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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. Donald in CA

    I always wondered what side was Billy Graham on during the civil rights struggle. I cant find him in any of the marches for voting and civil rights during the fifties and sixties.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  2. gahh

    Hahaha, GW Bush was seen with Billy Graham before the 2000 election. This led the Christian Conservatives to believe, Bush was one of them, that and the fact he was constantly shown praying. Bush then showed everybody, how wrong they were. He started 2 wars, killing hundreds of thousands of inocent people, bankrupted the country, gave Nuclear Technology to foreign countries, and all the christans that voted for him, were left stupid. This is why religion, needs to be left out of politics. Anybody who didn't learn from GW Bush, needs to send their money directly to Karl Rove and the Super Pacs.

    November 20, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Matt

      The country has not gone bankrupt, but it may soon. Christians are not against war. Do you know anything about Christianity or current events? GW Bush is authentic. Obama is a pretender who uses his "christian faith" to get the votes of ignorant Christians.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • right4life

      In the Old Testament God told Israel to kill everyone before they settled in the promised land. God isn't neutral on the subject.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • sam stone

      "GW Bush is authentic. Obama is a pretender who uses his "christian faith" to get the votes of ignorant Christians."

      Why do you think that GW Bush is any more sincere about his religious beliefs than Obama?

      November 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  3. A. Fleming

    Franklin Graham is a disgrace to his father's legacy. He pimps the good name and reputation of his father for his own selfish and divisive purposes. His claim to religious purity is also shallow, baseless. and shameful. And in addition to his hypocrisy (conveniently deleting the reference to Mormonism as a cult from their web site), he is also apparently remarkably ignorant about the history and tenets of the religion that he professes to follow or even worse help lead. I refer specifically to Franklin's ignorant rants that Muslims pray to a different God than Christians and Jews. He must know that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all children of Father Abraham and the God of Abraham is the God of them all .. that's right , Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh and Allah are all names of the self-same God of Father Abraham. Franklin doesn't seem to know Ishmael and Issac were both sons of Abraham. And if by chance he does know this fact but peddler this divisive rant as a deceptive attempt to further separate brothers from brothers, then he is not only ignorant... he's evil .. and an evil person will do anything to advance his selfish goals .. even manipulate the works and words of a good father in his old age.

    November 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Matt

      Christians and Muslims do pray to a different god. Ask any Christian who actually understands their religion and they will tell you that. The fact that the two religions have a common familial origin and use the same names for god does not mean that they worship the same god. And you do understand that the word "cult" has a name and that a religious group can change over time to move in or out of that definition, right?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Matt

      Christians and Muslims do pray to a different god. Ask any Christian who actually understands their religion and they will tell you that. The fact that the two religions have a common familial origin and use the same names for god does not mean that they worship the same god. And you do understand that the word "cult" has a DEFINITION and that a religious group can change over time to move in or out of that definition, right?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  4. An Independent Voter

    In this case, the acorn did fall far far from the tree. Frankling is nothing like Billy. I had several friends tell me they are hesitant to donate to Semaritans Purse because of the huge salary Frankling takens for running the organization. Here is the case of a person using the good name of his honored father to benefit himself and, personally, I hope Billy does not know the man his son has beome. I was not one bit surprised when he became a benefactor for the Republican party. I gues it takes one loser to know another.

    November 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Ron

      What is his huge salary? I honestly have no idea, but I'd think that a person who wants to run the guy down based on his "huge salary" would state what it is so that the reader can judge for themselves.

      And republicans are losers? Yeah, you are an independent. I believe that.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  5. Rock of Ages

    Mr. Graham, your candidate lost. Guess God wants Obama to be President. You will tell your followers that, right? By the way, if you look at what Jesus did and listen to what Jesus said, you'll know that your political leanings are opposed to Jesus' preachings. Jesus was a liberal. It's all right there in the New Testament, if you have the courage to actually read the Bible instead of GOP propaganda.

