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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. aisha

    I don't give a -- what Billy Graham thinks or what Franklin Graham thinks. Our morals also include caring about the poor. So if "you're not into that" then you're part of the problem.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  2. Admitted sinner saved by grace

    Isn't it amazing how athiests are so sure of themselves. They can even quote scriptures out of content to support their own beliefs...and they call us hypocrites. Hey athiests, just because you can boldly mock God doesnt make you right. What if....your wrong. It will be too late for you to apologize. I'm just sayin.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • just sayin

      *context
      *you're

      you religious nutters quote stuff out of context too, to support your agenda. good for you

      November 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • mike

      What if God does not judge you on your final day the same way that you think you should be judged? It will be too late for you, too.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Miso

      Um, the rad right do the same thing...cherry-pick to support their position...take things out of context...it's done ALL the time.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Admitted sinner saved by grace

      I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Barbara

      what's an athiest?

      November 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • == o ==

      The only kind of "trickle-down" that actually works:

      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" degenerates to:
      "Taskmaster" degenerates to:
      "Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      and many other names, but of course I prefer to refer to this extreme homophobe as
      the disgruntled Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer".

      November 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • == o ==

      mock mock mock mock mock mock ====>
      (that's supposed to point to "god", but since he doesn't exist, I had to leave the right side blank)

      November 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • sam

      'Wait and see' usually translates to "God is going to get you on judgment day!!"

      November 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • mike

      You really don't even have to wait and see. You can just adopt a modified belief system where God does not exist, hell does not exist, and everybody goes to heaven. Presto, you are now guaranteed to get into heaven no matter what you do and everybody is "saved."

      November 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      and, punk, the fact that you can quote iron age comic books does not make you right

      November 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Sane Person

      What if I'm wrong and your god does exist?
      I'd spit in your god's face and gladly go to hell instead of worshipping a psychopathic god.

      November 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  3. Time to grow up

    "I'm getting a bit old for imaginary friends" – visits kidswithoutgod.com

    November 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  4. Rina

    Dear God: Please protect me from some of your followers – especially the Grahams. Amen.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. Mark

    Franklin Graham needs to keep Samaritan's Purse out of politics. I've received e-mails from Graham in his role as CEO of Samaritan Purse pushing a very political agenda. This is unacceptable for a non-profit organization.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • niknak

      Dude, he is just trying to make a buck. Don't be trying to break his rice bowl.
      He and all the religious scammers are no different then any other corporate CEO. The bottom line is king.
      Any way he can keep the revenue comming in is what he will do.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  6. Henry

    What's my take? He's full of crap.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  7. Kris

    Pretty sad...Billy Graham sucking up to Mitt Romney, hoping for some kickback later. Shows you the greed Graham has, which Jesus would find disgusting.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • niknak

      IF jeebus existed, then he is one of the first mega church preachers, and as such would probably approve of how the Graham family has bilked their flock like they have to enrich themselves.
      I would imagine that jeebus would have liked to have had the resourses like they have to do more bilking then he did.

      That whole carpentry thing was not really going anywhere, as most of the skilled carpentry jobs had been outsourced to Persia.
      So he went the whole store front preacher route, and it worked rather well until he infringed on the Roman store front preachers and they had his a_zz crucified.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  8. Pete

    Graham's cult has served him well. His cult has given him riches that most people never see. His cult has filled his pockets with lots of cash.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  9. Sane Person

    How is gay marriage a moral issue?

    November 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Read your Bible. You need to get your heart right with God if you don't know the answer.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • God hates shellfish

      God doesn't exist. The bible also says tons of retarded sh.it, that Christians don't follow anymore. Explain that you fvcking hypocrite.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Justice

      If you have to ask that question, you reveal the lack of a moral standard.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • WDL

      Grahman's comments on removing Mormonism from the Website is all crap. Now, they do not support teaching on occults?
      What we Christians will do not to face our racism. God will have the last say.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Number of times money is mentioned in the New Testament: 140

      Number of times gay marriage is mentioned n the New Testament: 0

      November 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • sam

      It's not a moral issue. It's a made up hot button issue by silly fundies that can't understand that there are people unlike them in the world. They use their god as a boogeyman to pretend they're chosen and special and right.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Sane Person

      Gay marriage is NOT a moral issue. Also, the bible teaches HORRIBLE morals.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • P George

      How can one segregate fiscal issues from moral issues. If I knlw the bible correctly, the reason why God did not accept those who performed miracles in HIS name was because they did not do the things required of the marginalized, trodden, sick and poor.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Read your Bible. You need to get your heart right with God if you don't know the answer."

