El Dorado News

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September 20, 2018
El Dorado News Times
Shea Wilson

Shea Wilson

God, guns and Billy Graham

By Shea Wilson
This article was published February 25, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.

The days after the Florida school shooting were been spent debating God, guns and mental health.

Gun-rights, public safety, policies and implications for the next generation have been talked up one side, then down the other. Those who lost their lives were memorialized. President Donald Trump expressed support for revamping the federal background check system for firearms purchases and banning bump stock devices similar to what was used in the mass shooting last year in Las Vegas.

And America’s beloved pastor Billy Graham died.

That’s a lot of loss and angst for the span of a few days. What has changed? The question keeps coming.

Well, the Billy Grahams have been replaced by Joel Osteen-types. People went from listening to God’s word in churches, tents and stadiums to attending mega churches where they hear the word of collection plate-pastors who rake in millions from their tax-exempt status and do more to help themselves than others.

Though Graham was a Southern Baptist, his sharing of the gospel did not identify with a particular church or group of people. He carried his crusades around the world and was inclusive of all.

The New York Times reported Wednesday morning on Graham’s death. A couple of paragraphs speak volumes about “what has changed” in America.

“Mr. Graham pledged to local church sponsors that all donations would be used for crusade expenses, with any excess going to his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His own compensation, he said, would be limited to his expenses plus ‘the salary of a fairly well-paid local minister,’ or about $50,000 in 1980 (the equivalent of about $142,000 today). The association’s books were always open to inspection.

“By maintaining fiscal integrity and personal probity — he stuck to his rule never to be alone with a woman other than his wife — Mr. Graham kept himself untarnished by the kind of sex and money scandals that brought down evangelists and religious broadcasters like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart in the 1980s.”

Today, people who adhere to this type of integrity are openly mocked on shows like “The View.” Forget his politics. Consider the type of comments made about Vice President Mike Pence. He, too, has a rule about being alone with women other than his wife. And he has spoken openly about talking to God. It was suggested that he had mental health issues. I’m no fan of the Trump administration, but I appreciate the fact Pence is representative of the Christian values he espouses. That he or any person professing their faith would be ridiculed is “what has changed.”

Look at what is expected of the public school system these days. There is a discussion about arming teachers and having them prepared to protect children. Are you serious? Isn’t it enough that they are pretty much raising your children? By the time the kids are fed breakfast at school and time is spent on behavioral issues and other things that should have been addressed in the home, the educational window is starting to close. Now folks are talking about giving teachers the task of protecting students, too.

There’s your change. Other people are left to do the jobs that parents (both of them) used to do. In many cases the family unit is in tatters or non-existent.

The National Rifle Association has more influence than citizens over the decisions politicians make about Second Amendment policies that impact public safety. I was raised as a hunter and a gun owner. I believe whole-heartedly in the right to keep and bear arms. But I don’t need an assault rifle to feel safe. And if I become mentally incompetent and display tendencies that indicate I might be a danger to myself or others, I hope someone cares enough to make sure I don’t have access to firearms. The fact we can’t have an open and honest conversation about this issue and others

without it being a threat to the Second Amendment or other rights — and resulting in nasty, partisan political bickering — is “what has changed.”

Take a look around. Perhaps in the mirror. Are you hearing God’s word or the words of some starry-eyed minister? How much time do YOU spend raising and protecting YOUR children? Are you tolerant of your fellow man? Willing to speak respectfully and reasonably, even if you disagree? Or do you mock him? Are you kind? Entertain strangers? Show brotherly love?

Change is something all of us can do. It starts with each one of us. Be the change.

Rest in peace, Mr. Graham.

Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. Email her at melsheawilson@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @SheaWilson7.

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