    November 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Ron

      Please name five characteristics that Jesus shares with modern day liberals. I'd really like you to find that place where he says that the government should provide charity rather than individuals. Also, show me where he approved of abortion rights. Also, show me where he approved of a definition of marriage that doesn't include a man and a woman. Also, show me where he aproved of envy of a person based on their income or wealth. And you do understand that the word liberal means something specific with regards to the American political system but it can mean something else depending on the place and time, right? The meaning has even changed since the time of the Founders.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • sam stone

      ron: our government is not here to codify your religious views on marriage. gay marriage is a civil rights issue. if you don't support equal rights for all, you are a bigot. if you use the bible to support your exclusionary view, you are a pious bigot

      November 21, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • sam stone

      "And you do understand that the word liberal means something specific with regards to the American political system but it can mean something else depending on the place and time, right? The meaning has even changed since the time of the Founders."

      As has conservative

      November 21, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  6. Carrie Higby

    I am sick and tired of these "Christian" "leaders" indicating or plainly stating that the lack of a nation to follow their god and their "holy" books laws end up being the reason why ANYTHING bad ever happens in or to a country. Once again its the good old fear mongering and hateful insinuations...similar to those that led to the rise of Hitler, the massacres in Rwanda, and in the Congo, etcetera etcetera. JUST SAY NO TO HATE!!! In this case the Evangelical Christian Church of the USA!!! They refuse to believe in climate change, but the hurricane and/or other "super storms" (as well as the economic downturn), are caused by the moral decline of the people of the USA?? Why do we give these uneducated, glazed-eyed looking cult followers interviews???

    November 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Ron

      There is no causal relationship between views on climate change and status as an evangelical Christian. I am an evangelical Christian and I have a post doctorate. I'd bet I have more education than you. So where does that leave your cliched views?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Howell

      Honestly, you should like you hate religious people. Your words and your actions are against each other.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  7. gladiatorgrl

    1) know what happens when a pregnant woman goes to a church for "charity"? They give her some "donated" food/clothes and a list of gov't agencies – no TAX EXEMPT money spent here.

    2) they go on "missions" a/k/a proselytizing then write it off on their TAXES as a charitable work.

    3) Televangelists live an extremely wealthy lifestyle TAX EXEMPT yet still many hungry/poor/homeless.

    TAX THE CHURCHES!!!

    November 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Ron

      That may happen, and what is wrong with donated items? But Christian churches do much more than that. Many give cash to people who are in bind. Many give new items to people who need them. Mine does. And your comment about Televangelists live an extremely wealthy lifestyle. I am sure some do? So what? Do you judge all groups by the worst among them and then paint the whole group with a broad brush? Or do you only do that to religious people?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  8. wondering

    what has changed to remove mormon from being an occlut. maybe my question should be why was it called an occult. It appears to me again christianity is tainted by its leaders who chose to make something alright because of what they want. Why can't franklin support Romney and still call mormon what he called it before. So when someone from the Church of Satan decides to run for office on the republican platform will this group be also removed from the list of occults. I am a conservative and a christian, and believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and only Begotten Son of God. The loser in the election was every preacher that chose to accept mormonism as another christian denomination because they supported Romney. The election is over and Mitt has his belief, Obama has his belief but what happens to every congregation that changed thier position on who Jesus is? because you cant change your position on mormonism without changing it on Jesus. What do you now believe Mr Graham. Is Jesus still the only way. To the bible seminary that minimised mormonism so Romney can win, is Jesus the only son of God or does he now have a brother called lucifer. Its not about the good that Mitt does, if tax records are anything to go by then he gives more than most christians percentage wise. But its not our deeds that determines whether we believe in Jesus and who he is, ITS who we say he is and the arguments we answer. Mr Graham has done alot and has been a great leader but his responsibilty for peoples souls is far greater than who he thinks will make a better president. I am not saying Obama or Romney, but i am saying support a candidate and his ablities without changing your beliefs to support your position. Its always the gospel that becomes compromised when we change who our statements of faith to suit our decision on a matter. Mormonism is only one such issue, on poverty, churches that have programmes to help the poor saying the problem is that Obama supports helping the poor therefore he is communist takes way honor. The pulpit is what loses each time our christian leaders chose what they think is more important. In the bible jesus was grieved by how the leaders protested that he had healed on a sabbath. Our christain leaders do the same when the object to what is kind, good and merciful because it is done by someone we do not agree with.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Chris

