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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. Mom

    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.”

    Let me finish your statement Franklin, "...because we're tax exempt."

    November 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Don't forget that he's also one of those exceedingly rich people. Talking about economic equality would necessarily have the wealthy paying more, and he doesn't like that.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • ThatOneGuy

      That actually sounds right in line with scripture. Now whether or not you agree with the Bible, he does and at least on this issue he seems to be acting like it.

      Jesus talked about "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, render unto God what is God's." Jesus was talking specifically about taxes in this scripture. As far as abortion and gay marriage, Jesus didn't specifically speak (in fact, I don't know anywhere it talks about abortion in the Bible, probably because abortion really wasn't around in a controlled setting like it is today.) Paul speaks a few times about ho.mose.xua.lity.

      My point is, whether you agree with his beliefs or not, it sounds like, on these issues, he is speaking about them from a Biblical standpoint...which is more than a lot of other preachers do.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @THatOneGuy

      One of the largest problems I have with people like Graham, is that continue to spout the idiocy of "moral decline" as if that's the only thing that matters. They pretend that if only the government would kowtow to their religious views of abortion and LGBT rights, then all of sudden everything will be all nice and rosy and good and awesome in a few months. People buy into that moronically simplistic view, and people like Graham shore up a base for the right wing asshats this way election after election.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • ThatOneGuy

      @Hawaii,

      My biggest problem with a lot of these evangelists is that they spend so much time telling people that they're doing wrong, that they don't spend enough time acting like Jesus. You know, being loving, humble, and forgiving. I don't understand why the Christian faith has to go on the offensive blasting abortions and gays. Why not just love on them and stop judging them for what they are doing? You don't have to agree with it, but Jesus taught his disciples to love people unconditionally.

      What they don't see is that they actually drive people further away from God than they do bashing them in the head with the Bible!

      November 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  2. PumpNDump

    ALL Televangelists and religious people of this stature are parasites. Get rid of them. Theology and the belief in the imaginary flying spaghetti monster has NOTHING to do with governance and solving real problems.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  3. Dyslexic doG

    a religion based on an invisible sky daddy that impregnated another mans virgin wife to recreate itself then "sacrifice" itself to itself to atone for a faulty creation it made but knew full well before hand that it's creation would be faulty.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Be not deceived

      God is not mocked

      November 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Horus

      @ "Be not...." – seems like Dyslexic did a pretty good job at mocking one of man's creations so that sort of makes your statement false.....

      November 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      Be not: God is certainly mocked. Your god is a petty, vindictive pr!ck

      November 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  4. ja

    at one years ago i had a measure of respect for billy graham, but there is a time and season for all things, and is time for billy to shut up, and be the christian that he claims to be

    November 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  5. Jeff B

    Graham the elder got burned with his relationship with Nixon and had been following a much more politically neutral path in his later years. (He almost endorsed Nixon in 1960, but decided not to at the last minute.) Billy Graham is one of the great Christian leaders of all time, and I have supported the BGEA for many years. Unfortunately, Franklin's reckless comments have damaged the credibility of the ministry virtually beyond repair. I'm sure he's sincere and devoted, but Franklin simply does not have his father's stature, tact, intelligence or ability. He should never have been chosen to take over the BGEA.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  6. grist

    They should lose their tax-exempt status for endorsing politicians. Heck, they should lose it anyway. Why shouldn't they pay taxes which go to build the roads to their beautiful mega-Church? How utterly immoral to say that we should just worry about denying gays their rights and limiting the choice of women to control their bodies and to say we should not worry about the tax code which has become less and less progressive (ie, hurts the poor). And for him to say he did not know that Mormonism was listed on their site as a cult when it had been widely known in public, well that is just unbelievable; it is just a lie. And I think there is something about lying in the 10 commandments he believes in.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    God is an ever receeding pocket of scientific ignorance.

    - deGràsse Tyson

    November 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  8. coder20601

    You are saved as long as you believe his way, religion is poison to the world, religion never has and never will do any good for anyone. One day mankind will step out of the dark ages and thats when the world will be a much better place to live.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    enjoy it while it lasts Christians. Another 10 or 20 generations and the human race will look on your God and Jesus the same way as we look on Zeus and Thor and Ra (and santa claus and the tooth fairy) today. What a giggle!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Mitch

      Mmmmmh....That's exactly what Voltaire said! And look where he is now!

      November 18, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  10. Brian

    Billy Graham was recorded making anti-Semitic statements in Nixon's notorious tapes. Now he "doesn't remember." He is a professional sycophant. He was always trying to curry favor with people in power. In terms of theology his main following has always been in the backwoods of the deep South.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Dyslexic doG

    The bible is like a "Nigerian Email" from the bronze-age.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  12. ANDY OLU

    What I think every christian should do is to keep praying for our leaders as the scripture says. We should call all sin sin. We should help our fellow brothers and sisters who are in our churches and fellowships to repent and turn to God. By so doing we shall then have the moral standing to tell the perishing world of their sins. Politics has no place in the church even as water and oil do not mix.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • sam

      Sin is nonsense.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Horus

      Let me see if I have this right. You think that gathering a group of people together who believe and follow the writings of men living in a time of far less understanding somehow gives your moral standing? Seriously? Have you actually read the content of the Bible? If that's your idea of moral standing then...well....just wow.

      November 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • sam stone

      Andy: F you and your god.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    Franklin is a blatant con-man, just like Joseph Smith and L Ron Hubbard before him. When will people learn.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  14. Horus

    When cult leaders become political activist leaders their organization should no longer receive the complete exemptions that they enjoy.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  15. JB

    Even being violently opposed to religion, I've long admired Billy Graham. Only one of the lot I could say that about. Too bad the apple fell VERY far from the tree. Even sadder that his son is using him in his feeble state to advance the son's disgusting agenda.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  16. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons is a cult!

    R-i-i-i-ght!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  17. us_1776

    There is no Sky Fairy.

    Get over it.

    .

    November 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  18. fekt

    Billy Graham has always put politics ahead of religion. It's his defining trait. Politics > Religion. His flip flopping on Mormonism so he can get behind the GOP candidate Romney over the christian democrat Obama goes to show it. He not only claims that Mormonism is a cult, he had it put down as part ot the curriculum of his school. Romney shows up to run against a black democrat and suddenly it's ok to accept mormons as christians. Graham is a piece of garbage and anyone who would listen to him on religous matters need to think twice about the man and his sliding scale of morality and values.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  19. John

    LOL. Their beleifs change when it's convenient. How can anybody look to these bozos as if they speak for God? So many idiots in the world.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  20. TomNPitt

    I think Franklin is correct. I remember when his father was all over Dick Nixon saying what a great guy he was; until he was going through impeachment. Franklin's right! Billy Graham should have never had a Religious tax exemption. He was as partisan as Huckabee, except he made more money than Huckabee. These showman and their vessels should be paying the same taxes as any business. The seven-hundred clb, Frank Graham, the hour of power – any and all "shows" that ask for money are schills and should not be given any tax immunity.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:25 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.