Saturday, October 20, 2012

B50. Franklin Graham's Religion Is Not His Father's

Franklin Graham is using the power of his father’s name for his own political agenda.

Throughout history there may not have been a more respected Christian leader than the Rev. Billy Graham.  He ministered for a lifetime without serious controversy or compromise, focusing on preaching the message of Jesus Christ and keeping himself clean of all political factions.

In the 1970s when Jerry Falwell changed the face of American Christianity by marrying it with conservative politics, Rev. Graham refused to be a part of it.  Although a Southern Baptist and a registered Democrat, he never let either of those distinctions rule his life.  Graham willingly pastored all presidents regardless of political party, from Truman to Obama.

He refused in 1979 to join Falwell's Moral majority, saying, "I'm for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments.  Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person.  We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left."

In 1981 he told Parade magazine, “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 no interest in religion except to manipulate it.

In 2005, struggling with Parkinson’s disease and then 86 years old, Rev. Graham handed the reins of his Billy Graham Evangelical Association powerhouse to his son Franklin, whose ministries include the popular Samaritan’s Purse shoebox ministry which delivers Christmas gifts to needy children around the world.

Franklin, however, is unquestionably a proponent of the Christian right that his father so avoided and denounced, and now, with the aging minister approaching his 94th birthday and struggling more and more with his failing health, including substantial vision and hearing loss, his Association, led by Franklin, is using his name and face to press a political agenda the respected minister would never have advocated. 

Most recently there have been photos circulated on-line of Gov. Mitt Romney’s visit with Franklin and his father, implying an endorsement by the elder Graham of Romney for president.  Yet, the only quote they could get from him was “I’ll do all I can to help you.”  Had there been anything more substantial from his lips than that, we surely would be seeing it in videos all over the internet.

Following this visit and the deceptive implications of an endorsement, the Association’s website deleted its description of Mormonism as a cult. Does this mean the organization has decided to embrace Mormons into its Christian box?  No, Franklin does not call Gov. Romney a Christian.  It’s all just politics.

Earlier this year when NC was voting on an amendment to define marriage, Billy Graham’s name and face were used in ads in favor of the amendment.  No voice.  No meaningful quotes.  No video.  But there was his face, implying that he initiated the ads.

It was Franklin, also, who won the fight to make the Billy Graham Library the burial site of his parents where it will be a tourist attraction, despite his mother’s plea to be buried near Asheville where they had lived for many years, and despite his brother Ned’s strong support of his mother’s wishes.

Franklin is devoted to the political religious climate of his time, but we should be very wary of accepting anything we see or hear that appears to be coming from his father, especially during this volatile election season.  Franklin now has control of the Billy Graham Association, but Franklin’s Christianity is not his father’s.  More newspaper ads are coming.  Look at them, but be sure to notice the details that are missing and the voice that is not really speaking.  If we can hear the words as those of Franklin, not his father, we can protect the respected name of a dear man who deserves to live his last days as he so carefully lived the rest, according to his own spiritual wisdom and conscience.

Gov. Romney's recent visit with Rev. Graham
(photo from Washington Post)

President Obama's 2010 visit with Rev. Graham
(photo from Wikipedia)

" . . . (Billy) Graham always functioned as a 'paramedic' rather than a 'policeman' for the Kingdom of God."  - A. Larry Ross (B. Graham's principal spokesperson since 1981)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello Kathy,

Franklin Graham just visited Hawaii to encourage the 25% of the population to elect Christian leaders.

Apparently he doesn't acknowledge the european history
of endless religious wars, including those now remembered by resentful youths in the Middle East who want to join radical groups.

Apparently he has never read Federalist 10 written by James Madison,.father of the U.S.Constitution on the necessary restraint of factions by and through the Constitution, in order to avoid oppression of minority views & preserve free conscience.
Nor is it likely he would want to.

But Madison was light years smarter than Franklin will ever be -- and wiser about freedom vs. Tyranny, including religious tyranny!


Susan Liang