The pilgrim is making little progress. In a futile effort to convince faith-voters that he is one of them, John McCain paid a visit to the Grahams of North Carolina — father Billy and son Franklin. After the meeting, not a word was said about the Grahams’ past indiscretions concerning Muslims or Jews and neither, for that matter, was an endorsement proffered. The next guest was country singer Ricky Skaggs. He did better. He got lunch.

McCain plods a cruel treadmill. He has thus far sought the endorsement of the extremely purple Rev. John Hagee and the equally purple Rev. Rod Parsley. Both of them were later asked to unendorse on account of the offensive things they’ve said. But to paraphrase Hyman Roth in The Godfather, this is the business they’re in.

Billy Graham’s observations about Jews were made a long time ago and were imparted in confidence to Richard Nixon and his secret White House tape recorder. The two ruminated about the power and influence of Jews, with Graham adding a bit of original investigative reporting: ”They’re the ones putting out the pornographic stuff.” Had he peeked?

Graham apologized for such remarks and said he no longer held such views and everyone, including me, takes him at his word. His lasting damage, I offer as an aside, was to convince the young George W. Bush to abandon his wastrel ways, where he excelled, and instead seek the path that has led him to where he is now, a calamity for the nation and the world. Graham’s burden is heavy indeed.

But the transgressions of Franklin Graham are much more recent and more to the point. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he called Islam a ”very evil and wicked religion.” As preachers are wont to do, he amplified his remarks to include ”mainstream” Islam, alleging that the Koran preaches violence. He is renowned throughout the Muslim world for these remarks and therefore hardly a figure a presidential candidate should visit.

Erich Segal’s line from Love Story — ”Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry” — really applies to faith. If you proclaim it, you are forgiven almost anything. In Franklin Graham’s case, his piety excuses his ignorance and intolerance — his slap at a worldwide religion of almost two billion because of the horrendous acts of a few. (MORE)


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