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November 14th, 2012
03:41 PM ET

5 things we learned from Franklin Graham

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

Washington (CNN) – The Rev. Franklin Graham spends most of his time running an international aid group called Samaritan’s Purse. But he usually makes headlines for his political pronouncements.

Over the past year, Graham has attracted attention for his role placing newspaper ads in which his dad, the iconic Rev. Billy Graham, encouraged voters to support conservative values in the lead-up to Election Day. Franklin Graham is CEO and President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which in addition to financing the ads removed a reference to Mormonism as a cult from the group’s website. The move came as Franklin and Billy Graham met with Mitt Romney, who was campaigning to be the first Mormon president, shortly before Election Day.

The younger Graham stopped by CNN’s Washington bureau this week en route to New York, where he was checking in on Samaritan Purse’s Superstorm Sandy relief and promoting a Christmas campaign collecting gifts for poor children.

5 things we learned from his visit:

1. Graham rejects allegations that he is co-opting his ailing dad - who turned 94 last week - to voice support for conservative causes like opposing gay marriage.

Graham says that his dad would have never imagined current debates over the definition of marriage and about when life begins, which he explains is why the famously bipartisan Billy Graham has stepped up his conservative activism. Franklin Graham says it was his idea to run political newspaper ads before the election, but that his dad signed off on them. He says they traded several drafts of the full-page ads, which read as letters from Billy Graham, before they were published.

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“When the president accepted same sex marriage I felt that became kind of a moral crisis for our country,” Graham told us, referring to President Barack Obama’s endorsement of legalized same-sex marriage in May. “And that Christians should be reminded as to what we’re voting for. I presented this to my father, and he agreed that we ought to remind people to vote for biblical issues.”

2. Graham says his dad has always been political, and that Billy Graham’s activism last year was in sync with past behavior. “I’ve read some of the reports where they said my father avoided politics,” Graham said. “That’s not true. I mean, he’s known every president since Truman.”

Graham told a story about his father speaking at a 2000 news conference with George W. Bush in Jacksonville, Florida, on the Sunday before Election Day.  That year, after a protracted recount, Florida wound up determining the election’s outcome for Bush.

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“Now don’t you think that was worth some votes in Florida,” Graham asked, referring to his dad’s appearance with Bush. “I think it probably… changed the outcome of the race. So my father has been involved in politics at different levels over the years, and so for him to be involved in these ads is not out of character.”

3. Graham thinks America’s economic doldrums could be God’s way of sending a message about the nation’s growing secularization – and about what Graham sees as its increasing immorality.

“I don’t see our country turning to God,” he told us. “I see if anything the pride in the hearts of politicians [being] very big and very strong.”

“For them to admit that they made a mistake and to call up the name of Almighty God, it would take a major crisis in this country to do that, and maybe that’s what God will have to do,” Graham continued. “Maybe he will have to bring this country down economically before we will turn our hearts back to God, I don’t know.”

This scenario is related to Graham’s view of American exceptionalism, which revolves around the idea of a special relationship between God and the United States. “God has blessed the United States of America more than any other nation on this earth,” Graham said. “But we’ve turned our back on God as a nation and it’s sad, and I believe that his hand of blessing could slowly be removed from this country. We need to repent.”

4. Graham thinks preachers should speak out on social issues like abortion or gay marriage, but not on economic ones. “When it comes to the taxes - whether you should tax the wealthy more or the poor more, I’m not into that,” he said. “Let the politicians worry about that.”

5. Graham didn’t direct the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to remove its website’s reference to Mormonism as a cult shortly before Election Day. But he agrees with the move. “I didn’t even know it was there. We have like 10,000 pages on our website,” Graham told us.

Graham said the reference isn’t coming back to the site. “I don’t want to be involved in calling people names,” he told us. “I want to reach people for Christ, and how can I do that if I’m calling them a name? I don’t even like the word cult; it sounds like dungeons and dragons or something.”

