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. louis

    Reply to Sue – Touche', but I believe you know where I was coming from. Tell me, do you think that god, if he exists, would be pleased to know that his faithful followers are being misled by money hungry charlatans, who claim to be doing his will?

    November 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  2. Confused

    I'm sorry but I don't understand why that those who profess to hate religion read and continuously post on faith related blogs.

    November 16, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Iconoclast

      Your statement and confusion is common among the religious. You need education, empathy with the non-religious, and the ability to think through a process without bias. That will not be effectly done through a blog. I recommend you begin by taking a college level course in Critical Thinking.

      November 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • End Religion

      I'm here to sully your echo chamber.

      November 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • sam stone

      because it amuses us

      November 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Honey Badger Dont Care

    #6. He is predatory sc um. According to Forbes Franklin Graham received $616,665 in pay and benefits last year from the organization and 11% of what he takes in as donations goes to fund the organization. Not so charitable now is it?

    November 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Sue

      If it were possible to track where the money actually goes I's bet that a lot gets funnelled into the campaigns of GOP candidates. You just never know where the money you donate to churches and pastors actually goes.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  4. Primewonk

    I wonder why Franklin, and these other religious nutters, lack the cognitive ability to understand that the US is not a christian nation? I wonder why they ignore Article VI, Section 3 of the constîtution? I wonder if they understand that if they keep trying to set set up a right-wing theocracy here, they should be ready for a bloodbath?

    November 16, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      My extreme love of education and hatred of religion makes me grin at your "bloodbath" quote, but I don't think it will be necessary. People are (slowly) wising up. FFRF has many former "ministers" as members. Many of those sillly people who give money to these sickos are old and soon gone. TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY THAT ROMNEY'S NAME IS NOT IN THE HEADLINES ON THE HOMEPAGE OF CNN, not even stories about his pouting and whining. Chin up, religion is slowly but surely on it's way out.!!!!!!!

      November 16, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Franklin has made millions from religion. I imagine his cognitive capacity is significant. It's the idiots who revere him who lack the brain functionality.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  5. Sue

    People should check out Charles Templeton, Billy's former partner. He lost his faith and got so disenchanted with the preaching biz that he became an atheist.

    November 16, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  6. Rosemary Baker

    I remember when Billy Graham was alweys at the whitehouse with Richard Nixon. I think most religions are cults...they brainwash!

    November 16, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • MaryJ

      Yup, chatting about how the Jews controlled everything. They even got that on tape and people wonder where Franklin got his bigotry?

      November 16, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • End Religion

      I wonder if the thought ever crossed their minds while sitting in (arguably) the most powerful office in the world that maybe, since they weren't Jewish, that Jews didn't control everything.

      November 17, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  7. 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 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). The Graham's are in truth enemies of the cross of Christ and the god of this world (Phil. 3:18). They serve after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).

    For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, especially politics (1 John 5:4).

    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 16, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • AvdBerg

      Make sure you visit our website at http://www.gaychristian101.com! Amen!

      November 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    November 16, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
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      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.-

      November 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  9. bigpicture1

    The right has fooled it's people into thinking they are the voice of Christians. It is apparent that in politics, they do not follow the principles laid out in the Bible, or stop to consider the wristband they love to wear – WWJD. If they had a true understanding of the story of Job, they would know God loves all His children equally.... They would understand that their earthly judgements against, and obvious bias towards certain segments of God's children; is akin to the hypocrisy of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. WWJD – would remind them that Jesus did not turn his back on the poor and the sick.

    But they conveniently choose to interpret the Bible in a way that suits political or monetary interests, just as preachers did in justifying slavery,

    If they continue to show contempt for some of God's children – a lost election will be the least of their worries. The wrath of God may be awaiting them on Judement Day, or before....

    November 16, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • bigpicture1

      It was satan who tried to convince God to withdraw his love for mankind.... What does that say about the GOP?

      November 16, 2012 at 5:21 am |
  10. Gerry

    The Grahams' message is garbage. They creatied a very profitable business. In the deep South the preeacher was probably more wealthy than the town's doctor. Preaching was a very profitable business They preached to the poor and uneducated. They were like flim-flam artists and snake oil salesmen and sold fear about God and the hereafter for profit. It was easy money and a good living but they could care less about their fellow man. Billy pre-dated and was model for Jim Bakker, Swaggert, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and all similar crazies. It's ironic he bestowed his "blessing" on the biggest, political fakes in history – Nixon and Romney. Billy, may God have mercy on your soul.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:51 am |
    • Epidi

      Your comment brought up images of those old tent revivals in the hot sticky heat with ladies and their hand fans swishing around the dead air while the preacher hawked "Gawd" to the congregation and passed around the collection plates after the "healings" were done. I grew up in the lil ol south. Sam Kineson used to be one of those (RIP) beleive it or not.

      November 16, 2012 at 4:01 am |
    • Sue

      I'm not sure if they're more wealthy, but in those rural counties they do tend to have better houses than most, all paid for by their parishioners.

      November 16, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  11. louis

    I don't believe in god, but if god exists, he is beyond human understanding. To claim to know what the creator of the astronomically huge universe has in store for us is the epitome of arrogance. For you believers, god didn't give you a brain so you could fund charlatans like the Grahams and the rest of that ilk. God doesn't care what happens to this speck of dust we call earth, or politics, or the courtrooms where, in the name of justice, we are forced to invoke his name.

