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. Camel

    Moral values? Franklin needs to read his Bible once in a while: "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Kathryn

    "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." Dont' any of these self-appointed "Christian spokesmen" EVER think God could be sending THEM a message?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  3. Genuflect

    So they should have revoked his 'non-profit, religious' status for tax purposes decades ago, instead he's a multi-millionaire who probably paid no taxes at all!!

    November 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  4. Eli

    For all of his years preaching Gods word he taught that some religious organizations were cults and at 94 he changed his mind. I would be embarassed to be him. In his final years he sold his soul to the devil to try to get his political party in power. He should be asked about this everytime he is in a venue that he can be questioned.

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

    Thank you, Billy and Franklin Graham, for your moral stance on issues relative to us all. Our country has drifted far, far away from our Christiam beginnigs. Thankfully, we have a loving God who hasn't totally given up on s yet.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • sam

      LOL Please. Go soak your head.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • blf83

      Their moral stances are mostly self-serving. They are both poor representations of christianity, especially Franklin, whose public statements border on heresy and are firmly based on prejudice and bigotry.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      time for your meds. 🙂

      November 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • sam stone

      Bonnie: Our Christiam beginnings? When we could own other people? When a husband could legally r.a.p.e. his wife? When women were not equal? Tell us all about it, Bonnie

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

      Im going to say for Rev Billy Grahams first many decades he did what he was called to do and that was to carry the gospel to the masses. His last 8 to 12 years and when his son took over they got into politics. His son is not a preacher that is why they have turn this into what it has become that way the Graham family is still making money. They should have lost all peoples respect when they deleted after all these years that Mormons were a cult. Doing that went against everything they had ever believed in.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  6. blf83

    Billy Graham preaches a "gospel" of millenialism that is neither biblical nor correct. His son is a fractured-fairy-tale version of his father who is all too open about his warped biases. The founding fathers intended for the church to stay apart from politics.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  7. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    FG is just another douche bag believer charlatan. They are all delusional (mentally ill), liars or both. Never (NEVER!) trust any preacher, regardless of the cult belong to.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • krussell

      If the IPU Goddess is a MontyPython fan, she probably just farted in your general direction.
      Take that! Heathen.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  8. James

    Just the height of hypocrisy, but it reflects the facts they once supported racist ideas in the South within their church. I don't care or listen to them anymore.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  9. lorenzo

    Religion is great in YOUR church, keep it there. time for consitutional amendment banning any reference or funding of any religous organization. Freedom of religion is already guaranteed now guarantee our rights by not having religion crambed down our throats.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  10. Eli

    If his father has always been political why are we just hearing all of his politics in the last 8 to 12 years. Billy Graham never protested and marched and wrote letters about abortions and other politcial matters until his son came onboard. They realized its a money maker and they can get more people donating and following due to these reasons. For many decades Rev Graham preached and carry Gods word but now he has become a man that will do anything to get his man where he needs to be in politics.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  11. Jim

    Whocares....Well said..

    November 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  12. twindon50

    The most fundamental fact as being a Christian is believing in the deity of Christ. You can not profess
    yourself as a Christian if you do not acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. Mormonism belief is that Christ is another prophet as the Muslim religion make emphasis. As far as Christian values as emphasized with conservatives, what did Jesus Christ expressed through his message to his followers and the religious leaders of his time? His message was "Love". Many within your party deliberately express hate toward anyone of not your kind, race and political belief. You can not get anyone to change any aspect about their life and ways with first expressing love to each and every individual. Do I want Prayer back in our schools, yes. Do I like abortion, no. Do I believe that fundamental values of the moral aspect
    within our nation are in decline, yes. But what of the hypocrisies of the conservative party about the
    fundamental repect to love one another. Is this hypocrisy not the same as Jesus expressed to the political
    and religious leaders of his time? Were it not the sinner that Jesus surround himself among? For a party that
    believe in guns, to disregard the poor, to express hatred toward other races, how so hypocritical. Is all I
    expressed of not of Christian values. ?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Akaej47

      Great post....I learned a long time ago, that I don't have a heaven or hell to put people in. I don't believe in abortion and some other conservative points, BUT,, I do believe in choice and I believe that's between you and God........

