What’s Going On With Billy Graham (And Franklin)?

I’ve read a lot about the political involvement of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Over the years Graham has played only a minor role in politics. He has even expressed remorse about the times he became overly involved (for instance supporting Richard Nixon before he went to jail). Graham was sort of a church elder who was available to speak to power, no matter the ideology of the power-broker. His independence gave his words power, and his power words that were trust as Christian, not political.

In this election, however, BGEA has been spending a lot of money in support of Republican Candidates through thinly veiled ads. They scrubbed their website from any references to Mormonism as a cult. It’s a troubling trend, and signals a shift that seems odd this late in Graham’s career. It feels like Franklin Graham is trading on his father’s name and credibility to get down and dirty with politics.

Here are some recent articles on the matter. What is interesting is that nobody writing wants to tear down Billy Graham. Everyone speaks of him with respect. There is deep suspicion, however, thatFranklinis making these moves without his father even knowing about it. I really hope this isn’t true, but it’s sort of what this feels like.

Here’s an excerpt one of the most vivid pictures from Fred Clark at Patheos. I really hope this isn’t true, but my gut tells me that it is.

“Interviewers would ask, “do you have any regrets?” And Graham consistently mentioned two. The great evangelist repeatedly said that he wished he had been more outspoken in support of civil rights, and that he should never have allowed himself to get sucked into trying to be a partisan political power-broker.

The former regret was a sin of omission. Graham — unlike most white Southern ministers of his generation — had not opposed the Civil Rights movement… Graham’s other regret — his attempt to be a political kingmaker — was a sin of commission, and thus this regret was much more acute. He has spoken many times with genuine horror and remorse over the way he was seduced into partisan support for President Richard Nixon, expressing deep shame for the taped conversation in which he joined Nixon’s anti-Semitic rant against a supposed Jewish “stranglehold” on the media.

Graham has apologized for that lapse in judgment, and he has demonstrated the sincerity of that apology over the years that followed by never again allowing himself to be used as a political tool for one candidate’s partisan agenda, never again inserting himself into electoral politics, never again sanctioning one party and one politician as God’s anointed.

Never again. Until now.

Now, very suddenly, we are being asked to believe that the Rev. Billy Graham, at 93 years old, has completely changed his mind about both of the regrets he has repeatedly lamented over the past 20 years. We are asked to believe that Billy Graham has abruptly changed who he has been for many decades, casting aside everything he has been telling us he learned from his many years in ministry. Now, all of a sudden, we are being asked to believe that what Billy Graham really regrets was that he wasn’t more actively opposed to civil rights, and that he wasn’t more directly involved as a power-player in partisan power-politics…Bull#%*t. No one believes this.

…Back in May, when Billy Graham supposedly first made this 180-turn into becoming a Pat Robertson wanna-be, I asked “Is Billy Graham being exploited for political gain?” citing several others who were raising that same question.

As more baldly partisan statements began appearing in Graham’s name — all without any public appearances by the ailing nonagenarian minister — more and more people began asking that same question, with all fingers pointing back to Graham’s partisan-hack son, Franklin.

Franklin Graham has always seemed to desire the respect and influence his father enjoys, but he has never been able to earn it on his own. Now his father almost never speaks publicly, communicating through press releases from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The BGEA is now led by Franklin Graham, and Billy’s statements from the BGEA all sound like Franklin Graham — like the sort of thing Franklin has always said and Billy has never said.

When a reporter from The New York Times asked Franklin Graham if his father would ever speak publicly to confirm his support for these recent statements released in his name, Franklin replied “That ain’t gonna happen.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

 

About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at TimSuttle.com

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of RedemptionChurchkc.com. He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • John R Huff Jr

    Growing up our family listed to the Graham program on television. Honestly, since adulthood I am not the least bit interested in this family or their approach to religion and politics. I don’t consider them worth the time of day.

    • Ross

      So, John R. Huff, who are you, and who made you god? I don’t think your opinion is worth the time of day.

  • Reader

    I know a number of undecided voters who have been influenced to vote for Pres. Obama because of BGEA’s references to Mormonism and cults. That seems like partisan influence. How is the absence of those references now partisan? I don’t get it.

