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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. wcnea567

    Thats why his churches got to pay taxes. They are cheating Americans.

    November 19, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • buck cameron

      Exactly. Billy Graham is a business.

      November 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  2. art

    Honest question. Didn't this guy battle drug and alcohol problems for years?

    November 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  3. noodles2loud

    "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." – Ghandi

    November 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Reporter to Ghandi; "What do you think of western civilization?" Ghandi; "I think it would be a good idea."

      The bible is an instruction manual for MURDER AND CHILD ABUSE. Following "scripture" will land you in jail. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (ffrf.org) has a nice (and very historically accurate, and "scripturally" accurate) bible quiz on their site if you don't believe me. Take it, maybe you will wake up and realize that you shouldn't "struggle" at all, but should abandon this psychotic practice you call religion. Religion is mental illness, murder, abuse of women and children.

      November 19, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  4. AvdBerg

    Make sure to visit our website to find the real truth http://www.gaychristian101.com

    November 19, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Complete moron

      Oh, I'll be sure to do that. Right after I stick a screwdriver in my ear.

      November 19, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Occupy Christianity

      You're the one who named yourself "Complete Moron". Sounds like you need to remove the screwdriver from your ear.

      November 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  5. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Graham and his father should first apologize for ripping off their "non-profits" with their combined salaries of $1.2+ million/yr.

    And they have the audacity to call themselves Christians !!!!!

    An update:

    http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/10/franklin_graham_moves_to_addre.html

    "CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Concerns about his rising financial compensation during tough economic times have prompted evangelist Franklin Graham to temporarily give up future contributions to his retirement plans at the two Christian charities he leads.

    As president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, he receives two full-time salaries and two retirement packages. Last year his total compensation from the two Christian ministries was $1.2 million.
    The size of Graham's total 2008 compensation – $535,000 from Samaritan's Purse and $669,000 from Charlotte, N.C.-based BGEA – drew questions from nonprofit experts. They doubted that one person – even the energetic, globe-trotting Graham – can do two full-time jobs when those positions are head of organizations that employ hundreds and spend hundreds of millions around the world. "

    And their Xmas shoe box program is simply more money-grabbing sleeze of the Grahams !!

    November 19, 2012 at 7:42 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 19, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.'.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
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      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
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      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
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      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "John 3:16" degenerates to;
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • stoneyage

      If prayer changes things, how come all the fasting, all-night praying, bleating and braying didn't put the Mormon in the White House? Not only that, but he was soundly trounced by the black guy. Isn't that considered a response from God?

      November 19, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 19, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • louis

      Neither is lying to children and scaring them with ridiculously terrible stories. Oh, and let's not forget the systematic abuse that they have suffered for centuries.

      November 19, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • sam stone

      "A soul is something parents use to scare kids, like the boogieman or Michael Jackson" – Bart Simpson

      November 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  7. Mdreader

    Proverbs 22:16....Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:47 am |
  8. Steph

    Mr Graham, you will be held accountable for your actions. You have compromised on what you believed and made a mockery of us all. To make it worse you have brought shame on the name of Christ and all the love and grace he came to give. Stay out of politics.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:00 am |
  9. Cindy

    On my....first Graham mentions economic doldrums and then says preachers should stay out of economics. He just likes to hear himself talk! Also, if the economic doldrums is a sign of some sort, what sign is the drought in the middle of the U.S. where most of the conservative Republicans live? I need a better preacher than this one....

    November 19, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  10. Graham is a Hypocrite

    What a liar and a hypocrite!! Graham told CNN "“I don’t want to be involved in calling people names,”... however, in the past he had no problem calling President Obama names, did he? These are the people of whom Christ said "Get away from Me, I never knew ye!" when they said to Him "Lord, Lord, didn't I do this and that in Your Name?" All Graham's charitable works will be like filthy rags on that great and terrible day of Judgment.

    November 19, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • Cindy

      Right on!

