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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. Gordon

    Fine, Billy/Franklin Graham can be as political as they want because that is protected free speech. However, what I want to know is why isn't the IRS revoking their evangelical organization's tax-exempt status? After all, these frauds are clearly abusing this preferential tax treatment system and the conditions it came with. They absolutely can't have their cake and eat it too.

    For all the hubbub regarding who pays what amount of tax, this group of for-profit yet still tax-exempt religious profiteers the biggest hypocritical and fraudulent "patriots" of them all. Religion isn't inherently good or bad, I put no stock in organized religion of this fashion. In such a setting, it is far too easy for men like these to brainwash and coerce people into playing by their (not god or any other divine being) rules.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  2. Sir

    If you want to be political you need to be taxed.
    That would probably help this fiscal crisis we are in too...
    Just food for thought.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, then god will mysteriously stop 'punishing' the US financially. It'll be a miracle!

      November 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  3. Philojazz

    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.

    ...Immorality STARTING with himself, and his church, that is.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Jo

    Franklin G is a con man and is as far away from god as you can get. Perhaps he should explain his million dollar salary he draws from the charities he runs. Or perhaps he can explain the deceit in calling the shoe box program OPERATIONS CHRISTMAS CHILD when the boxes were never intended to get distributed for Christmas but are part of their christian conversion campaign. Or perhaps he can explain why he does not consider Catholics as christians in the stats he keeps regarding christian conversion from the shoe box campaign. Man of god indeed!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  5. Mammo

    What an unbelievable hypocrite..... these evangelicals would sleep with the devil if it were politically and/or otherwise expedient to sign up more morons to empty their pockets for tickets to heaven....Eeeeyuuuuuu!!!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  6. Nicholas

    Everyone, check out 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 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  7. Bob

    Always political? Sounds like someone owes some major back taxes.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  8. Sparknut

    Billy Graham went much further over the line in this election. Yes, he has known every President since Truman. But in this election he endorsed Romney without naming him. That's over the line. I had great respect for the man at one time. No more.

    And don't even get me started on Franklin.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  9. Byrd

    Franklin Graham is completely insane. It'll save everyone a lot of grief if he's just thrown into the same hole when his dad dies and covered over. Regrets to the Earth for having to receive such filth.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  10. tom

    What does it say about a preacher that CHANGES his RELIGIOUS views for Political gain?

    November 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • MaryJ

      That he's typical?

      November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • SokrMom

      That he should be a politician and not a preacher.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  11. Nietodarwin

    There is no "god" These two should be locked up for the con men they are. There are many many reverends who are now admitting they have no faith, and that they are con men. FFRF even has a support group for the many people of the clergy who are finally admitting they have been perpetrating a con.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Ed Sider

    The Jesus I serve also cares very much about those who experience poverty, abuse, unemployment, and dispair. He did not define spiritual health based upon two issues only, as Franklin did. God bless Billy Graham, a man who taught the value of grace and forgiveness!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  13. GianCarlo

    I agree, B. Graham is nothing but a con man who has made himself a millionaire by the foolish people that were fooled to send him money. When a religious man or religious organization begins getting involved in politics, that is a sign to run, run away as fast as you can from that individual or organization, because that is the vehicle they will use to make you donate the millions so that they can live comfy for the rest of their lives.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  14. citizenmn

    It's sad to see Billy Graham become another mouthpiece for the right wing. For most of his career he tried to keep balance between right and left. Now everything has fallen apart. His son is a complete disgrace.

    November 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • James

      Just goes to show you that money can buy anything. Romney is a rich man. Bought Franklin Graham.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  15. Lori

    You can't serve two masters..

    November 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  16. 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 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). Billy Graham is an enemy of God who serves 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 1:56 pm |
  17. Dave

    Franklin thinks God is punishing the US through its current economic performance? I doubt it. Perhaps God is punishing the US for allowing themselves to be fooled by empire moguls, multimillionaires, drug addicts, adulterers and tax evaders calling themselves "evangelists"

    November 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  18. Dapinter

    Franklin Graham IS NOT his Father. The Rev. Billy Graham is very respected. His son is a hypocrite who does not follow the example set by his Dad!

    November 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  19. Jo

    The Grahams take millions for themselves!!! They are the most corrupt scammers!!! And have the SMALLEST minds!!!!

    November 15, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • KDintheMC

      Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the word "smallest" happens to be the largest in that sentence (in all caps)?

      November 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      white letters

      November 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  20. WhereIsPalin

    You can change your website again, claiming that Mormonism is a cult.

    November 15, 2012 at 1:50 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.