  • TElden

    CULT: n. 1. Church down the road that I don’t believe in, that I want others to fear and hate.
    2. any religious group that’s not mine (Linda Fiatoa).
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult. The Church fully believes and teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer. It also accepts the Bible as scripture. Church members participate fully in society in public schools and employment, pursue secular knowledge, and accept and abide by all civil laws. The Church now consists of over 14 million members in 150 countries, is politically neutral, and has many limitations on Church leaders acting in a dictatorial or tyrannical manner.

  • Brother French

    I noticed that Joel Osteen believes that Mormons are Christians. Here is the truth.

    It have observed that when people use the word cult and other disparaging words about someone else’s religion they are purposely trying to insult someone else’s faith in an attempt to make themselves look and feel superior. Thus, it says more about them than anyone else. To all those who are guilty of this I would suggest that they switch to talking about and building up their own religious belief system instead of trying to tear down someone else’s.

  • http://Lisamyers.org Lisa Myers

    Reverend Graham, knowingly or not, has intensified the current venomous political dialogue going on in churches across the nation. My heart is simply sickened. See Red and Blue Biblical Values at lisamyers.org.

  • Phillip C. Smith

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D. 10/28/2012
    CORRECT SCIENTIFIC DEFINITIONS OF CULT AND SECT
    Many people, ignoring valid science definitions, use the terms “cult” and “sect” improperly with reference to religions. In their historical usage in Christendom the terms have often had pejorative connotations, applied by uninformed users to movements seen by them as committed to heretical beliefs. Valid, ethical science enlightens and thus avoids such pejorative applications of the terms cult and sect.
    The intent here is to provide or re-state scientific definitions of these terms to help others avoid future application misuse. I will apply the use of these terms to the religion with which I am most familiar, namely the Church founded some 2000 years ago by the Lord Jesus Christ, and this same Church as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith, namely The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    Cult: A small, recently-created, innovative religious group, headed often by a single charismatic leader, that exists in some state of tension with the predominant religion or with more established and conventional sects and denominations.
    The Christian religion, as it existed in 30 CE, might have been considered a cult early since it involved one leader and a small number of devoted disciples, but it is now far too large and universal. The Church restored by Joseph Smith and a few followers also met this definition of cult early, but has outgrown this label to become an established religious denomination of over 13 million members.
    All major religions likely began as cults. Over time they either disappear or as they became larger they shed their cult-like qualities and are today, such as the early Church founded by Christ or the restored Church, accurately classified by thoughtful, knowledgeable people as religious denominations.
    Sect: A small religious or political group that has broken off from a larger group, for example from a large, well-established religious group like a denomination, usually due to a dispute about doctrinal matters.
    The Church Jesus founded some 2000 years ago was not a sect, since Jesus spoke as one having authority from God, not in effect breaking off from any other group. In addition, as the Bible implies, he himself was the author of the religion of the Jews, even though they did not recognize him as such. His restored Church is also not a sect, since the prophet-founder belonged to no other religious group but claimed to receive his doctrinal knowledge in the main directly from deity.
    As defined by science, then, any religion breaking off from another, as many have, is a sect. Thus within Christianity the Protestant movements fell into this category. As each has grown larger, of course, they are more properly, accurately and kindly referred to as religious denominations.

  • Ross

    During the election season concerning proposition 8 in California regarding homosexual marriage, most Protestant, Catholic, and LDS Churches got together to campaign against the proposition because it was a MORAL issue, not a political issue. Billy Graham is saying the same thing. The best we can do is vote against Obama because he is an immoral man with an immoral, Christian-hating administration. Nothing different than the reasoning for the campaign against Prop. 8 when, for once, the Christian community came together and forgot their differences. Some of you people need to get over your hatred of people different than yourselves. You are proving that your religion is NOT Christ-centered. Jesus said to believe in him, he didn’t define religious cults as some of you call them. All religions could be described as cults in their beginning as some of you describe them.

  • Jim Romberg

    Billy Graham’s lifelong commitment to the Gospel is without question . However in his recent ad in the New York Times (Oct 28) he has abandoned his faith insinuating that there is only one way to vote in order to sustain biblical values and keep America one nation under God. He has turned the election into a religious war with a great deal of presumption and hubris announcing that his belief and his candidate are the only ones that proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Shame on him and his ego separating the population along party lines ! What a presumption to imagine that he has the only truth and that it is only for one part of the population

  • Pingback: Franklin Graham Appears on CNN’s Belief Blog: How Much Damage Has He Done?


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