Franklin Graham Gets It Wrong

Posted on: September 27, 2018, by :

As Billy Graham was getting a mention in the football commentary last Friday night (in a reference to Collingwood player Mason Cox: not since Billy Graham has an American commanded such attention at the MCG), Billy’s son, Franklin Graham, was making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Franklin Graham has come out in defence of President Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, arguing that Kavanaugh’s denial of guilt in the sexual abuse allegations that have been made against him should be accepted without question and that, even if the allegations are true, it is of no consequence and has no relevance to the present nomination process.  Says Graham Jnr, “There’s a lot of things that I’ve done when I was a teenager that I certainly am ashamed of. … It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh who has a stellar record — that somebody can bring something up that he did when he was a teenager close to 40 years ago.”

To some degree, Graham is right – we do all make mistakes, particularly in those care-free teenage years, and we hope not to be tarred with that brush for the rest of our lives.  Of course some mistakes are more serious and have a more detrimental impact on us and on others, but even those more serious offences don’t always have to haunt us down through the years.

But Graham is also wrong, or at least misses the mark, when he asserts that Kavanaugh should not be held to account for something he did 40 years ago.  Because the big issue here, it seems to me, is not only what Kavanaugh is alleged to have done, but the fact that he is doggedly refusing to acknowledge his mistake and apologise for the pain it caused.  That’s what makes the difference.  We do all make mistakes, we all do things that we later regret, we do look back on some moments and feel embarrassed, perhaps even ashamed.  And the appropriate response to that embarrassment or shame is to acknowledge our wrongdoing, make a genuine apology to those we might have hurt, and pray that they might be gracious enough to forgive us for our foolishness.

Why do people, in particular political leaders, find it so difficult to apologise?  It is almost as though saying sorry is interpreted as a sign of weakness, where, in reality, the opposite is true: it takes courage to admit a mistake and strength to face the ‘victim’ and make an apology.  This, I suggest, is Kavanaugh’s real undoing, and Graham’s blind spot.  Whether or not he ‘recalls’ the episode is beside the point, an honest apology might be all that is need for the hurt to be assuaged.

I guess there are many applications of this principle much closer to home.  We still seem to find it difficult to say sorry to the indigenous people of our nation for our ill-treatment of them in the past and present.  And, who knows, we might even have some personal situations in which saying sorry could make a big difference.  Certainly something worth thinking about.

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