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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. Dr. Physics

    When the Reverend Grahams can explain a god who allows millions of innocent human beings, including babies, to die needlessly of preventable disease, slow starvation, lack of potable water, terrorists, and civil war based genocide then perhaps a rational conversation could be had about the presence and effectiveness of a god. There is much in the bible about mankind's "free will" as an excuse for the horrors above. Well, if god is omnipotent and all powerful, that implies god enjoys free will, also. Simultaneously, god is supposedly benevolent, merciful, and kind. Therefore, god has purposefully allowed man's free will to torture, starve, and cause millions to die from disease. I would hope that god's free will would prevail against the horrors of mankind's free will. From time immemorial, this has not happened. God has proven to be a disaster, more demon than god-like, having neither grace or compassion.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • HM8432

      So what about Satan's influence in the world that stemmed from Original Sin? Everyone is quick to blame God, but in recent years, Satan has been taken out of the theological dialogue, and simply not discussed.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    - Epicurus [341–270 B.C.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  3. RadicalModerate

    “When it comes to the taxes – whether you should tax the wealthy more or the poor more, I’m not into that,” he said. Taxing the poor is a social issue! You would think that someone who leads a humanitarian aid organization would understand that. Blinded by mindless conservatism.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Colorista

      Taxation is, indeed, a social issue. The plain fact is that Graham's primary interest has nothing to do with the welfare of the masses – only how much tax-free dough he can fleece out of them while flaunting the laws that are supposed to keep these 501C religious folks out of politics. We as a nation need to step on these folks. Hard.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  4. Cy Bode

    since god is the final arbitrator I guess he favors Obama
    smart choice , I suspect he will favor Hillary in 2016 and 2020 .

    November 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Evangelical

      No, voters in their iniquity chose Obama. God does not take away free will.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      And yet in your bible it states that all governments and authorities are put there by god. So which is it?

      November 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      hawaii: you know the answer to that. it is only god's will when it agrees with eva. after all, he/she/it is god's spokesperson....not to mention being a diseased gash

      November 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Tom

      +1

      November 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Meh, I only ask because it's an easy way to get evangelical to run like a scared little bitch.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  5. Karen

    Franklin Graham has systematically brought down the ministry that his father worked so hard to build. I am a Christian, but I do not think the church should condemn people because they are gay, or because they have an abortion. God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the church could open their doors to minister to the people that need them the most? Jesus would. Franklin Graham is quoted as saying that he doesn't think the chuch should preach against taxes, etc. Well, that is convenient for this past election. I pay 30% tax rate...but HIS candidate only paid 13%. Matthew 22:21 talks about "rendering unto Caeser what is his", so the Bible does talk about taxes. The church loses people when they start picking and choosing which parts of the Bible they will support and speak out for or against. God is love. Shouldn't the church be filled with people who want to share God's love rather than just bully a whole segment of people?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  6. SnapinTurtle

    If he wasn't "c-opting" his father then his father would be giving the interview. The very fact this piece exists proves F Graham is running the Evangelical machine like a business to keep his own image relevant.

    Billy Graham met with every president, but he never ran ads like the ones he supposedly ran this year. He was famous for NOT making endorsements on politicians now at 94 he had a personality change? It cannot possibly be Christian to take advantage of someone else's legacy to push your own agenda.

    Yes we are living in sin and have been since the dawning of man. Claiming divine dissatisfaction is as old as language itself.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • illed

      I am very sad to see what Franklin is doing to his dad, and his Dad's reputation.

      How hypocritical of him to not want to call the Mormon's names, but if someone, a non-Mormon is telling him that her's a Christian, he doesn't believe it. Give me a break.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  7. Be not deceived

    Law
    How I wish that you would kill all cruel and heartless people and protect me from them! They are always rebelling and speaking evil of you. You know I hate anyone who hates you, Lord, and refuses to obey. They are my enemies too, and I truly hate them. Look deep into my heart, God, and find out everything I am thinking. Don’t let me follow evil ways, but lead me in the way that time has proven true.