      Translation: The bible supports my bigotry, so I will go with it.

      "If you have to ask that question, you reveal the lack of a moral standard."

      Or, our moral standards disagree with those of iron age sheep mounters

      November 15, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  10. Jim Hahn

    It's people like Graham who take this God thing to extremes. Religion is taking less and less of a role in our society and that's an improvement. As long as he is part of the Republican party, that party is going to suffer because your adherence to religious beliefs becomes a litmus test to whether you are a good Republican or not. Until the Republican party starts treating everyone as equal, be they immigrant, female, gay or all three, they will never again be the majority party. Repentance, whatever that means, is of no effect.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Evangelical

      "Religion is taking less and less of a role in our society and that's an improvement."

      I couldn't disagree more. Secularism is the greatest evil facing society today. Look at the evil that secularism gets you, just as a few examples: normalization of ho.mos.exuality, abortion, liberalism, and putting atheism on a moral equivalence with Christianity.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • GrassIsCorrect

      If you look closely, with the decline of Christianity in our nation, so is our country declining. You can say coincidence, I would say there is a direct correlation.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Pete

      The cults of the world have only one goal. To take the money from the faitfull. If God, whom I do not beleive exists, is unhappy with the gays, the abortions, the blah blah blah...why not just let your God do the judging. It's not for you to pass judgment on anyone for any reason. BTW...Jesus was gay!

      November 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • sam

      I agree, Jim. Pay no attention to evangelical, he/she excels at this nonsense.

      Same for 'grass'. The only decline happening is in the grip the fundies have.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Evangelical, none of the things you cite are inherently evil, especially liberalism. If you think that liberalism is evil, you don't know the meaning of the word. Here's your first lesson: both conservatism and liberalism are ECONOMIC philosophies, and nothing more. They are both concerned with the role of government in the nation's economy. They are not social philosophies as you seem to think. Getting religious people to buy into the conservative economic philosophy is perhaps the biggest hoodwink in modern history...Jesus was decidedly not an economic conservative.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • UncleM

      Linking the challenges of the 21st century to a bronze age god is ridiculous. The social positions taken by evangelicals by voting for Romney are shameful.

      November 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  11. Serg

    The Democrats hate Jesus and the Republicans betray him and hold His Flock hostage for personal gains. Both are going to find out the hard way that Jesus don't take sides for He is The Way and both these parties have fallen away. Kind of reminds you of how it was 2000 years ago. They were expecting the Lion an got the Lamb. All we can see is the Lamb so expect the Lion!
    Get ready for the ROAR!

    November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • sam

      Yawn.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Akira

      Roar.
      Your welcome.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Michael

      All I hear is the buzzing of religious hypocrites like yourself who see hatred in others but can't recognize it in themselves, even as they spend 90% of their time spewing all kinds of bile towards anyone who dares to disagree or even have a different point of view. You're vindictive and insecure, and that's why people don't want to have anything to do with you, not because they "hate Jesus."

      November 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • God hates shellfish

      Wasn't zombie Jesus sposed to come back....like soon? Sounds like a liar or a pu.ssy. Just sayin.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      " Kind of reminds you of how it was 2000 years ago."

      And you know how it was 2,000 years ago how?

      November 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Justice

      Well said

      November 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Julie

      I am a Christian Democrat and I love Jesus! I refuse to go along with those hypocrite Republicans.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Democrats don't hate Jesus. They're just the ones that took the Sermon on the Mount seriously.

      November 15, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  12. Dave

    It's been an awful long time since Billy Graham mattered.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  14. freya

    Well they wouldn't be surprise if the IRS will come knocking on their door would they?

    November 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  15. Pro-Sanity

    Seems the only people bigots are allowed to be prejudiced against is Christians. They are the only religion everyone likes to beat on.

    November 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • sam

      So...if you disagree with a bigot, it's bigotry? Did your post sound better in your head?

