I don’t need complete agreement with a person to admire what they do and to respect the sacrifices they make.

Now, Franklin is a different sort of fellow. I like him too. He is not his father, however, and I do not feel any need to evaluate his ministry based on the paradigms of his father. Franklin is more controversial, more a Prophet type than his father was. He doesn’t shy away from issues that will cause outrage when he takes his stand for the gospel, biblical truth, and, in the incident at hand, basic common sense. I admire that, and I hope that, in this newest ruckus, he doesn’t back down, but counters with sense to the overly sensitive, with principle to the overly emotional.

And what, pray tell, is this controversy?

He dared to give sound practical advice on Facebook.

Here is his post:
“Listen up—Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”

Now, I read this, after hearing the social media commotion, and I’m like, “What’s the problem?” Others, however, were outraged. As I read through the comments people made, I found a lot of questionable reactions like one “history scholar” (cough, splutter, choke) who noted that our founding fathers stood against tyranny and so should we. I find this funny, because the present turmoil on our streets over this issue is being spawned by the deaths of criminals in the process or wake of crime, who resisted arrest, assaulted the police, and, unfortunately for them and their families, paid the ultimate price for it.

I’m not saying that innocent people are never killed by the police, nor that the police are never oppressive bullies, some are, but I am saying that the phenomena at work in our society now is typically associated not with freedom fighters who, having exhausted all political means of overcoming overt foreign government oppression, declared their independence and fought for it.

The outrage was so complete that a group of pastors wrote and/or signed a letter to Franklin Graham demanding that he repent of this post as SIN and for “hurting and influencing thousands.”  (You see, those 200,000 likes that he got in hours, is proof that we are all stupid people who have been led down the path of ruin by a 165 word Facebook post.)

The letter goes on to make a lot of common accusations against (1) the system of our government, (Which, while imperfect, is the most just system in the history of the world), (2) the past sins of one racial group against another (which obviously excuses any and all behavior in communities who feel ill used), (3) rumbles that he quoted Scriptures about obedience to authority (You see once upon a time slave owners quoted these verses to those they oppressed). The letter is filled with a lot of rhetoric [far more rhetoric than substance] that has become common among those full of rage over a sense of being treated unjustly by our criminal justice system.

In truth, I imagine that what bothers most of the respondents is the idea that a white man dared to speak on what they intuited by ignoring the opening address and reading between the lines must have actually been a race comment WITHOUT adhering to the new morality of our age where prejudice, discrimination, and bias is deemed the source of all societal ills and inequities, no matter what choices, inclinations, or values stand behind those inequities. i.e. Graham had the nerve to advise personal responsibility and wisdom in a climate that knows nothing of either.

Now, while I would like to take the time to confront their accusations, which are far more emotional than factual,  time here does not permit it. I also leave for India in a couple days and don’t have time to write that many posts before this issue is replaced by the next social media rumble. [May I recommend Thomas Sowell’s book Black Rednecks and White Intellectuals; it is an eye opening analysis of the plight of the African American community]

So, today, rather than get all emotional about the piteous plight of so many of every race and culture who suffer from an inability to live within the framework of a rather just system of law—don’t violate another person’s life, person, liberty or property—I’d like to ask those who wrote the letter to actually confront what was said, rather than blow up like fools over what they read into it by viewing his remarks through the lens of their own drama.

First some quick facts from CNN. In a country of 300 million people, recognizing that there is an in-exactitude of count based on the way these figures are collected, 123 African Americans were killed by police in 2012, while 326 whites were killed the same year. 126 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014.[1]

Let’s put this in perspective. We are dealing with a situation that measures its casualties in low triple digits.

Over 40,000 people kill themselves each year, with another 40K dead from legal and illegal drug overdoses, and more than 40,000 dead from auto accidents. Some 25,000 die from alcohol. Almost 500,000 die from tobacco. Some 4,000 people drown a year. Over 2,500 people choke to death each year. About 25,000 die from falling, over 600 of them from falling out of bed. Around 10,000 are shot, generally, with in excess of another 10,000 killed by drunk drivers. Worldwide, hippos kill 200 people a year, elephants kill 250 and bees kill 1,250. Crocodiles kill 2,500 people every year. Over one million people are murdered in the wombs of American Mothers. There is a lot of contradictory data available online, but these are some general numbers.

