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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. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !...............time to EVOLVE !

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    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

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    Holy Hallucinations 35

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    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

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    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

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    Peace

    May 4, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  2. John Fenner

    Rev. Franklin Graham saw the Iraq War as away to evangelize Iraq.
    In fact, the Iraq War led to the destruction of Iraq's 2,000-year-old Christian community.
    His father would not have approved, if he were younger.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  3. farmer

    Let me start by saying that I am a Christian and I am proud to be one. I think the church is no place for politics. I do think as americans each individual has the right to believe whatever and however they want. But..... think on this, read the ten comandments. If all americans christians and non christians alike were to abide by the laws of those ten comandments would this not be a better country?

    November 25, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Sam Stone

      some of them, yes

      November 26, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • Mirosal

      Why do you want non-christians to follow YOUR religious "law"? You talk about no religion in politics, yet you just said you would like EVERYONE to follow what YOUR "holy book" says ... hypocrite.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • shoe farmer

      farmer, you're a christian and you admit it? Too funny. It's like calling yourself stupid.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  4. Leftcoastrocky

    "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." Franklin obviously knew it was there, and it is very sad that a religious man would publicly lie like that.

    November 25, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • shoe farmer

      sad, but par for the course for a god fraudster.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  5. Leftcoastrocky

    Franklin, it is unfortunate that you are damaging the image and legacy of your father. He was one of the most respected men in the country, and outside of your own little following you are one of the least respected. Either be a politician or a preacher.

    November 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  6. Dianne Ramandt

    It is true that you can not reach people for Christ with name calling, but you do have to speak the truth in love. You can't blink an eye to things that are not biblical and according to God's Word. We do have to be BOLD about our convictions, even if we can't agree on certain things with those who are in power. All I know; Christ was not a Capitalist, and countries who have their big companies thrife on withholding the poor's proper wages, will in the end weep and howl for their heaped up treasures. There's a lot of things we as Christians have to fight for and that includes putting the Bible back in the schools. Afterall, shouldn't our children learn what it contans? Some day they might have to swear on the Bible to tell the truth in a court of law. Christians need to become bold about many things they have allowed to happen.

    November 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Yes, Diane, children should learn what's in the Bible, and the Koran, and the Book of Mormon, and Dianetics, and all the other books that religions are based on, when they're in their religious studies class. Anywhere else, and it's an imposition of someone else's faith on my child!

      Would you like your children to be educated in Islam all during their schooling?

      November 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Leftcoastrocky

      The Bible does NOT belong in public schools. If you want your own children to be exposed to a specific religious upbringing do it out of the public schools. Please leave my children alone as far as religion goes and I will leave yours alone.

      November 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Sam Stone

      Dianne If you want your children to learn about the bible, teach them yourself, or let your church teach them. Keep it out of the public schools. Why is that so hard for the pious to understand?

      November 26, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Sam Stone

      Also, Dianne, you seem to have an issue confusing faith and knowledge.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  7. Nietodarwin

    T H E P E T I T I O N S I T E has one to remove Marco Rubio from the science committee

    November 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  8. ProudLiberal58

    Hey, since Franklind just admitted in his own words that Billy has always been political, why can't the IRS go back and sock his organizations for back taxes back to the day that they were founded? This might go a long way toward paying off the National debt, if not entirely! Now, let's watch them all backpedal and change their tune once again. Hebrews 13:8 – don't you know?

    November 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  9. Nicholas

    All, please read what Franklin Graham's fellow Southern Baptist Al Mohler has been up to:

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/11/07/phillip-gunn-sbts-al-mohler-legal-rightmoral-right/

    November 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  10. dave

    political is the opposite of Christian - read the Gospels

    November 24, 2012 at 5:08 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.