      November 19, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  11. Paladin

    I have always wondered how a person claiaming to be doing the Lord's work ends up being a multi-millionaire? From Pat Robertson to Jimmy Swaggart to Jim Baker to ... the list goes on and on. My ideal is the priest in Les Miserables who actually shows the true character of a true follower of Christ by forgvingng the jail escapee who steals from him even thought he had given him refuge. He changed this person forever by his act of mercy and kindness, which I am sorry to say is forever absent today from most of those who profess to be followers of Christ, especially the reverands and the like.

    November 18, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  12. Virginia

    Christians and non-Christians all over the world, had a great admiration for Billy Graham as an Evangelist and spreader of the Word and the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior. For me, that has ended with this action and I am ashamed that Mr. Graham sold out his faith for politics. This was not an act of a godly man but of someone that values politics more than God. What a shame for the damage he has done to Christianity! God reminded me of the following Scripture:
    Matthew 7:22-23
    New International Version (NIV)
    22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    November 18, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  13. calvin

    Franklin you may certainly continue with your selective political concerns and the selective sins that concern you. I do not agree with your message and choose to listen to pastors who remember what their calling was and is from our Lord.

    November 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Barb

      Well, there's no god, so based on your criterion, you don't actually have anyone at all to listen to.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  14. Scott

    Franklin, i can pretty much guarantee I know more bible then you.

    Please don't seek to speak about such things ...... ESPECIALLY when seeking to take away some one else's choice to the contrary.

    Converts might come and seek you out in the end ......... kind of a long process.

    November 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • The Taught Police

      Scott, then was a time to use 'than'. Whose who's are you hewing into hues? There are two tu's to your tutu too. It's time for its correct usage.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Scott

      The taught police .......

      Always a pleasure.

      November 18, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  15. Martin

    WOW! Talk about compromise; Franklin does not want to be mean or call anyone bad names? Jesus was not like that, He called the religious leaders Vipers, snakes, liars, evil, and lots more. What the Graham's are doing by not calling Mormons what they are, is nothing but compromise. Said that he also has issues with the Catholics and puts them together with Mormons is crazy; The Catholics believe in the heart of the Gospel that Jesus Christ is God, while the Mormons don't.

    November 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Scott

      Martin, perspective is everything, and when one seeks to subject others to their own perspective truth takes a holiday.

      Such is religion ............ for most.

      November 18, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  16. K

    #4. Really? So you don't give a crap about social justice then, Mr. Graham? This isn't a relevant, religious issue?

    #3. If God wanted to smite us, he would simply kill us all slowly ... oh, wait a minute. That describes one of your sermons. Maybe you're right on this one.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  17. renegade98

    I've never thought highly of Billy Graham. Not my cup of tea.

    November 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  18. 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 articles 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 Grahams are in truth enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18). They serve after the god of this world (Gal. 4:8), an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).

    For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, this includes politics (1 John 5:4).

    Christ did not pray for this world (including social issues), and neither did the apostles or do the believers (John 17:9,16).

    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 18, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Josh

      ....So if you are so against the world... Why does your organization have a place on the evil internet?

      November 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • insight

      You revealed yourself, this is a rubber stamp of cult : "When we first came into our faith in 1984 and God started to transform and teach us in His holy ways"

      November 19, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • AvdBerg

      insight

      They called it a cult two thousand years ago and they crucified its leader. They still call it a cult today but the believers call it 'The Body of Christ'.

      http://WWW.AWORLDDECEIVED.CA

      November 19, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • TROLL ALERT

      AvdBerg is a well known troll on this blog, they are only here to sell their book and website to support their cult. Don't bother going to their website, click the report abuse link instead.

      November 19, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • AvdBerg

      Make sure to visit our website to find the truth http://www.gaychristian101.com

      November 19, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  19. Dick46

    Hard for me to listen to a "Christian Preacher" that makes $ 1.3 million per year.

    November 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • PB

      I really don't understand the hostility toward pastors being rich. Rich people can do a lot of good things with their money. When God blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he gave them great wealth. Jesus was poor by choice....is that the reason?

      November 19, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • PB

      How much do you think is acceptable for a "Christian Preacher" and why?

      November 19, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  20. Surthurfurd

    I wonder what Graham's view is of Walmart and other businesses that capitalize on religious holidays and force workers to go to work on Thanksgiving just to get more sales?

    November 18, 2012 at 5:15 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.