    November 16, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • Epidi

      Couldn't agree more. I am Pagan, yep – one of "those people", and I would never presume to claim knowing what Nature has in store for us as a species much less politics lol. Just thankful for the Mother's bounty feeding me (earth) and the Great Spirit's body to live in (the universe).

      November 16, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • Sue

      You sure seem to know a lot about something you say is beyond human understanding.

      November 16, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Betty Marr

      Interesting to note that you claim to know what God thinks when you have just stated you don't believe in God – yes you do. believe in God or you wouldn't know what God thinks – by the way.....God loves you

      November 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Sue

      Betty Marr
      I think that the point is that NOBODY is supposed to be able to understand God, according to actual Christian belief, which begs the question how so many theologians like Graham Sr. and even the writers of the bible can write with such authority about him. For all even you know God may "Love" people the same way the average American loves a Big Mac.

      November 16, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  12. Beth

    F Graham is a con man just like daddy Billy. The rotten, maggoted apple sure didn't fall far from the rotting tree for that case.

    November 16, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • steve mcclendon

      F^^K graham

      November 16, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  13. dev41

    Religious organizations that meddle, even slightly in politics, should lose their tax exempt status. Maybe then the'll go back to worrying about their own eternal destiny, rather than trying to dictate the way other people live their lives, even if many of them don't live their lives in the manner they proscribe for others.

    November 16, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • gulpoff


      November 16, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Dan5404

      I think it is fine for member of a religion to tell how personal political choices are made based on their religion. However, preachers or official church representatives such as pastors, should not be allowed to preach or espouse publicly for a particular political party or candidate. That's where tax exempt stauts should be removed.

      November 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  14. Wes Thompson

    Franklin Graham is a moron and Billy Graham has done more to hurt the actual teaching of the Kingdom of God within you than any preacher ever in America. These two should go, I mean go quietly off the scene and hope ole junior Graham doesn't get investigated for money laundering and drugs. The way Franklin talks is like someone who is on drugs, he contradicts himself and the Bible these two are supposed to be preaching. When both are gone, America will be better off. The other thing they espouse, get America back to God, "whose god?". Their mixed up old Testament, New testament, man made religious and now their Mormon God? According to the Kings James Bible, it actually states that God will teach his people himself and with his Holy Spirit, not with a bunch of moron preachers who want to build statues and buildings in their own name instead of teaching people about the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. Wonder how long ole Franklin would last in the Middle East trying to "bring" them "back" to God. If he indeed serves the "true" God who has all power, let him hold revivals in all the Middle Eastern countries teachings his craziness and trying to "bring" them back to his 'god" like he wants us to serve and hand him our money. His god is money, fame and fortune, not the true God of the Bible.. He knows what would happen.

    November 16, 2012 at 1:39 am |
  15. john johnson

    I dont realy think franklin graham is a true christian. He is just hanging on to his fathers coat tail. His sister ishould take over
    the reigns from his father because she is more qualified, but because she is a woman that would never happen. The guy cant even preach. When ask if he thinks president obama was a christian, he couldn't give a straight answer. The last time i check, if you ask god into you heart and you beleive that jesus christ died for your sins, no matter who you are whether moslem, jew or gentile ypu are born again, He need to repent of his sins first then he will learn to forgive.

    November 16, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Beth

      No True Scotsman would say that, hey Johny John?

      November 16, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  16. End Religion

    Another in a long line of charlatans praised by the very people he fleeced. Quite a feat!

    November 16, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  17. Reality

    Graham and his father should first apologize for ripping off their "non-profits" with their combined salaries of $1.2+ million/yr.

    And they have the audacity to call themselves Christians !!!!!

    An update:


    "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 11:39 pm |
  18. Morrighan

    while i'm all for Obama i must say to that pagan's never call each other names such as all the fine christian (all nominations) do in the name of religion...and yes we do have a religion. yet WE are considered to be the heathens.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  19. Drbfl

    Franklin Graham is a giant among great men. He has given his heart and his life's work to serving the poor of this world, He is living out God's will for his life and not complaining along the way. A true Patriot and Christian. I tell you this from first-hand experience.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • William Hudson

      You are absolutely correct. And the good that Franklin has done for the poor and the forgotten around the world, especially the children, comes out of a heart filled with the Spirit of God, unafraid, and unmoved by the criticism he receives as a result of standing for God's truth.

      November 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Reality

      Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals like the Grahams and atonement theology,

      November 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Beth

      Great man my great ass. Franklin is a con man just like his dad. Raking the money in with a power shovel, too.

      November 16, 2012 at 2:32 am |

    Graham clowns, goons, followers of Thin Allah sm, crookedness of Meccan Wahhabi, crook self centered, secular s, and every gentile ignorant slave Christian, Morons, Mormon, gays followers of GAWD Mithra ism, pagan savior ism as follows it as some thing of divine nature. Do not be a Graham, ignorant and open your eyes to my IsLamb, absolute GOD to be free from gentile ism, criminal slavery of Hake ems, I mams, Mu llahs, Culas, crook secular s, deniers of truth absolute GAWD, goons, illegality of place called Mecca.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:31 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.