      Thank you 'Wondering'! Exactly! Very frustrated by my christian friends and family that supported Romney and seemed to llook the other way about the truth about mormonism. The bible warns us of just this but it is still sad to see.

      November 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  9. gladiatorgrl

    TAX THE POLITICAL CHURCH!!! Let them write off their "charitable" work against their income like everyone else.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Carrie Higby

      I AM WITH YOU GLADIATORGRL!!! They want to be involved in politics and campaign against or for things they should loose their tax exempt status!!! WE ARE NOT A THEOCRACY and NEVER WILL BE!!!

      November 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Ron

      Your commets show you have no clue about the charitable work that churches do. Please educate yourself because you sound like a fool. Do you care about the truth? Are you strong enough to have an open mind and admit that you are wrong?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  10. tessalyn

    How easy it is to label someone b/c you don't want to listen to what he REALLY is saying. Villify him b/c he is a conservative. Don't examine his message because it might disturb your stereotypical thinking. He lives his message on the front line of helping all people regardless of their beliefs. What are YOU sacrificing to help the needy? Its easy to shoot down our soldiers on the front line.

    November 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  11. Tom Paine

    Not buying it Franklin.

    November 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  12. JSD

    I would like to know how a person such, as Mr. Billy Graham does not follow the road that Christ played by not getting involved in politics since his kingdom is no part of the world. Can someone give a bible-based answer on that?

    Thank you

    November 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • DougN

      Back in the 90's Parade magazine cornered Billy Graham about his political beliefs since he seemed to be friends with both parties. He said that he felt the Democratic party most closely followed the teachings of Christ. Now that he is 94 I guess his radically conservative son gets to speak for him.

      November 20, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • popseal

      Every prophet of the Bible, including Jesus, had a great deal to say to the politicians of their days. They called those politicians everything from fornicators to a pit of vipers. Most lost their lives for telling the truth. See John the Baptist n your New Testament. See the biograppy of Deitrich Bonhoeffer as he , a German Lutheran minister, was murdered in Flossenberg Concentration Camp a few days before the Allies found his remains there, 1945. Any so called preacher who today holds his peace in the face of the evil afflicting America is a coward. Few people we send to elected office do anything but feather their own nests at our expense, the country be damned. The ones who cry the loudest about their phoney doctrine of seperation of church and state are the most guilty of my charge. Innocence has nothing to fear from a good mnister or his message.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Bill Sedgwick

      There are many. Here are a few.

      Mark 12:17
      And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.

      Acts 4:18-19
      And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

      I Peter 2:13 -17
      Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Steve

      So if God's kingdom is not of this world then Christians should do nothing to make the world a better place? Isn't that what we do when we get involved in politics? Work to get policies in place that we think will benefit the country? That is what I do as a Christian republican. At this point in time, I believe the republican policies are what will benefit the country the most. The answer to your question seems like common sense. If you don't think Christians should be involved on political issues, then I don't see how you can say they should help the poor. But I'd bet you think they should help the poor.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  13. Tony Hamelin from St. Louis, MO

    It was all about money, power and influence and nothing to do with Christ and the his true message. When folks like the Grahams pimp out The Lord for personal agendas, they are not agents of The Lord. Even Satan can quote the bible.

    November 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  14. Jim

    I am a Christian and I disagree with the ads published in newspapers by Billy Graham. It is hypocritical to encourage Christians to vote for a party that calls the poor "victims" and "irresponsible". Read Isaiah and see what God says about how the poor should be treated and how the rich abuse people. I think Franklin Graham is abusing the good reputation Billy built over many years of serving Christ.