    Grace
    “Father, forgive these people! They don’t know what they’re doing.”

    November 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  8. tanya

    "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires" Susan B. Anthony
    True dat.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Raj

    So it was god who was favoring the Roman Empire, the British Empire, Genghis Khan, The Ottoman Empire?

    Who'd have thought it.

    He's obviously not concerned about his father's legacy. There aren't all that many people, even on the right trying to take credit for getting George W Bush elected.

    Still suppose it's a good thing. At least we didn't get Al Gore and waste all that time tackling climate change when we could spend the money on invading Iraq.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  10. tepeters

    Read your book carefully you so called christians-Jesus really only admonished two kinds of people. He chastised the rich for putting their wealth above other people; and he condemned the self-righteous for putting themselves above other people.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Gerry Daley

    Utter BS from a hater. The elder Graham has nothing to be proud of either...he sat out the Civil Rights movement to avoid aggravating his Southern base....Father and son are both snake oil salesman.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Just how exactly is Franklin Graham a hater? Because you said so?

      November 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • sam stone

      Eva: How exactly is your view of god correct? Because you say so?

      November 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • sam stone

      eva: frankie and his doddering old daddy seek to deny others their civil rights, to start with. you will defend them, but you are a bigot

      November 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      These charlatans are about money and power, they have brokered their once tiny canvas tent evangelism in to huge cathedrals, media empires, dozens of organizations all hell bent on telling us how we should live our lives according to their particular interpretation of the Bible. They are greedy and power hungry and hide behind a phony air of righteous indignation to support class warefare, reversal of womens rights, reversal of non-whites rights, engage on a new front of social alienation all in the name of God. While the "old way" of worshiping this 3 millennial old book is giving way to more spiritaually awakened beliefs. These beliefs are the true future of humanity's success and are inclusive and expanding the concept of a higher power, human rights, economic balance, health care and a host of other issues including science as a source of information rather than the enemy. The Graham family wants to fight our spiritual future because it doesnt give them money or power. It empowers people and all large corporations hate that. The church is a huge corporation believe it or not.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Evangelical

      "The Graham family wants to fight our spiritual future because it doesnt give them money or power."

      I 100% agree with the Graham family, and I hardly have any money or power.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Be not deceived

      SurelyUjest,
      No need for a new way if we only remember and apply “judge not.”

      November 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  12. PJK

    To the Graham conglomerate – Give unto Caesar..........

    November 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  13. Robert

    Of The People, by the People, for the People, with God's guidance, and the active Spirit of Truth !

    November 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Horus

      For some reason the "spirit of truth" and religions like Christianity don't seem to fit well together......

      November 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      As I recall it's just "government of the people, by the people, for the people,"

      Not "government of the 99%, by the lobbied interests, for the 1%" which is the GOP's approach.

      You fundies are their pawns in this game.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  14. Evangelical

    Franklin Graham you hit the nail on the head. Pay no attention to the atheists and ho.mos.exuals trolling on this Belief Blog. God is turning his back on our once great nation. We are now officially in the moral sewer.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      eva: you are a bigot

      you can go f yourself, punk

      November 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • == o ==

      "We are now officially in the moral sewer."

      Awwww look, it's one of Graham's ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writers".

      November 15, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • sam

      Great, one of our favorite crazycakes trolls is back. Hey Evangelical: even the worst stand up comedians have to change their routines once in a while or the audience will memorize the jokes. Get new material.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Dont worry Frankie wont even read these blogs, he is too busy counting the money folks like you work hard for all week just to dump in his pocket. Blessed Be!

      November 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Evangelical

      @SurelyUjest

      If I choose to give money to Franklin Graham, it is my business. It is no concern of yours where and to whom I give my money.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  15. Brian

    "Billy Graham is one of the great Christian leaders of all time.".

    That's like saying Jeffrey Dahmer was a vegetarian. If Christ came to America today He would vomit at the sight of "Christians" like Graham.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. vicnormal

    1- The likes of Billy Graham and his ilk would be disavowed and torn asunder by Jesus. He and his followers were exactly the figures Jesus preached were the ones that he preached against.

