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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. Mrs Time

    Anyone who proclaims what is happening in the world has anything to do with messages from "God" has no clue what "God" is all about.

    November 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  2. Caleb Boone

    Gentlemen:

    I must disagree with Franklin Graham.

    I recall reading a 2011 article which recounted an email exchange with Reverend Billy Graham, in which he stated that he should not have allowed himself to become involved in politics. In effect he stated in that interview that he regretted having allied himself with Presidents and political parties. Let me quote what he himself wrote:

    "I also would have steered clear of politics. I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now."

    The above was taken from the following website:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/qabillygraham.html?

    David Gibson, a reporter for the webpublication Politics Daily, also about one year ago, commented upon the above quotation, and his article can be found at:

    http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/01/24/billy-grahams-regret-i-would-have-steered-clear-of-politics/

    I invite your attention to both of the above articles.

    I must state that it is absolutely wrong for any minister to become involved in politics in any way.

    It is absolutely wrong for any minister to endorse a political candidate or political party directly or indirectly, in any way.

    The Reverend Billy Graham himself wrote, only about one year ago: "I also would have steered clear of politics."

    Those are the words of Billy Graham himself.

    I would also remind you that, on the occasion of The National Mourning Service held in the Episcopal Church National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., shortly after the September 11, 2001 Muslim Attack on New York, Reverend Billy Graham, in his sermon delivered to the congregation that day, did not once mention the Name of Jesus.

    Not once.

    A Christian Evangelist, in a Christian Church, speaking at a Christian Service in which Christian Hymns were sung, did not mention the Name of Jesus one time.

    The whole world was watching, and he was afraid to mention the Name of Jesus even one time.

    That speaks volumes to me.

    Franklin Graham's recent political statements or political sentiments, described in the article above, and his father's recent statements or sentiments, also described in the same article and discussed in the CNN television interview, represent a complete departure and a direct contradiction of the Reverend Billy Graham's written statement of about one year ago, which I have quoted above.

    Now, of course, the Reverend Billy Graham has the right to change his mind or his opinion.

    But, whether the Reverend Billy Graham's recent statements represent a change in his opinion or not, in my opinion, they are appalling.

    Yet, were presaged by the Reverend Billy Graham's failure to mention Jesus in his immediately post-September 11, 2001 sermon at the National Cathedral.

    That is, the Reverend Billy Graham displayed his true nature in that crucial moment.

    His true nature is one of political appeasement, not Spiritual confrontation when necessary.

    I will draw the conclusion here, now, that the Reverend Billy Graham's written statement of one year ago, in which he declared that he "should have steered clear of politics" is uncharacteristic of his true nature, or does not correctly reflect his true nature.

    I do not conclude that as a result of Franklin Graham's recent political advertisements, endorsed by his father, the Reverend Billy Graham.

    Rather, I do so on reflection, now, about the Reverend Billy Graham's failure to mention the Name of Jesus in the National Cathedral sermon I mention above.

    That occurred over eleven years ago.

    But it occurred at the very instant of the most crucial Spiritual Crossroads in this new century.

    It was at that moment that the Reverend Billy Graham displayed his true nature more loudly and clearly than anything his son might contrive through newspaper advertisements.

    I am sorry that this is true.

    However, I do not look to the Reverend Billy Graham for my salvation.

    Nor should anyone else.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb.

    November 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  3. maeve123

    ...and Franklin is no Billy Graham. Even Billy Graham is no longer Billy Graham any more. Franklin is under a lot of pressure, his father, Billy Graham is elderly and not well. Franklin is trying to shore up the failing business. They always say, "Follow the money" and in Franklins priority list it is about "the money." He sees religion as his family "business" and he wants toi keep the money rolling in. If his Dad pulls the plug on the reruns of his old appearances, the money stops.....it will be interesting to see Franklin for the phoney he is.

    November 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mack

      I am very sad to see Franklin Graham, who has in my opinion no credibility, bend and twist his ailing father whom it appears is not aware of what is transpiring into the 'mouthpiece' for Franklin Graham's beliefs since only the Tea Party radicals pay any attemtion to Franklin Graham. Billy Graham has a long and distinguished career of being the 'president's pastor' regardless of the person's beliefs or politics. Billy Grapham was there to help the individual. Franklin Graham is there to condemn any one who do not agree with Franklin's political position. I hope that Franklin Graham will repent of patently using his distinguished father to try and give credibility to Franklin's radical agenda before he does further damange to his father's phenominal reputation.

      November 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Elaine Wilson

      No question ,Franklin is more interested in making money that anything else.

      November 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  4. buckeyenonbeliever

    It is hilarious that Franklin states he does not want to get into name calling when that is all that he has done for the past couple of years in the lead up to the November elections. Franklin like most religionists, is merely fearful of losing the only manipulative item he and they have remaining to support their lifestyle..... the blind obedience of their sheeple.

    Education not indoctrination Franklin is the answer.

    November 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  5. TB

    i have no respect for the Grahams whatsoever.... Hypocrite is what comes to mind...
    thats why i didnt vote for Mitt Romney... too wishy washy for me...

    you knew that phrase was on your site "Mormons a cult" it was preached many times through this ministry now to fall back on it is like saying the Word of God is a lie.. amazing!

