Dear Franklin Graham and Frank Schaeffer– An Open Letter To Two “Franks”

Dear Franklin Graham and Frank Schaeffer– An Open Letter To Two “Franks” November 5, 2013

From: John of Berkley

To: Franklin Graham and Frank Schaeffer

Dear Franklin Graham and Frank Schaeffer,

The other day, I published an article about Why I Won’t Be Celebrating Billy Graham’s 95th Birthday. I wrote the article out of sincere concern about the infantile state of faith in America, and the role and influence of the religious right in bringing it about. In your own ways, both of you have inspired me to reflect deeply on my own life and worldview, and to paraphrase Frank’s dad, “How then should I live?”

Obviously, I’ve decided that I can’t remain silent about this crisis. But wading into these waters is hard, and discouraging. I’ve decided to write this letter to both of you in search of an answer to a question that has been gnawing at me for decades now:

“Where is the grace?”

Franklin, your judgement and threats inspired my anger. A vote for Mitt Romney was not consistent with my value system, yet, you tried to bully me into voting for him:

So pray and then vote on November 6, asking God for His mercy and grace upon our land. There’s still time to turn from our wicked ways so that He might spare us from His wrath against sin.

Trying to scare me into voting Republican is just wrong. But threatening me with the wrath of God is simply pathetic. This was pretty high drama to get me to vote for man who is blessed with his own car elevator,and yet expresses disdain for people too poor to even be able to afford their own car.

Franklin, the reason I did not vote for your (and presumably, your father’s) candidate Mitt Romney, or Barack Obama, is because I oppose torture. Revulsion to torture, the kind Ronald Reagan had, was ~my~ petty litmus test for a presidential candidate with “biblical values”, and neither Romney nor Obama seemed to care much about it, and your candidate, Mitt Romney, signaled that, if elected President, torture would return under his administration. And don’t even get me started on the 47%!

In a calculated contortion of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s theology to accommodate Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, you feigned civility:

“I don’t want to be involved in calling people names I want to reach people for Christ, and how can I do that if I’m calling them a name?”

Yet, after Obama was elected, you suggested that Mitt Romney’s defeat was due to Americans turning their back on God:

God blesses countries, but God also brings bedlam when countries turn their back on him. If we don’t obey his laws, he will withdraw his hand of protection.”I want to warn America: God is coming around. He will judge sin, and it won’t be pretty.

As someone intent on the defeat of Mitt Romney for my own moral reasons, I found your assertion that my electoral choice would contribute to America’s judgement offensive and alienating. And your concern about “reaching people [like me] for Christ” is nowhere to be seen. Where is the grace in this?

As I strongly suspected before publishing my article, criticizing the beloved Reverend Billy Graham is not the best way to make new Christian friends on the Internet. Some Christians on the Internet have perceived my criticism of Rev. Graham’s divisive partisanship and errant end-times prophecy as a mean-spirited attack on a good-hearted man with cognitive difficulties in his old age.

But senility as an explanation doesn’t fit the reality of these coordinated activities. It’s not like Billy got a hold of the checkbook and bought a bunch of ads in national newspapers trying to influence the 2012 election when no one was looking. Rev. Graham’s end-time predictions weren’t just random tweets. These messages are not careless mistakes leaking out of the corner of Billy Graham’s frail mouth and finding their way into the press. Rather, they are carefully constructed by BGEA for maximum media impact. Where is the grace in that?

Frank Schaeffer, your storytelling inspired my courage to speak out against the very real danger of the religious right. In your autobiography Crazy For God, your own story helped me make sense of the history of the hijacking of Christianity by the religious right in America, fusing crazy religion with crazy politics. And your latest novel “And God Said Billy!” is an amazing lens into the hurting psyches of evangelicals that manifest a world of confused magical thinking in an attempt to manage the doubts and fears we all share about God and our existence as we look through a glass darkly, yearning for wholeness…


First published in the Daily Kos, follow John on twitter: @johnholland

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.





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