Can church ever be separate from state at a Franklin Graham rally?

[OPINION] CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After the Rev. Billy Graham became less a counselor of presidents and more a political player, particularly in the unfortunate case of Richard Nixon, he learned a lesson. The Rev. Franklin Graham, heir to his father’s legacy, has chosen a different path, arguably becoming as well known for his politics as for his role as a spiritual leader.

Considering his remarks as he brought his “Decision America” tour to his hometown this past weekend, it’s a box Graham the younger is not exactly comfortable being placed in. But for the preacher who credited the “God factor,” in part, for Donald Trump’s 2016 win, that narrative is set. Vocal support of the president pre- and post-election exists right alongside his philanthropic and mission outreach — such as recent efforts in the Bahamas — through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.

Before he took the stage, and as Christian musician Jeremy Camp warmed up the crowd, I asked Graham about where he stands and about the qualities he admires in Trump, who is making his own news as he battles an impeachment inquiry with increasingly rough and divisive language, on Twitter and at rallies, which is anything but Christian.

When celebrity luster gives cover to how America judges its own

OPINION — I am not one of those folks who see celebrities as larger-than-life icons to be worshipped and admired. Usually. But the recent deaths of Jessye Norman and Diahann Carroll hit me in the gut because those two amazing women were at once larger than life and so very real. The reactions to their accomplishments also illustrate an American or perhaps universal trait — the ability to compartmentalize, to place certain citizens of color or underrepresented citizens on a pedestal, at once a part of and apart from others of their race or gender or religion or orientation.

It allows negative judgment of entire groups to exist alongside denials of any racist or discriminatory intent. There are a lot of problems with that way of thinking. It places an unfair burden on the icons, a need to be less a human being than a flawless symbol. And it uses them as a rebuke to others who never managed to overcome society’s obstacles.

Most destructively, it allows behavior that punishes those not so talented, fortunate or lucky.

Americans as ‘High Noon’ heroes against lawlessness? Nope

OPINION — Americans like to imagine themselves as Gary Cooper’s Marshal Will Kane in “High Noon,” facing impossible odds, struggling, yet managing to stand up, even if it means standing alone and risking it all. We are all rugged individuals, we think, rushing in while cowards run for cover.

Think again.

As we’ve seen in the reactions to the impeachment inquiry launched by the House into the actions of President Donald Trump, that high self-regard is just another American myth disproved by historical reality.

Long arc of history guides John Lewis in his call for impeachment inquiry

OPINION — No one can accuse Rep. John Lewis of lacking patience. The Georgia Democrat showed plenty, as well as steely resolve, as he changed millions of minds — and history — over a life spent working for equal rights for all. So when he speaks, especially about justice, a cause from which he has never wavered, all would do well to listen.

Lewis was not the only voice raised this week, as all sides raced to place a political frame on the narrative of the undisputed fact that a U.S. president asked a foreign leader to work with him and for him to smear a political opponent, perhaps with military aid in the balance. “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” President Donald Trump said, according to a transcript of the conversation based on notes. He also wanted to rope in his personal lawyer and the attorney general, who, by the way, works for the American people, not Trump.

No direct quid pro quo but plenty of bread crumbs leading to the conclusion that a country dependent on funds to deal with, among other things, an extremely aggressive Russian neighbor, better pay attention.

Pelosi Announces Impeachment Inquiry into Trump

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the middle of a political firestorm involving a telephone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, there came a moment of bipartisan agreement this week. Members of the Senate voted unanimously favoring a resolution calling for a whistleblower complaint involving Trump to be turned over to congressional intelligence committees. This comes as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, after holding off for many months, has announced her support to move toward a formal impeachment inquiry into the president because of the whistleblower complaint. The president has promised the release of a transcript of his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

By writing off climate change, are Republicans writing off young voters?

It makes sense that young people, who will have to live with the consequences of decisions made by their elders, are becoming increasingly passionate about climate change and global warming. Once an afterthought on the list of issues at the top of voters’ concerns, the future of the environment is now the topic of candidate town halls, serious investigative reports and, on Wednesday, a congressional hearing featuring young people offering advice and warnings.

It’s hard to miss the extreme weather patterns that bring 500-year floods way too often. But are politicians missing the boat on an issue that could transform the voting patterns of a generation?

Will Tensions with Iran Lead to a Military Conflict?

CHARLOTTE, NC — The Trump administration has announced it is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Persian Gulf to discuss a response to an attack on Saudi oil facilities. The president campaigned on not involving the U.S. in wars across the globe, but this crisis has escalated tensions in the region. Though rebels in Yemen claimed credit for attacks on Saudi oil facilities, intelligence services say Iran is the culprit; after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the president has been looking for a way to re-start talks with the country’s leaders.

Biden and Beto are like night and day — except when they’re potato-potahto

OPINION — It was a difference in styles and generations. In a Carolinas swing, first there was Beto O’Rourke with a town hall at a brewery in Charlotte, North Carolina — more like an informal gathering among many new friends. The next day there was Joe Biden with a large crowd at a historically black college in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

It was a day and a world apart last week, though in both cases, supporters uniformly praised a certain quality in their chosen candidate — authenticity.

Hopes for 2020 run high in these two states, and the stakes are real for both parties.

Signs of a Weakening Economy?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Whether it’s a trade dispute with China or increasing consumer doubts, worry is increasing that America’s strong economy is slowing down.  Our political contributor Mary C. Curtis discusses the latest concerns.

A look at the growing disinformation wars

The right has long accused the media of bias, but now some on the left, including Bernie Sanders, are echoing accusations of media bias. New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg says the “Trump era forces us to be a little more aggressive” about the telling the truth because journalists are met with “so much disinformation.”But Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis adds that journalists have to be cognizant of their own biases, “every journalist frames their story, and we have to be honest about that.” Adam Serwer and Bari Weiss also join.