    2- Franklin Grahams confessions prove that the Billy Graham ministrys and all others that alike should pay taxes on any and all moneys they make above expenses. They have profit motives and should be taxed accordingly. They "preach" and require followers to a given political outcome, it is now proven!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Barbara

    The Grahams are from a dying breed of bigots – who gives a fvck what they think. This election has propelled them into the inconsequential category along with Donald Trump. Mourdock, Aikens, etc.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  18. Robert

    Christians Must talk about the Budget, and taxing the Rich ( Privileged Class ).

    Love , according to Christ is to be Radiant in the Heart , Mind, and with all your strength.

    Sharing, and caring is Love... and the Greed, and the Privileges of the few, at the sake of the many disadvantaged is immoral. The Country of America is in great Moral Decay . Sodom and Gomorrah level, and God's retribution is at the Door, knocking loudly, Repent !

    November 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • whocares

      Top Ten Signs You're a Christian in Name Only
      10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
      9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
      8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
      7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Al lah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
      6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
      5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
      4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
      3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some id iot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christian
      2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
      1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, catholicism and church history – but still call yourself a Christian

      November 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Horus

      Sodom and Gomorrah have been explained by science, and archeaology.... it's called a meteor shower. I suppose God did that too......

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

      Your Dagger is far too blunt to cut my Hair, let alone penetrate my Heart .

      November 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Robert

      Who you going to believe, Man anbd His Science, or the Creator, even a Fly had Wings long before Man .

      November 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      robert: no repentence necessary. get off your knees

      November 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • fblove

      The Bible says not to get entangled in the affairs of the world. Billy Graham is a hypocrite, he is a wolf in sheeps clothing. If he truly cared for the sheep he would not have taken down information on Mormonism being a cult so that Americans would choose the cult follower over the cult leader. He panders to men and is a man-pleaser rather than a lover of God. – eternian.wordpress.c0m

      November 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • sam stone

      i would believe man and science far before i would believe in the translated, edited hearsay from iron age sheep mounters

      November 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Horus

      Who am I going to believe? Well let's think about this for a moment. Any doctrine posing to be the word of any particular creator is simply that dreamed up by man and completely unsupported. Whereas "science" requires tangible repeatable and reviewable evidence that is critiqued by the world. So I think I'll go with what we know, rather than what some want to believe.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  19. Jo

    Beware of an Organization in your church and town called Operation Christmas Child!!!! They get all the churches to pack shoe boxes for children!!!! This is Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse!!! They send them with Billy Graham literature about Sin to unsuspecting children who are then followed up with Fundamentalist Missionaries to miss up the children's minds!!!! Franklin rakes off millions from his 'religious/political' scheme!!!!! Beware!!!

    November 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • HM8432

      Gasp! That's so terrible, giving poor kids new, free sneakers for Christmas. So what if they get a friendly Christian message on the side? At least they're doing something positive to help the less fortunate through humanitarian works; that's what Jesus intended for Christians to do, and there's nothing wrong with it. It's a lot better for the kids than the c**p they get from watching television, or from our superficial trash culture!

      November 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • sam

      @HM8432 – bullshit. It's self serving advertising cloaked in the guise of humanitarianism. Tell yourself whatever makes you feel better, though.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • HM8432

      And you've done what? Call it what you want, but at the end of Christmas day, it's still a gift you would not of had otherwise.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • HM8432

      Call it what you want. However, at the end of Christmas day, those kids would have gotten gifts that they otherwise would not have received...especially if it was up to an athiest, who contribute nothing meaningful to anyone, especially kids. I'm not a devout Christian, but looking at things from outside the box, it's pretty obivious that it's Christians, and not athiests who do more to contribute to humanitarian and charitable causes overall. Do something worthwhile to help others, and you might have an argument. Until then, I have yet to see you working at the soup kitchen, as Quagmire put it...

      November 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  20. Reality

    The "profit" mongers strike again:

    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. "

    November 15, 2012 at 2:43 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.