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.
"Dad was always political"
And a dooshe.
“God has blessed the United States of America more than any other nation on this earth, 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.”
Cocoo for cocoa puffs.
lol – yeah. I think "he" blessed it a lot because he liked how we took care of the native Americans. lol.
Another Pat Robertson. God speaks to us via weather patterns.
It's always interesting to me how people choose their priorities when it comes to supporting a political candidate. Franklin Graham is so against gay marriage, but apparently doesn't have a problem hitching his wagon to a party that disdains kindness and compromise, blames the poor for their plight, plunders and pollutes Creation, "bears false witness" against the President, and never met a war it didn't like.
And he actually believes that gay marriage and abortion are the biggest, most pressing issues that Christianity faces today. Laughable to say the least.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (James 1:27)
I am discusted at how Franklin Graham is using his aging Father's good name to give clout to his political agenda. The full page ads are a very poor use of the money that people have given to preach the gosple of Jesus Christ. When you talk about Biblical principles you fail to talk about greed and distruction of people's lives in order to make a dollar. There is more to being a follower of Christ then just your stand on abortion and gay's. Check out the charity navigator's website. Franklin Graham pays himself a salary of $409,851 per year to head up Samaritan's Purse. That does not include all his perks. His Dad draws a salary of $101,849 from the Billy Graham Evangelist Association after many year of getting a salary of just $50k per year. I respect Billy Graham and Franklin Graham, you are no Billy Graham!
Much of the respect Billy Graham earned was that his religious beliefs were not polarizing. That is also why he enjoyed association and access to every president since Truman. If he had political beliefs, nobody knew what they were. Now in his old age, the son is using the father for a different agenda, and lying about it.
When the Nixon tapes were released, we learned that good old Billy Graham sat silently while President Nixon made some anti-Semetic remarks instead of chastising Mr. Nixon. I guess he forgot to remind Mr. Nixon and himself that Jesus was Jewish. What a hypocrite..
Always political, no kidding? Graham and his organization owe us some back taxes plus interest.
Noting humble about these rich televangelists. They are noting more than performers with a shtick... They are all rolling in dough and living like royalty..
Selling religion and skimming tons of cash off the top..
Be aware there are two big divisions in Christianity-the Fundamentalists (Baptists and the like who take the word of the Bible literally) and the Liberals (a more scholarly interpretation of the Bible). Billy Graham is Fundamentalist and I happen to be Liberal. Fundamentalists insist on the "born again" doctrine of going to heaven. Liberals are more open minded and interpret Scripture in context and believe going to heaven is by the grace of God, which the apostle Paul preached. We Liberls beleive we humans are ALL precious children of God, regardless of religious affiliation...Judgment belongs to God alone since Jesus NEVER CONDEMNED ANYONE but forgave EVERYONE he encountered INCLUDING those who murdered him in the cross.
Jesus never condemned anyone? If that is so what was happening at Mat. 23:2-33
It is time that we all reject the intrusion of religion in our politics. This is a secular society and was founded as a secular society, and they must respect the separation of chuch and State.
Many Ameicans represent different deominations and all our beliefs belong in our churches.
Until a few years ago, we never had this problem of intrusion of Church and State. We have not forgotten our values, but we also don't feel that any Church should engage in any type of manipulation due to the spiritual influence that they may have with their followers.
This election just proves that all you uneducated people who believe in a "god" need to shut up and have your crazy fantasies away from the rest of us. You have the right to practice your rituals supporting your delusions, get out of our face. Real progress will come when it becomes illegal to indoctrinate innocent children with your hogwash.
Forcing a child into a RELIGION IS CHILD ABUSE . Hopefully religious schools and sunday schools and taking children to church will be made illegal
I completely AGREE!!!!!!!
I would like for CNN to check if the Graham's received compensation for their actions of supporting Mr. Romney.
My prayer is that Mr. Billy Graham end well. He has won many of the lost to Christ Jesus who is God.
The bible teaches, 'Hate the sin, but love the sinner.'
'Hate the sin, but love the sinner.'
So then I can assume that you love Jerry Sandusky?
So, you actually "LOVED" Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Mommar Ghadaffi, Pol Pot, huh? Things that make you go hhhmmmmmm????... right.
Let me get this straight – Billy Graham has ALWAYS BEEN POLITICAL? He should have had his tax exempt status yanked long ago!
Religious intolerance, prejudice, bigotry, exclusion.....nothing new here, same old same old.
“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.” That doesn't sound very Christlike considering that Jesus often talked about the poor.
I honestly can't believe it's the 21st century and so many people still take bronze age mythology oh so seriously. The Great Naked Ape - we think ourselves wise, but obviously we're only partly right!
And getting involved in politics is about as unchristian as you can get. Remind me where the bible says Jesus got involved in them and aren't we supposed to follow Jesus' example?
It is a shame that Franklin would use his Dad in this manner. Use a 95 year old man for political purposes. I lost all respect for billy Graham.
I think Matt. 22:21 "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and onto God the things that are God's", justifies getting involved in Politics. Having said that,what we saw in the last presidential election is the Christian Right selling their "birthright" for a mess of pottage. They have done a great deal of harm to their credibility and led their flock down the golden path.
Graham's GOP leaning only proves politics trumps religion. How could he be associated with agnostic Rove? Godly? Hmm....
I never thought of it that way before, but maybe politics does in fact have the Trump effect on religion.
... or did I mean the other way around. lol.
Do we really need Billy, Franklin or anybody to tell us what God is thnking? I'm sure that if God wants us to know what Godis thinking, God will tell us directly. If God cannot tell me directly, I do not need to have Billy or Franklin speak for God.
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.