Oooooooo, two trigger words: "Jesus" and "man." That brought the usual howls of outrage from the likes of the New York Daily News, which said Robertson "goosed at least half the country" with his prayer. And from the Sporting News, which said that allowing Robertson's prayer made NASCAR "look like a confederacy of dunces."
We could ask: When you request a public prayer from a backwoods fundamentalist supporter of Ted Cruz, what did you expect? But more disappointing to me is how the otherwise responsible Charlotte Observer held up for derision not only the prayer, but evangelist Franklin Graham for defending it.
In an article mysteriously bearing the byline of Godbeat pro Tim Funk, the Observer first joins those who read a ton into Phil's prayer:
Robertson, who has endorsed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for president, would seem to have ruled out a Democrat in his prayer: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a Methodist but not a man, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a man but not a Christian (he’s Jewish).
Various racing writers criticized Robertson for using his prayer before the Texas Motor Speedway’s Duck Commander 500 to further his own political agenda.
"There are Democrats who enjoy NASCAR," wrote one of them, Associated Press auto racing writer Jenna Fryer. "Jews and atheists and women, too."
Then the article segues into a kind of syllabus of errors, protesting the religio-political pronouncements on Graham's Facebook page. It tells how Graham defends a 1994 federal crime bill, criticizes Bruce Springsteen for canceling a concert in Greensboro, and endorses a bill in Alabama to recognize the fetus as a person.
Oh, and the Observer also notes Graham's support of a North Carolina law branded a "bathroom bill" by opponents. The law declares all government lockers and restrooms, including schools, to be used by people of their biological gender. It sparked anger in Charlotte for overturning that city's LGBT ordinance.
This is all written up as if it's freakish to see someone write his beliefs on Facebook. And it was all in a newspaper article labeled only "Religion" -- not "Opinion" or "Commentary" or any other warning to "Brace yourself for 700 words of my views."
Funk does give Graham his say -- at least in cut-and-paste fashion from Graham's Facebook. I see no indication that he tried to get an interview, although the Graham Association is based right there in Charlotte.
"Phil Robertson, ‘the Duck Commander,’ spoke in Jesus’ Name at last week’s NASCAR race, and liberals immediately jumped to say the sport needed to ban the opening prayer altogether," he quotes Graham saying. "Phil is right when he prayed for America to get back to God."
As for the so-called bathroom bill, the Observer says Graham congratulated Gov. Pat McCrory and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest for defending the "safety and privacy of women and children."
No bottom line is spelled out here, but it's evidently something like "Why is a minister talking politics"? I just wish the story simply dropped that shoe, rather than tap-dance around it.
Funk admits that Graham has said he won't endorse a candidate for any office, but that doesn't get in the way of a cute ending:
Don’t expect him to officially endorse McCrory then for another term as governor or share the stage with him.
But Graham’s message to his conservative Christian crowd a few weeks before Election Day – to vote for "godly leaders" – could effectively help McCrory energize Bible-based voters and get them to the polls.
Sort of a non-endorsement endorsement (wink, wink).
I.e., Franklin isn’t fooling the Charlotte Observer -- he really is endorsing the governor. No wonder he stuck up for Phil Robertson, eh? They're both using religion to meddle in politics.
A better reaction for the Observer article, methinks, should not be a wink. More like an eyeroll.
Thumb: Franklin Graham, file photo. Courtesy of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.