Franklin Graham and Samaritan's Purse

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Franklin Graham, son of renowned Christian evangelist Billy Graham, is almost as well known as his famous father, although for slightly different things. While Billy Graham had crusades and TV shows, Franklin Graham is mostly known for heading the Christian international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. The many branches of Samaritan’s Purse includes Operation Heal Our Patriots, Operation Christmas Child, and their World Medical Mission, all of which together address everything from helping veterans readjust to civilian life, securing crucial surgeries for children, and international disaster relief.

According to their mission statement, Samaritan’s Purse bases their work on a parable found in the gospel of Luke. One day, while Jesus is teaching, a teacher of the law stands up to ask him a question. He asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life, or in other words, what he must to do live life to its very fullest. Jesus turns the question back on on the teacher, and asks him what he thinks himself. The teacher that it is to love God, and in turn, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tells him he is correct.

But the teacher persists, and asks “And who is my neighbor?”As an answer, Jesus tells the a parable, know known as the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus replied,“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-36)

In response, Samaritan’s Purse thus concludes their mission statement, saying,

The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise” For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command…

From following Graham’s work with Samaritan’s Purse over the years, I believe it. They have been consistently inspired me by all that they have done and continue to do for people around the world—from Japan, to New Orleans, to Nepal—so much so that Samaritan’s Purse is actually one of the reasons I decided to pursue nursing and ministry work in the future.

Recently though, I have been wondering if they really are always the Good Samaritan they call themselves. Previously, I mentioned that Graham is mostly known for his ministry work. He is also known for something less fortunate.

Earlier this year, he stirred up a storm of controversy with a Facebook status he posted on the many shootings of unarmed young black men in the past couple of years. In his post, Graham claimed that the majority of police shootings can be avoided, and that it is simply an issue of black citizens respecting and obeying authority, even if they think it’s wrong. Following this statement, he cited the passage of Romans 13 from the Bible, regarding submission to authorities, as theological support for his stance.

The problem with this is that is derived on the assumption that law enforcement treats both black and white citizens equally. This would mean that the one uncontrolled variable left is the behavior and respectfulness of citizens being stopped by the police, and would therefore be the only thing determining how law enforcement treats citizens. That would be the hope and ideal situation. It is possibly even true for Graham in his experience with law enforcement.

That, however, is also far from reality for many. The sheer number of separate incidences where an unarmed black man has been shot or killed by law enforcement is sobering evidence of such. Despite claims that say otherwise, these are not just random incidences simply hyped up by the media to exaggerate a pattern in the treatment of black citizens. The perpetual and perpetuated patterns of discrimination and racial profiling against blacks exist, and have even been consistently and quantitatively measured and observed. According to the Bureau of Justice, black drivers are about three times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white drivers. Likewise, while black citizens only make about ten percent of drug users, they account for almost forty perfect of those arrested for drug offenses and almost sixty percent of those who are currently incarcerated for such crimes (NAACP, 2009-2015). Generally speaking black citizens are very much disproportionately incarcerated compared to white citizens. In fact, almost ten percent of all black men in their late 20s are behind bars (PPI, 2010).

Sadly, this pattern of discrimination begins as early as grade school, between black students and their white counterparts. In a study on K-12 suspension and expulsion in Southern states, black students made up almost half of the students that were suspended as well as half of the students that were expelled, despite only representing a quarter of the total student population (Smith, 2015). As Graham stated, it is simple, but perhaps not in the way that he thought it was. Simply said, black citizens are treated unequally compared to their white counterparts, ultimately often to their harm.

We have a saying at the hospital, “pain is what the patient says it is.” The patient is the one experiencing the pain, not the doctors, or the nurses or the any of us on staff. Our responsibility, then, is not to judge whether or not a patient is exaggerating or lying. Our responsibility is to care for them. So we take them at their word. We care for them the very best we can and do no harm.

Likewise, as a Christian, Graham’s responsibility isn’t to judge and pick and choose who he and Samaritan’s Purse cares for based on who he thinks or doesn’t think is suffering. All Christians are called to emulate their Jesus, the Great Physician. Christ didn’t come for the righteous, but those we are sick. As such, we are called to do the same. Judgement lies in the hands of Christ—we are to care for the sick and the hurting.

Black people all around the country are hurting, and there is a sickness in our society called racism, evident in everything from our school and campuses, to our cities, to our government. While the Romans 13 that Graham cites does exhort believers to submit to authority, the same passage ultimately also states that “there is no authority except from God” (Romans 13:1). Our God calls people to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly your God” (Micah 6:8). As such, it is not just callous or naïve for Graham to pledge allegiance to authority and dismiss the fears of his black fellow citizens. In that moment, he no longer emulates the Good Samaritan he and his ministry hopes to embody. Instead, he looks more like the hypocritical priest or minister that passed the hurting, dying man by. More importantly, though, he no longer looks like the Great Physician. He no longer looks like Christ, and he disobeys him as well. He no longer loves his neighbor, and thus, in that moment, he also does not love his God

That changes everything. For as the Scripture says, Graham could do all the incredible work he could possibly do with Samaritan’s Purse around the world. However, if he has not love, that means nothing. Instead, if Graham is indeed to be a Good Samaritan—if he is indeed to love his neighbor as himself, and love his God—it is with that same mind for justice that he heads Samaritan’s Purse, so he must also acknowledge and address the sufferings of his black brothers and sisters. It is on the same foundation of faith he proclaims, that Graham must also base his words and actions towards black people.

It is evident that our current structures of government still do not treat them with the same equality as white people. Scripture commands that those who profess their faith in Christ to prove their faith by addressing such injustice. Thus, as a Christian, a citizen of heaven before he is a white male, Graham must endeavor to do as such— to speak up for the forgotten, to let the oppressed go free. To love his neighbor as himself. This is what he must do: love mercy, act justly, and thereby, walk humbly with his God.

This blog could end here, but it doesn’t. For Graham isn’t the only one that’s guilty.

As a leader with Occidental’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I want to apologize for all of us within InterVarsity for passing students of color by on this campus, whether before or during the recent events on campus. We have indeed passed you by when you were hurting. Whether we justified it for the sake of our personal sense of safety, for the things we had to get done, to maintain our sense of comfortability with everything that was going on, or simply because we thought you were wrong/we were right in the way we were or weren’t addressing the same issues, we passed you by, ultimately for the sake of ourselves.

God forgive us for that, for in our silence and even pride, we did not look like our God. It probably doesn’t mean much now, but I want to recognize on behalf of InterVarsity our injustice in our inaction, and say I am sorry. It does not matter how we disagree over the measures that must be taken. We were and are called to stand with you in your suffering, as Christ entered into all of ours.

So as this is a movement, not a moment, I want to say that we presently stand with you. Not for as long as we are comfortable or we think we are right, but as long as it takes until we see that we have indeed loved our neighbor—until we have loved you—as ourselves.

We stand with you. Until we have loved mercy, done justly, and walked humbly with our God.