Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, appeared as Don Lemon’s guest on his CNN Tonight television program about two hours ago. Franklin Graham has been a big supporter of President Donald Trump despite Trump’s many faults. It has tarnished Franklin Graham’s reputation with millions of Americans. Yet he refuses to back down about it. Like many evangelicals who voted for Trump as president, Franklin Graham almost gives Donald Trump a carte blanche pass.
Tonight, Franklin Graham said President Donald Trump is a “good man.” He then said he believed that “God put him there,” in the White House. He said he believed that because he reasoned that Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election were so remote. IMO, that’s not a very good reason for believing what God does. Franklin added in response to Don Lemon’s accusations against Trump’s character, “we are all flawed.” Yes, all humans are made in the image of God, yet we are flawed because we sin. But Franklin added concerning all human beings, “we are all sinners.”
Now, I don’t relish disagreeing about a theological matter with the son of the greatest evangelist in the 20th century. Plus, Billy Graham was my friend, and his endorsement of my first book, The Gospels Interwoven, is on its back cover. I have always felt much honored for that.
Although most Christians think we are all sinners, that actually is not a biblical idea. The Bible says all people sin, but it does not say we all are “sinners.” Some readers may think I’m getting too semantical here. But then, I am a Bible teacher. The Bible teaches that there are two kinds of people: sinners and saints.
The Bible’s use of the word “saint” means primarily “one set aside,” that is, for God. Thus, it means mostly that that person belongs to God. In other words, that person has a spiritual relationship with God. The Bible also indicates that saints live a life that makes it look like they belong to God. And who is this God? The God of Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of creation. But the word “saint” in the Bible does not mean only someone who lives a perfect life or nearly perfect life, as most people think.
The Bible’s use of the word “sinner” generally means someone who lives a life which demonstrates that s/he does not belong to God. But the Bible also teaches that anyone who belongs to God believes in God, and that is foremost which makes that person a child of God. And incidentally, the Bible does not teach that all humans are “children of God.” That involves relationship, which is what belonging to God is about. All human beings are creations of God, but not children or people of God according to the Bible.
Back to Don Lemon’s interview of Franklin Graham. Lemon cited various ill behaviors of Donald Trump as evidence that Graham, as an evangelical Christian, should not be so defensive of President Trump. Graham’s usual response was that those things, or accusations, occurred prior to Trump campaigning for president, as if he gets a pass for that.
I think Franklin Graham is making the same mistake about politics that his father Billy Graham made, only worse. Billy Graham admitted publicly many times late in his career that he regretted his public endorsements of U.S. presidents. Indeed, Billy Graham was a friend and spiritual counselor to various presidents. He especially was a strong supporter of President Richard Nixon.
“Tricky Dick” had a devout Christian mother who was a Quaker. Believe me, Quakers are good people. I lived in Friendswood, Texas, for over twenty-five years. This town was founded by Quakers, which name originally was attached to them with derogatory intent. They called themselves “friends,” and friends indeed they are.
But President Richard Nixon wound up soiling his reputation by lying to the American people over such a foolish thing and having to resign the presidency or get impeached for it. As people said afterwards, “the coverup was worse than the crime.”
But I suspect the main thing Billy Graham later resented about President Nixon was his foul language he used in private. He was exposed about it on the White House tapes of private conversations about the Watergate coverup that ended his presidency.
I think Franklin Graham is making the same mistake, and maybe much worse. How will Franklin Graham and a lot people who voted for Donald Trump, and still strongly support him, feel if the Justice Department’s special counsel Robert Mueller proves by means of his FBI investigation that Donald Trump himself colluded with Russian government operatives to defeat Hilary Clinton in the election and then obstruct justice in trying to stop Mueller’s investigation? If that happens, will Franklin Graham conclude the same way his father did about his involvement in politics.