    November 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  6. T.P.Thank

    It's ridiculous for Rev. Franklin Graham to suggest that God may be punishing America's growing secularization with the
    great economic recession. It's an insult to the Christian religion to imply that God is vengeful because people are
    getting less religious. God is never a bad guy!

    November 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Franklin's god is so incompetent at punishment that he must punish a whole nation with millions of pious believers in order to put a hurt on the impious. You would think he could use a punishment rifle instead of a shotgun to target only the guilty.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • pithy me

      God is never a bad guy?So murdering everyone on earth except a 600 year old man and his clan was a good thing?OK.

      November 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  7. Lion

    All religious people are crooks especially in America. They feather their own nests at the expense of the utterly gullible public. Take a good look at all the Televangelists. They are marketing Christ for their own advantage and the gullible Americans swallow their garbage hook line and sinker. What Robert Pirsig said is very true in America " When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion." Religion is big business in America.

    November 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  8. sara krny

    Franklin needs to learn from his father's past. Billy Graham was inspirational and authentic not plastic!

    November 18, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  9. Dr Rasheed S Azam

    Turn to God, the Ever Living God, One God, Creator of the Universe.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Which way should I turn. He seems to be hiding.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I'll put my faith in the god for which there is irrefutable proof. Wait! There IS no god for which there is irrefutable proof!

      I guess I'll stay an atheist, after all.

      November 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  10. Reflecting Pool

    Christ rejected attempts to politicize "the teachings." Christ's teaching was Compassion, NOT the dogma and ideology of politics. Graham is stating the obvious – what we always already knew – namely, that the sanctimonious dogma of Graham and other evangelists has absolutely nothing to do with religion or Compassion. It's just more of the dogma that Christ adamantly repudiated.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  11. Jim8

    Well, thank you, Billy Graham, for eight years of George W Bush, and the deficits and the Iraq war he brought us.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Not to mention all of the dead and maimed.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  12. John Conner

    I have spoken to Franklin Graham on numerous occasions...he is a hypocrite, and a "cafeteria christian" – picking and choosing what he likes and/or wants, and blatantly ignoring the rest. The last time I called him out on a particular verse in the Bible he stated that "I was being influenced by Satan" and "using The Bible to justify my beliefs"...sound familiar? As we used to say in elementary school, "it takes one to know one"...see you in hell, Franklin!

    November 18, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  13. Krystin

    What a shame to take advantage of your aging father to promote your own political agenda Mr. Franklin Graham. Too bad it didn't work. America is no longer a nation full of White Southern Christians- there IS a world outside your so-called "Bible Belt" time to realize that the America you're trying to return to was wrong in the first place and never again will be allowed to successfully promote hatred in such masses under the guise of religion. I just went to my first lesbian wedding and it was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I have attended. True love knows no gender, colour, shape or size. A Bible thumper should be the one preaching that. Now if only Canada can become as advanced as Washington and Colorado!

    November 18, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  14. Russ139

    Church goers: take your Sunday contribution and give it instead to the poor. (It'll get you a better place in the after-life)

    November 18, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Send it to St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. It cures little children of dread diseases and has a saint in its name.

      November 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  15. Russ139

    Religion is a business. These organizations have CEOs, advertisig budgets, expense accounts, and take out political ads. It's a joke that thy are not taxed.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  16. Gary Stringer

    Personally I do feel that Franklin Graham has taken advantage of his father's age and politicized him and his ministry. To say that he wasn't aware that Mormon's were listed as a cult is ridiculous. Having pastored as a Southern Baptist for over thirty years I am aware that Mormon's have always been considered and taught to be a cult. As a result of Franklin's actions during this past election I can no longer support Samaritan's Purse, the Billy Graham Evangelical Ministry or anything Franklin is associated with. In my opinion he has stopped following Jesus and started blindly following the Republican party.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Samson

      Totally agree with your position, Gary. This is one BIG reason the Republican party, like "Evangelical Christian" America, has lost ALL influence on the body politic of the USA. At last, the people see who/what has been lying to them and movning them toward their own selfish ends. Until Christians leaders in the US accept the God of love in the Bible, the people will continue to read the Bible and make that determination on their own. That spells the death knell for those who profess to be on first name terms with God Almighty!

      November 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Elaine Wilson

      I agree, Gary Stringer. Just sorry so many fall for Graham. All he is doing is using people to make money.

      November 18, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      elaine: isn't that what all businesses do?

      November 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  17. Michael

    Franklin Graham is nothing but a spin doctor. The support in Jacksonville by his father for George W. was also aided by Kathline Harris and the Supreme Court. A stolen election and the consequences of naming W. the winner was a ten plus year fraudlent war and a totally lost economy led by unscruptulous bankers. You are neither a christain or a man of God. Just another profiteer.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 18, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Matt in Oregon

      Only in so far as it motivates you to action.

      November 18, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • NOPE

      nope

      November 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  19. ncprofe

    So we are supposed to believe that Franklin did not twist his father's arm and that his father was fully aware of where these ads were going and for what purpose. Yet, the only voice we are hearing in defense is Franklin's. The election has ended. Let's just move on.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  20. George

    Franklin has driven well past the last exit to relevancy.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • truth be told

      On the narrow road to Divine Glory.

      November 18, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • NOPE

      Lets give this guy a pass for his good charity work.But it sure would be nice if he shut the f up.

      November 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      "On the narrow road to Divine Glory."

      The sooner the better

      November 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.