There are two things I can expect to show up in my newsfeed each morning: Franklin Graham, and ISIS.
Franklin Graham has risen to prominence in the past few years, though in a far different way than his father. While Billy was an Evangelist, Franklin Graham has achieved notoriety as more of a commentator who espouses a religion where God and country, church and state, are paired off in a strange and unholy marriage. These days, Franklin is actually touring the country state by state– not to preach the Gospel like his father, but to rally a political force ahead of the November election (something his father, a Democrat, never did).
A key theme in the daily antics of Franklin Graham is overt Islamophobia. Not more than a day or two go by without him spreading fear about our Muslim neighbors, as if every Muslim is a card carrying member of ISIS.
His hyper fixation on Islam and ISIS led me to wonder: is there really much difference between what ISIS is trying to do, and what Franklin Graham is trying to do? I found a few commonalities, but I’ll let you be the judge:
10. They both believe that culture has become too liberal and turned away from God.
If you listen to Franklin or an Imam who is affiliated with ISIS, you’ll hear a very similar definition of the problem of our time: culture has grown too liberal and needs to return to the ways of God. In fact, if one were to look at their list of complaints about culture, you’d find they agree in more areas than they don’t. Sure, Franklin and ISIS may hate each other, but they sure do hate a lot of the same things.
9. They both want their religious views enshrined into law.
Neither side is content with quietly living out their own religious beliefs and adhering to their own religious laws. Both sides want their own version of Sharia law– they just derive that law from different places. Franklin has his 50 state Decision America tour, and they have their quest for a caliphate– but both aim to accomplish the same thing: making their own religious views the law of the land.
8. They both want to punish those who refuse to follow their religious laws.
One cannot have laws if those laws are not enforced, and all laws are ultimately enforced by violence or the threat of violence. Whether it’s a public beheading or throwing someone in jail for 30 years, the principle is the same: punishing those who do not follow your own moral code.
7. They both do outrageous things on social media to draw more attention to themselves and their cause.
ISIS relies heavily on using social media to spread their ideology, and you know who else does? Franklin Graham, that’s who. They’re both playing the same game, and using the same tool.
6. They both want culture to reflect their own personal views on gender and gender roles.
Both ISIS and Franklin Graham seem obsessed with gender roles. One side polices who can go to school based on their gender, while the other wants to police who can pee depending on their gender, or which color toy they can play with. The obsession is the same, folks: both want dictate their own versions of gender-appropriate behavior.
5. They both want to push LGBTQ individuals into the shadows of society.
You’d think the issue of how to treat LGBTQ individuals would be an area where the two would come together and openly high-five each other. Franklin Graham believes that being LGBTQ is a horrible sin that God instituted the death penalty for, and says we must protect our kids from other LGBTQ children– not even allowing them in church. ISIS believes the same thing, and is more faithful to the OT than Franklin is in this case. Either way, both openly advocate that LGBTQ people be denied the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
4. They both want to keep Muslims out of America.
Now, here’s where the two sides really come together and work as a cohesive team. ISIS is trying to build a caliphate, and need all the people they can get. One of their main goals is to convince countries to refuse Muslim refugees so that these people have no place to turn but to the caliphate. Franklin Graham has played right into this goal of ISIS, and has openly advocated that the United States close its doors to Muslim immigrants. I’ll be surprised if he hasn’t received a thank you card yet.
3. They are both willing to use violence to destroy the other.
ISIS, of course, is waging war– but so is Franklin Graham. The only difference between the two is that ISIS is fighting directly, and Franklin is fighting by proxy. Franklin wants them dead just as much as they want people dead, but he is doing it by encouraging the government to do it on his behalf. Both wage war, both are okay with the collateral damage of war (innocent people dying), and both see violence as the ultimate solution.
Both are rooted in the same broken ideology– they just go about it slightly differently.2. They are both desperate to recruit like-minded people to their cause.
Franklin Graham and ISIS are both involved in a heavy campaign to recruit larger numbers. ISIS does it by force and propaganda, while Franklin is a bit more cunning. Instead of by force, Franklin’s building his alliance via tours to all 50 states, and plenty of social media propaganda of his own– the force part will come later when they are strong enough to take over. But let us be clear: both sides are doing the same thing. They are both trying to amass a following large enough to take this show on the road.
1. They both want to spread their ideology across the globe.
I have no doubt that the end goal of ISIS and that of Franklin Graham is the same: they both want to spread their ideology across the globe. Since both sides are in a quest for power, it’s an easy call to predict that no amount of power will ever be enough for either one of them. Neither will be satisfied until everyone finds themselves under their religious laws.
And to all that I say, no thanks.
The question I’m wrestling with is, “What’s the difference between the ideology of Franklin Graham and that of ISIS?”
The best answer I can come up with is, “Not much.”
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.