While any injustice is of concern, and every untimely death a sadness, this should put the feeling of “epidemic” into perspective.

Now, the advice given by Franklin Graham is identical to the advice I have given numerous times to my own children, and to the advice that my father gave to me when I was growing up. It is identical to the advice that the Apostle Paul gave to those enduring under a system of government far less just and far more brutal than our systems in the United States. This is identical to the advice that Paul and Peter gave to slaves suffering under the hand of brutal masters.

A 165 word Facebook post cannot be expected to unpack the whole dynamic of a society. It needs to be taken at face value for what it said, not what it didn’t say… because with only 165 words to go on, there is a LOT that DIDN’T get said.

“Most police shootings can be avoided,” he writes.

Is this true?

Of course it is. We are not under siege by a police force full of people wandering the streets looking for people to kill and rob, though there is plenty of corruption in every place that human beings are found. Most police shootings CAN be avoided.

  1. Don’t commit crimes.
  2. If you come under suspicion and the police target you, shut your mouth and do as you are told. That is not the time to fight some freedom fight for rights and justice.  There will be plenty of time to seek justice another way later if you don’t get yourself killed by being stupid.

If you are frustrated because you don’t think you can ever get justice, then just live. If you can’t imagine how to get justice in a system that affords the functional so many opportunities to get it, you certainly aren’t going to pull off a successful coup right there on the streets with an armed police officer. They have the authority and they have the gun. Shut up and do what you can to defuse  and or pacify the situation.

Contra those who wrote the open letter to Franklin Graham, it really is that simple. It won’t stop all police shootings, but it will stop MOST… which is what Graham said.

While driving through Chicago with my family, an African American police officer ran a red light without his sirens blazing. Realizing his mistake he jacked his breaks up, but was going so fast he skidded right through and ended up stopped mere inches from my own front bumper as I also jacked up my breaks to keep from T-boning the officer’s door. I was so shocked and relieved that I didn’t kill the man, destroy my car, and injure my own family, that I threw my hands up in a “What are you doing!” gesture.

The officer did not take kindly to my suggestion that he had made an error, so he got out of the car in a foaming-at-the-mouth rage. He was huge. I am neither small nor weak, but this man could have pulled my arms off as easily as plucking wings from a fly. [I refuse to confess why I know this to be easily done.] He began to regale me with racial slurs, a few accusations about my mother, and a rather overt threat to pull me from the car and beat me to death in front of my family.

And what did I do?

Why, I know my rights! How dare he speak that way to me?! This is America, after all, Gosh darn it! I just let him know that my taxes pay his salary. (This never gets old, I’m sure.) I told him that I was going to see him in court, after calling his boss and having him fired, yada yada yada.


Now keep in mind that I have a powerful sense of citizen rights. I hate bullies, and hate bullies with a badge worst of all. I believe that the American people are in a quiet war for our freedom in the face of an aggressively totalitarian minded presidential administration. I think police officers need to be kept accountable for their actions. They are public servants who need to defuse aggressive situations not stir the fire further. Interpersonal skills are essential for the job. It’s tough out there on the streets, however; their lives are on the line every minute… even in a doughnut shop, according to the Dirty Harry movies. They need to stay alive, protect the innocent from the guilty, learn to know the difference, and be readily able to kill those who pose a direct threat to themselves and others. It is they, and not politicians and civil rights activists who have to face these realities every single day.

So… What did I do with my aggressive sense of justice?

I said, “Yes, Sir. No, Sir. I’m sorry, Sir. I meant no offense, Sir; I was just scared for my family, Sir.”


Because that is wisdom, and Franklin Graham’s 165 word post spoke practical wisdom, even if it didn’t say everything there is to say about oppression, violence, crime and police work that could be said.

So, an open remark to those who wrote and/or signed that open letter to Franklin Graham. You need to repent for your unjust attack against a servant of God who acted to save, through practical wisdom, those of every race, creed, and gender who don’t seem to have common sense. …and shame on you.

[1] This does raise the ratio of citizen to police death in the African American community. Be careful though. It is inappropriate to assume that all inequity of figures is created by prejudice and discrimination.

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