      November 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      Well, Pro-Sanity....good to see that the vaunted Christian Persecution Complex is in full swing.

      If you had read the comments when American Atheists put up billboards earlier in the year, you would have seen that atheists do not just rail on Christianity.

      In this country, it is primarily Christianity. On the other hand, the Christians are the ones looking to deny others their civil rights, so ridicule is appropriate

      November 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Oh I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that religious zealots want to try and teach non-science as science, deny equal rights based on the inherent bigotry of their religion, not to mention wanting to put monuments of their specific religion on every piece of government property, in courthouses, and in public schools. Get over your persecution omplex.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Dave

      People get a bit angry when their religion free country is assumed to belong to a cult. We have bnever been a "Christian" nation despite the conceit otherwise.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Evangelical

      @Dave

      We have never been a "religion free country" either.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  16. W.G.

    Christian Conservatives are the "Pharasees" of our times . Billy Graham and company would rather
    back a mormon who believes that satan was the brother of Jesus and that black people are angels
    who did not fight for Jesus´s side when he and lucifer were battleing for earth . This is what mormons
    believe . In other words Billy and company would lend support to a Blasphemer than Mr. Obama who says
    he´s a christian . I take Mr. Obama at his word ,let´s look at their fruit Mr. Obama is trying to help the poor ,
    the old and the sick . Mr. romney wants to give more money to rich people . Mr. Obama ended the Iraqi war
    and is trying to get us out of Afghanistan , Romney said he wouldn´t . Oh and by the the way what did
    "W" Bush , who was the poster child for the Christian conservative´s ever do about abortion ? NOTHING .
    Also "W"Bush´s V.P.´s daughter was a practising lesbian but the far right wingnuts never dared to complain
    about that . Is it just me or does anybody else see the HYPOCRACY here . Mr. Graham Since Mr. Obama says
    he´s a christian , that means I can ptray that GOD leads him and directs him . Romney doesn´t believe in the Jesus
    that I believe in . Oh. he may say that he believes in Jesus as also do muslims but he doesn´t belive Jesus IS GOD .

    November 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Kevin

      good one W.G. Best I've seen in this thread.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Evangelical

    Lots of petty, envious and evil people on here today. I'm sick of hearing how rich Billy Graham is or how they paid no taxes. These men are saving souls. How can you put a price on that?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • W.G.

      It´s the Grahams HYPOCRACY that repels people .

      November 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • sam

      I guess hypocracy is ok as long as you're supposedly saving something that doesn't exist, and making lots of money doing it...

      November 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Evangelical", but "souls" are elements of mythology and therefore cannot be deposited into a bank. However, I'm confident that the Grahams would be happy to deposit any monetary contribution you send them.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Baalzabarber

      I can't tell if you are kidding or not...all they are saving is money in their own bank accounts. He is no more likely to save your sole than Mitt was to turn over his taxes

      November 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Akira

      If they are going to weigh in on how our country is to be run, they should pay into the running of our country via taxes.
      That's not evil; that's just coMon sense.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      You can be shown the money they rake in, you can be shown their tax returns. Show me a soul. Show me a soul saved by them.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • sam stone

      you don't know they are saving souls, eva....you are merely blathering.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • michaelw777

      I have always deeply admired Billy Graham. But I am very disappointed he chose to inject himself into politics this time. I do not like how abortion is practiced in this country, but assuming it's a completely moral issue (which I don't), it is not the only moral issue out there. In fact, both sides have things to answer for, and things which are good to stand for. Whatever we each believe about these things, nothing is going to get done for America as a nation if we don't work together. Pouting and taking your ball and going home solves nothing. Acting like a 4-year-old who doesn't get his or her way all the time is not the mark of a mature adult, regardless of your persuasions.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  18. ??

    Ok, so since Romney lost the race, does ol' Billy claim that Mormons are a "Cult" again?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Did you even read the article?

      November 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    Franklin Graham is just another Joseph Smith or L Ron Hubbard.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  20. James

    I do not want to go to hell because there are too many priests, pastors, politicians and lawyers down there and soon Billy will be joining them. Jesus, if he came today, will not approve of what is bing done and said in his name.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:55 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.