What’s your take on Graham’s political views and how they grow out of his religious beliefs? Let us know in comments.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Billy Graham • Christianity • Politics

soundoff (813 Responses)
  1. Sandy Feat

    I think that once Billy is gone, his association will cease to exist after a few years. Either we never knew him or his son is trying to shape him into something Billy never intended to be.

    November 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Sharp

      I think you are right. Billy Graham was a great evangelist & witness for the Lord in his day. Sadly much of American Christianity has taken a turn to a darker less charitable direction. Certainly the son is less into our Lord than into continuing the franchise.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  2. minihouse1028

    Here's number 6: Don't believe a word Franklin Graham says. To him, Rev. Billy Graham's ministry is a business. Remember that Franklin backed Donald Trump in the primaries. Wasn't there a more materialistic candidate he could support? Oh wait, later he used Rev. Billy Graham to support Romney!

    November 15, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  3. Jeff

    “When it comes to the taxes – whether you should tax the wealthy more or the poor more, I’m not into that,” he said. “Let the politicians worry about that.”

    I suggest that Frankin re-read parts of the NT regarding charity.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Evangelical

      And that's what the parts of the NT were about: charity. Not stealing from people through taxes.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Evangelical

      So are you saying that there should be no taxes at all?

      November 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Evangelical

      @Hawaii

      No, that's not what I am saying. I'm saying that taxes should be as low as they possibly can be and that social issues should be taken care of through charity, not tax money.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Evangelical

      Oh so then we should just ignore those in destitute if there aren't enough charity donations? The fact remains that a government has a responsibility to provide for those citizens who are in dire straits. You may like your rosy impractical view of the world where everyone gives massive amounts to charity, but for those of us who live in reality, we know that's just not going to happen.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • MCR

      @Hawaiiguest, The reason they want to keep all social programs in the hands of "charities" is that religious groups use such programs to recruit and maintain followers. This is the technique used in Saudi Arabia, where almost all social welfare is handled through religious rather than governmental channels. We see everywhere a strong state support system is established that it loosens the grip of the religious organizations, and that's one thing they won't have. These folks will deny the obvious (such as the fact that people will only give to fashionable causes) to keep this system afloat.

      November 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  4. nvmature

    Republican.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  5. achepotle

    Start sending these freaks to FEMA reeducation camps asap...make them use implanted micro chips to get their food.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  6. NoTags

    Billy Graham accepted the non Christian 'new age religion' theology years ago. This was acknowledged when the BGEA removed the cult designation for the LDS cult.

    All a Christian has to do to see that the LDS cult is non Christian is simply study a little bit about their theology, and read the quotes from their 'prophet' and founder Joseph Smith.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  7. Gregory

    It is so sad how Franklin is taking advantage of his ailing and elderly father. Billy Graham established a lifetime of true Christian work, and Franklin is destroying that legacy with his polluted, partisan proclamations. I have been a member of BGEA for decades, but I no longer support the organization. I expect BGEA to fail soon after Billy is gone.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  8. Anonymouse

    Rob not even the religious nuts as you depict them make statements like: " We need to rid society of this dangerous vermin." How do you propose to do that? The last person I recall had a small dark moustache.....

    November 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • sam

      Oh, no, of course not. The religious nuts have only been caught saying things like "We should round up all those gays and put them behind a fence."

      Short memory?

      The little mustache guy considered himself a christian....

      November 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  9. fandancy

    Good ol Franklin. An ex drunk riding on daddy's coattails advising our country on christian values. What a joke.
    If not for his daddy, he'd be on welfare and one of Romney's 47 percenters. Of course many will listen to his 1800's theories. That's how he makes his money and lives in a mansion.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • GaryN

      I guess if you want to point out the "ex drunk" characteristic you'll also have to disregard Paul, formerly Saul, because he was an ex murderer. Does this mean you do not read those books of the New Testament written by him and those who worked with him? If not, then you seem to have a very flawed logic.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • I wonder

      "...you'll also have to disregard Paul, formerly Saul..."

