Friday, July 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Senator Graham!

In Japan a person’s 60th birthday is a time of special celebration. I was in Japan in 1998, and numerous people acknowledged my 60th birthday that year in various ways.
Turning 60 means that one has gone around the 12-year zodiac cycle five times. Even though there are many today who go around that cycle two or even three more times, in the olden days five times was considered a noteworthy accomplishment.
Maybe it was because of living in Japan so long, but I took special note when I saw that yesterday was Senator Lindsey Graham’s 60th birthday.
Actually, I don’t know a lot about Senator Graham other than he has been a U.S. Senator from South Carolina since 2003. Even though I once met his immediate predecessor, Sen. Strom Thurmond—who was a S.C. Senator from 1954 until 2003!—I have never met Sen. Graham.
I also know that he is one of the many Republicans running for President—and one of three Southern Baptists who are doing so. He now lives in the small town of Seneca in the very northwest corner of S.C. and is a member of the Corinth Southern Baptist Church there.
Last month I heard Sen. Graham interviewed on one of the Sunday morning news programs (which I recorded to watch that afternoon), and I became more favorably impressed with him by hearing what he had to say on that program.
And recently, even though it was not his initial position, not long after the tragic Charlestown shootings last month Graham commendably stood in agreement with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley when she said it was time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.
Graham is campaigning on a hawkish foreign policy, however, insisting that he would maintain “security through strength”—that is to say, through a further projection of U.S. military power throughout the world.
According to a May 18 Washington Post article, Graham has declared, “If I’m president of the United States and you’re thinking about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL, I’m not gonna call a judge,” Graham said. “I’m gonna call a drone and we will kill you.”
It goes without saying that such extrajudicial assassination would be illegal and unconstitutional. Such “hawkishness” is a major reason why I could not support Sen. Graham.
Although Warren Harding was the first Baptist to be elected President, Harry Truman was the first Southern Baptist to occupy the White House. (Years ago I preached in Truman’s home church in Grandview, Mo., near the Truman Corners shopping center; Truman’s Bible was on display in a glass case in the foyer of the church.)
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were also Southern Baptists. As a fellow Southern Baptist at the time of their election, I was happy that they were elected—partly because they were SBs.
Sadly, I was not so happy with the Carter administration—he has been a far better ex-President than he was President—or with Clinton’s personal conduct when in office.
There is almost no possibility of Sen. Graham being the 2016 Republican nominee for President or being elected to the high office. And that probably can be said for Sen. Ted Cruz and former governor Mike Huckabee, the two other Southern Baptists running for that nomination.
And that’s the good news.
While Sen. Graham especially may be a good and honorable man, his political ideas are not what the country—or the world—needs. So while sincere in wishing Sen. Graham a Happy Birthday, I cannot and will not be supporting his bid for the White House.


  1. Local Thinking Friend Eric Dollard shares significant comments:

    "Senator Graham is probably a very decent man, but he is also a neoconservative. The radicalization of many youth, particularly Muslim youth, stems for a lack of opportunities and a consequent sense of hopelessness. Being a recruit for ISIS or al-Qaeda gives these young persons a sense of direction and focus.

    "Instead of answering extremism with more bombs, guns, and drones, perhaps we should instead invest in education, health care, and jobs for these young people. Perhaps, also, our government should work for better governance in the Middle East (if not in America itself) and for peaceful conflict resolution.

    "I am dismayed by our politicians, who spend too much time raising money (something they dislike themselves), demonizing the opposition, and dwelling on irrelevant issues. We need to discuss the real issues--the future of energy and fossil fuels, the future of biodiversity, the future of job opportunities in the face of increased automation and the use of robots, the future of health care in the face of an aging population, the future of our infrastructure, the future of education, and how to limit the corrosive effects of vast amounts of money in the political process, along with other issues.

    "What is the proper role of government in addressing these issues? How will possible solutions to these problems be financed? How do we get our citizens interested in studying these problems be financed? How do we get our citizens interested in studying these issues and acting on them instead of being simply swayed by clever sound bites or outright misinformation?

    "Is optimism justified or foolish? I am not so sure."

  2. (Writing from Alaska today.) Amen to Eric's comments. A secure, safe, and peaceful future depends on nations working harder at plowshares than at swords.

    This is an interesting blog on the history of Baptists in the White House. It would be a good idea for a book. Perhaps that occurred to you already.

    You said you were favorably impressed with Graham, but you didn't note anything that impressed you. Was it his stand on the Confederate battle flag? Or was there something else?

    1. Thanks for reading and responding, Anton. (I didn't know you were going to Alaska.)

      I can't remember any specifics now about the TV interview I saw. But in spite of the fairly negative opinion I had of Graham before seeing it, my impression was that he is not such a bad guy after all--except for his "hawkishness."

  3. Also piggybacking on my friend Eric’s comments (along with Leroy’s thoughts): Such hawkish statements of American politicians (like Graham) and their policies/actions constitute another major motivator for the radicalization of Muslim youth. It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence or wisdom to make an enemy or prolong a feud. I wonder how many young people in the Mideast are typically recruited into al-Qaeda or ISIL for every person killed in a drone strike.

    BTW, the novel and film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is interesting in this regard (and recommended — though the film was a box office dud). Its Pakistani protagonist is tempted to join a group of mujahideen until he recognizes how both the Islamic fundamentalists and the extreme capitalists think in simplistic, binary terms.

    But I wonder what would happen if Christian politicians representing their “Christian nation” instead took seriously the teachings of Christ in these matters. What if Christians in the West instead earned a reputation for seeking ways to show love to our enemies, for sending friendly greetings to those unlike us, and for turning the other cheek?