      November 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  13. Evangelical

    Franklin Graham's views are almost verbatim the views I have expressed here on this Belief Blog for months. I have to say that I feel vindicated that CNN posted this interview.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL ROTFL ... good one ... thanks 🙂

      November 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, we know you're only typing with one hand. Get a hobby.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      good for you, eva....you can agree with another bigot. bravo.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    Throwing the three together into one being cubes its implausibility.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 stars and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. Did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them, or even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

    To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

    So, before you next proudly proclaim that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

    Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Bible and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling before and supplicating yourself to something, at least make it something that exists.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • krussell

      Just one thing you got wrong – God did not present himself to the entire group of nomadic jews, he spoke to Moses.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • blf83

      Well stated.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • HAKLI

      Reply from The Wise Qur'an [36:77 to 83]:

      Does man not consider that We created him from a [mere] sperm-drop – then at once he is a clear adversary? And he presents for Us an example and forgets his [own] creation. He says, "Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?" Say, "He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing." [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator. His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, "Be," and it is. So exalted is He in whose hand is the realm of all things, and to Him you will be returned.

      November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  15. WachetAuf

    Why would Jesus counsel any party affiliation? Jesus was murdered by a political party. Political parties, churches, groups of all sorts, are simply Darwinian structures dedicated to one thing – survival. Jesus simply observed that these herds were corrupting influences and that each of us must focus, not on what the herd asks of us, but of what God asks of us. He was very clear about God's purpose. First, there was the old law which binds all of us. Then there is the new law which has two elements. The first element of the new law is its focus, not on the details of the old law, but on the essence and spirit of the old law. The secon =d element of the new law is its emphasis on constructing new remedies. The new remedies called for tolerance. Graham, has, indeed, been closely involved with GOP politics for a long, long time. He lost his soul to the intolerance of the GOP. Paul came along. Paul was not Jesus and had a different and evolving message. The message evolved in the same way that messages of politicians evolve and for one reason only. The reason is the Darwinian need for survival. Paul's message was floundering until he found that he could change the message to attract new converts. Graham made the mistake of believing that he could gather converts by consorting with the GOP. What he did not realize – maybe he did realize it – is that in the process his message has changed. He now embraces Mormonism. Well, maybe now that Mr. Romney is no longer in power, Graham will restore his old message about Mormonism. Politics and religion. Don't you just love it?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  16. svatoid

    The Graham family will burn in hell. Remember how Billy was caught on tape making anti-Semitic comments in the Nixon White House? Remember how Billy did NOTHING during the civil rights era–he was okay with the abuse of African-Americans.
    He is a disgrace

    November 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • HM8432

      Billy Graham did nothing during the Civil Rights movement!? He was the only one who voluntarily stepped-up and bailed MLK out of prison everytime he was put there, and he was the first to desegregate his tent revivals...before there even was a real Civil Rights movement. If that's doing nothing,then I'd like to see what doing something is!

      November 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  17. krussell

    So according to this person, an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God cannot figure out how to punish the morally lacking Americans without punishing us all?

    November 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Evangelical

      Read your Bible. This is hardly a precedent.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • sam

      Evangelical is right. This makes no sense, just like the bible.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      This has always been the case with the Bible god. And don't think that children are safe; God has no problem taking them out as well. It reminds me of that line from Full Metal Jacket when the the photographer asks the helicopter door gunner how he can shoot women and children. The door gunner says, "It's easy, you just don't lead'em as much".

      November 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  18. Tina Martinez

    "I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has not interest in religion except to manipulate it." Rev Billy Graham, Parade, 1981.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • sam

      He needs to kick his kid out of the whole thing.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    Some words of wisdom from Robert Heinlein:
    "The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history."

    November 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Evangelical

      I have yet to meet an authentic atheist thinker. The atheists here always post the words of other atheists such as your author, Dawkins, or the other one. So sick of your lack of thought.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      I dare you to post 1 instance of me quoting Dawkins, or Hitchens.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      that's ironic considering the christian faith is based on reading and reciting and quoting phrases from an old bronze age story book written by men. Do you understand irony, oh evangelical one?

      November 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • sam

      Eva, you don't hang around in real life with *anyone* who thinks critically, so of course you've never met one. Smart people tend to stay away from the crazies, and evangelicals stick to their own kind so they can tell each other how morally superior they are.

      November 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      "I have yet to meet an authentic atheist thinker. The atheists here always post the words of other atheists"

      Post some more scripture and think yourself godly, gash

      November 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  20. Lenny Pincus

    Franklin Graham is a con artist. That's the only thing you need to learn about him.

    November 15, 2012 at 3:32 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.