    November 20, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Steve

      First – I have never heard a "party" say anything. So please state who said what and provide the context. Second, you don't think a lot of the poor in the USA are irresponsible? I know that describes people in my own family. People who are poor as a result of their own irresponsible behaviors. Describing why they are poor does not mean that you refuse to help them. I think you have bought into demonization of republicans. Have you seen the research that shows that religious conservatives give more to charity (time and money) than liberals? I believe the book is called "who really cares". You may want to reevaluate your stereotypes and cliches regarding republicans and conservatives.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Steve

      And please show many anywhere in the Bible where Christians are called to give money to the government for charity rather than provide that charity themselves voluntarily. One party has more in common with Christian values and it isn't the party of abortion rights, gay marriage, perpetual dependence on the government, dumbing down schools, intolerance of religion, intolerance of differing views, racism, etc, etc – in case you can't figure it out, I am describing the democrat pary.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • sam stone

      steve: gay marriage is about equal rights under the law. what could you have against equal treatment?

      November 21, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  15. Grumpy

    My Grandfather was a staunch Democrat who held Billy Graham in very high regard. Grandpa never missed a televised Billy Graham revival broadcast and even sent in donations every now and then. One thing is for sure, if Dr. Graham had ever come off as a blithering Republican or crossed the line to endorse any political candidate, Grandpa's respect and support for Graham and his ministry would have gone out the window. Franklin must have been raised by someone other than the TV preacher my Grandfather watched.

    November 20, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Howell

      Times have changed a lot since your grandpa was watching Graham. Have you noticed the steep moral decline in the USA since the late 1960's? Changing times require different actions. Sounds like your grandpa might have cared more about his politics than his religion?

      November 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      Howell....tell us about this steep moral decline you claim we have had

      November 21, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  16. bp

    Billy Graham is and was a far better man and man of God than his scheming, money- and power-grubbing son. It's even more shameful that the son should try to defend himself by impugning his father.

    November 20, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  17. Dave

    "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." – Jesus Christ

    Enough said.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  18. hubert39

    YEP.... Franklin is the typiclal so called Christian. The Bible says their are 617 sins. People like Frankin Graham talk only about two of the sins and ignore the other 615 sins. So called Christian called them.."good" sins. They break them every day. No problem. And people wonder why we don't respect these type preaches. Why the Christian church is losing members. Why the young are looking for a real religion.

    November 20, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • chuckt20

      First off you can't quote the 617 sins and second off, everyone is a sinner. We are talking about laws we put in place that are sins. Can you quote a law that you think consevatives should be talking about that's a sin? I thouht they should talk about murder. Partial birth abortion takes place outside the woman's body. That's not even abortion but just plain murder period. How about people talking about so called torture, but now the president just kills them with drones...Hmmmm..Can't fight that.Taking care of the poor, this president has made even more people poor and dependant on food stamps..

      November 20, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • sam stone

      "Taking care of the poor, this president has made even more people poor and dependant on food stamps."

      What any president does is impacted by the policies of his predecessor.

      November 21, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  19. jfinindiana

    "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."

    Hello Franklin Graham critics. Be careful what you say, afterall, there might come a time when a disaster will strike you, and Franklin will be right there to help you. What's round, comes around.

    November 20, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • Damocles

      Hmmm that's weird, I'd help a person out regardless of their beliefs.

      November 20, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • bp

      Graham will demand a monetary contribution and commitment to vote GOP before he will offer assistance to anyone.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • peter

      so Mr Graham is forgetting how b his dad agreed w/ Nixon. I didn't hear much criticism after Nixon left in disgrace. It's4 the "politicians problems as faer as economics is concerned" yeah thats easy for u do say FRank.. I wouyld venture to guess u never went hungry nor wanted for anything.. EVER!!! ur simply not preaching the "FULL GOSPEL" !!!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.