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Our Evangelist President | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Our Evangelist President

With America's leading evangelist in the White House, is it any wonder that Christian preacher Franklin Graham and his relief agency, Samaritan's Purse, are "poised and ready" to bring their missionary zeal to the Iraqi people?

Franklin Graham, Billy's son, has, like his father, earned the title of "pastor to presidents." He has also earned widespread criticism from Muslims for calling Islam a "very evil and wicked religion" bent on "world domination." Such statements have made many people, not only Muslims, question the decision to give him a role in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Graham and his relief agency are about to head into Iraq, eagerly awaiting, in the words of Maureen Dowd, "to inveigle Iraqi infidels with a blend of kitchen pantry and Elmer Gantry."

And, in the meantime, Donald Rumsfeld invited Graham to deliver this past week's Good Friday prayer service to a packed audience at the Pentagon--over the objections of the lay leader of the Pentagon's Muslim community, who charitably called Graham a "divisive' figure, and a number of Muslim Pentagon employees. (Washington Post," At Pentagon, Graham Lets Controversy Sit Silently.")

Yes, let's raise tough questions about Graham's divisive statements and what they augur for his missionary work in Iraq. But, let's remember that it's our President, Evangelist #1, who bears ultimate responsibility for the religious right's strength--at home and abroad.

Click here to listen to President Bush's weekly radio address from April 19. It's a sermon worthy of the best of Franklin (or Billy) Graham and may help explain why so many people around the world see the war in Iraq as part of a crusade against Islam.

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