      Done.

      (not necessarily only because he was an ex-murderer, though)

      What makes you think that he knew any thing special?... because *he* *said* so?

      November 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  10. Tom

    Right-wing nuts never give up lying, cheating and stealing.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Sharp

      Greedy, amoral corporations & bossy, bigoted churches. That is a marriage truly made in hell. Neither of them have any business claiming on gentle, tolerant Jesus, The Prince of Peace.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  11. ted

    what a joke. when this clown and his father and whole family pay taxes then they can comment on "taxes and social issues". his charity is a disgrace and has been investigated as such. they collect hundreds of millions of tax free dollars and then fly dolls and teddy bears to africa. he has not made a contribution to the red cross after any natural disaster and has nothing to say about the 400,00 dead civilians in iraq. go away

    November 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Jack Young

      And I suppose you have? You niether know Mr. Graham nor do you know the work of Samaritain purse. By the way every Minister is required to paytaxes on their income and therefore have a voice in this united States. You sir are a joke.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  12. Dojojo

    Billy Graham was a good man who served well for many years without any seeming political preference. Too bad his son didn't inherit his father's beliefs and humility. Franklin seems more concerned with personal power and prestige and in the process is tarnishing all that his father achieved. Sad. It also portrays the importance of the separation of church and state. I wouldn't want my doctor telling me how to golf not do I want my pastor telling me how to vote.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  13. Andrew

    Stop giving the crooks free publicity.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  14. Charlotte

    As someone who has grown up with Rev Billy Graham living in my neighborhood–he would NEVER place ads or support any particular candidate. Yes he has been seen with many presidents.His son Franklin however always seeks the spotlight. Billy is very ill now and no way capable of directing any actions toward politics. He does however say always to seek God and God's wisdom–period. So shame on Franklin for dragging his father around like a dog and pony show. let the man have some dignity.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  15. Grampa

    Gee, I guess number 6 would be that God is a Democrat!

    November 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • 66rock

      I don't know about God but his son Jesus, was definitely a Democrat.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  16. mm

    christ threw the money changers OUT of the temple

    November 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • 66rock

      I'm sorry but until churches, including my own, operate tax free, I do not want to hear what they have to say politically.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  17. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the spirit it serves (Luke 9:55) we invite you to read the article on the BGEA and 'False Apostles and False Christs' listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). The Graham's are in truth enemies of the cross of Christ and the god of this world (Phil. 3:18). They serve after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Observer

      Peddle your hypocritical website elsewhwere. This is not free advertizing.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • mama k

      Revelation??? Everyone knows this St John the Dopehead got a little too high out on his island one night and crashed his camel into a lake of bath salts or worse. Next thing you know, he's writing all kinds of crazy crap that deluded people think is prophecy.

      November 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  18. stevie68a

    Gay people, who are taxpayers, get denied civil rights such as marriage. Yet the tax exempt church says who can marry
    and who cannot. What a racket they've had.
    Religion uses fear and shame to control people. Some think that giving money to their preacher is going to reserve them a
    place in "heaven". Fools.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  19. rob

    Billy Graham is a fossilized, washed up, extremist, nobody. And of course he would help Romney, they're both repugnant bigots. Both of them need to disappear and leave the rest of us normal people in peace. The religious nuts in this world, especially the U.S., are getting crazier by the day. We need to rid society of this dangerous vermin.

    November 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Sheldon

      On one of the Nixon tapes, while Nixon was uttering demeaning remarks about Jews, Billie Baby sat there and made no attempt to remind tricky Dick that Jesus and his Mom were Jewish, but more importantly that tricky Dick's remarks were inappropriate and that Billie Baby was offended by them..

      November 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  20. Barry Bence

    Now we know why North Carolina–Graham's home state–was the only swing state that Obama didn't win!

    November 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.