SOUTH PORTLAND — As a Christian minister, I realize that the Bible is a complex document, written thousands of years ago in different languages from our own. Good and faithful Christians can reach vastly different conclusions of what it means and which parts of it are relevant to us today. Accepting these differences is both wise and faithful to the Bible itself.

When the Bible is used to promote bigotry, however, Christians are called to speak out. This is the case right now, in our country and in our community.

On Sunday, Franklin Graham is bringing his Decision America tour to our area. His organization has been working diligently (and spending extravagantly) to promote this event, which is intended to “call the lost to repentance.” But to repent means to turn around and take a new path. It is not those hurt by bigotry who need to repent, but those who fear and reject others, especially in the name of God.

Graham supported Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration ban and called Islam a religion of hate and war, while also maintaining that immigration is not a biblical issue. Leviticus 19 disagrees.

Graham supports “conversion therapy” for gay teenagers, a practice that has no basis in science and has proven to be ineffective and harmful. Matthew 18 quotes Jesus giving rather specific warnings to those who harm children.

Graham has made repeated attacks on members of the LGBTQ+ community, claiming that gay and lesbian people exploit children, have an agenda to “convert” people to homosexuality and are abominations to God. Graham supports these beliefs by taking certain Scriptures out of context and refusing to consider alternate interpretations of these verses or, indeed, the entire Bible. Genesis 1 and Galatians 3 (among many others) have vital messages about God’s love for all.


Graham’s rally will feature a popular Christian musician who will sing his hit song “Come As You Are.” The song speaks about laying down our burdens and shame at a rally that we fear will actually lay increased burdens of shame on many, but especially on our LGBTQ+ siblings.

Graham wants people to “come home to Jesus,” but we know where to find Jesus. He is at home with the stranger, the marginalized and the outcast. Jesus also showed us how to stand up to religious authorities who subvert the Bible’s radical message of love, justice, hospitality and hope.

Many people have found deep meaning in Franklin Graham’s ministry, and many will attend his rally this weekend. But many others have been hurt by this brand of religion and have had the Bible used as a weapon against them. Franklin Graham wants us to believe that there is one way to God, one way to interpret Scripture and one way to be a Christian. He has used the Bible to build walls of bigotry, prejudice and hatred. But there is another way of being Christian: one that affirms the value of all people and recognizes the grand diversity of God’s creation.

That is why many of my colleagues and our churches are joining together Sunday, to proclaim the message “Jesus Built Bridges.” Many of our churches that morning will communicate a message of God’s inclusive love, welcoming all. Then, at 5:30 p.m., we will gather on the Casco Bay Bridge between Portland and South Portland, holding signs that demonstrate another way of being Christian – proclaiming love, promoting peace and working for justice.

Faithful Christians can agree to disagree on many issues and beliefs. On the question of God’s love for all, we stand firm.

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