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The Daily Planet's Opinion: November 2019
Sunday, 03 November 2019 13:52

Asheville area’s heterogeneity exemplified by full houses for Franklin Graham, Arun Gandhi

One of the wonderful things about the Asheville area, besides its naturally friendly people, scenic beauty, culture, history, food and beer scenes, is its status as a near-heterogeneous city, sparkling, as it does, with a dynamic equilibrium.

Of course, this frequently, if not constantly, means the city (and surrounding metro area) struggles over terrain and influence. 

Nonetheless, we agree with the urban planners and critical-thinking laymen who say that heterogeneity is absolutely crucial to great urbanism, that there are forces at work that threaten it, and that we must work to sustain it.

As a recent example of the area’s healthy heterogeneity, we are pleased to note that, when two prominent spiritually and politically divergent figures recently spoke locally, the proceedings inside and outside remained civil and the events drew full houses — Dr. Arun Gandhi, the eclectic leftist grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; and the Rev. Franklin Graham, an Asheville native who has been outspoken in his poltically conservative convictions. 

Gandhi spoke Oct. 5 in two separate addresses on the same topic at Unity of the Blue Ridge in nearby Mills River, while Graham spoke for about 30 minutes during his 90-minute Decision America rally on Oct. 13 at the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Asheville.

Franklin Graham is the oldest son of the late — and world-famous — evangelist Billy Graham. The elder Graham, who was considered the most-beloved minister in America for years, also was regarded as a friend, personal minister and consul to American presidents, regardless of party affiliation. He died on Feb. 21, 2018. He and his beloved wife Ruth, who died in 2007, were long-time residents of Montreat, just 18 miles east of Asheville. Billy lived in Montreat for more than 60 years.

As for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Arun’s grandfather, who was referred to later in life by the title of “the Mahatma” or “great soul” by his admirers, he was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948 in the compound of Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti), a large mansion in New Delhi. His cause of death is widely considered ironic, given that he was regarded by many as the 20th century’s most famous apostle of nonviolence — and that he, himself, met a violent end.  He was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British Rule, and in turn inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

If the best path to the truth is through a dynamic tension of opposites, then our city’s heterogeneity certainly ranks among its top assets.

Billy repented of politics, maybe Franklin will
Sunday, 03 November 2019 13:50
Special to the Daily Planet


Franklin Graham could go down as one of the sad figures of our time — a man called “evangelist” and “pastor” who ensnared himself in the sordid side of politics.

He’s stumbling down the same road his father painfully took.

In 2011, an interviewer asked Billy Graham if he had any regrets as he looked back over his life. First, he predictably said he wished he’d spent more time with his family.

Then he added: “I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

Yes, I’d say he did cross the line. He was part of Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign.  One Graham memo, for example, advises: “I would seriously question the wisdom of your becoming personally involved in the campaign before early September. If the polls and the mood of the country continue as is, you may be wise to do only a minimum of campaigning. I think Senator (George) McGovern is perfectly capable of making further mistakes.”  And the Nixon tapes show him trashing the unfriendly media

When asked about his dad’s regret, Franklin sniffed, “We are disappointed in life by people. That’s part of life.”    

Yes, it is. But, weirdly, he doesn’t seem to entertain that Donald Trump could disappoint. 

In the impeachment inquiry, Graham warns Democrats to “make sure that truth is told.” But he himself is not seeking truth about Trump’s alleged misdeeds that are at the heart of the inquiry. “Our country could begin to unravel if an elected president is thrown out of office because of lies and the media,” he said. 

Sad. The charges against Trump are not lies. The president doesn’t deny them. He broke our election laws in Ukraine. When Graham calls the inquiry “nothing about nothing,” he’s on the wrong side of truth.  He’s being totally partisan.

In First Samuel, chapter 26, David passed on a chance to kill Saul, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.” Graham seems to have adopted this attitude toward Trump.  He often says that God put Trump in office, so it follows that nobody should lay a hand on him. (Similarly, when Jerry Falwell, Jr. was asked if Trump could do anything that would cause him to abandon him, he replied simply, “No.”)    

We don’t have divine right of kings.  We have a Constitution, and the Framers instituted impeachment for exactly the situation we find ourselves in now — when an elected president uses his office to destroy a political opponent.  

When Graham touts the president, he mentions his nominating conservative judges — always specifically “conservative.” Indeed, that’s been Trump’s single criterion, more than incorruptible, wise, open-minded or skilled in the law. Franklin Graham’s north star is conservatism. 

His dad was conservative before him — theologically conservative (expected of a down-the-line evangelical), but also politically conservative (not necessarily expected). He endorsed George W. Bush in Florida on the eve of the 2000 election.  And he wrote that “Jesse Helms…was a man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country based on principle, not popularity or politics.”

Of the two, theology and politics, Billy was more prominently the former. Franklin, while he indeed preaches a conservative gospel of Christ, is far more openly partisan.  “Christians should be aware of candidates who call themselves progressive,” he tweeted. “Progressive is generally just a code word for someone who leans toward socialism, who does not believe in God, & who will likely vote against Godly principles that are so important to our nation.”

Maybe Billy Graham’s repentance about politics, in part, had to do with the unprincipled criminal he supported in 1972.  Maybe Franklin Graham will recognize that the man he supports now is also an unprincipled criminal. 

Lee Ballard, who lives in Mars Hill, has a website at



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