Where Franklin Graham Has Gone Wrong

Where Franklin Graham Has Gone Wrong March 31, 2014

I’m always pleased to publish a post by the esteemed Peter Wehner.


By Peter Wehner

The evangelist Franklin Graham had quite a run last week.

In interviews and statements, he praised Russian president Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay policies. “I agreed with Putin. I think protecting his nation’s children, I think, was a pretty smart thing to do,” Graham told the Charlotte Observer’s Tim Funk. “I was very clear. I supported Putin in his decision to protect his nation’s children. And I think our Congress needs to do more in protecting our children.” (Mr. Graham’s oddly sympathetic article on Putin, published in Decision magazine, can be found here).

When Graham said gays and lesbians cannot have children, Funk pointed out that they could adopt. To which Graham responded, “Yeah, they can recruit.” Refusing to use the word “adopt,” he added, “You can adopt a child into a marriage but you can also recruit children into your cause.”

Like many other evangelical leaders, the Reverend Graham criticized the decision by World Vision to hire people in same-sex relationships. But unlike some others, Graham’s language was particularly shrill, saying, “It’s obvious that World Vision does not believe the Bible… I’m just heartbroken and I’m sickened that World Vision has taken this ungodly position.” (World Vision subsequently reversed its position.)

In talking about the Obama administration, Graham said they “are anti-Christ in what they say and in what they do.” (In his Decision article, Graham wrote, “Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards.” In the past he seemed unsure about whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States, refused to accept Mr. Obama’s claim that he’s a Christian and couldn’t rule out the president is a Muslim. Graham later apologized for questioning the faith of President Obama.)

When asked about how America can reverse its moral slide, Graham answered, “This is a good question. When you look at Scripture, when Israel turned their backs on God – and that’s what we as a nation have done and are doing – there was usually some type of calamity. There was a famine, there was a persecution from their neighbors, nations would come in and overrun them and destroy them.”

In answering a question about the “demonization” of Muslims in America, and in reaction to Funk’s statement that “Christians in this country have opposed the building of mosques and are worried about sharia laws,” Graham said, “We should be afraid of sharia law. We should be absolutely afraid of it. No question about it. Because there’s no tolerance in sharia law. It persecutes those that don’t believe in Islam. And I would say to Muslims in this country, if they want to practice sharia law, go back to where you came from, to those nations that recognize sharia law.”

I’ve been reflecting on why I, an evangelical Christian and political conservative, had a negative reaction to what was said by the Reverend Graham. For one thing, Graham, I think, wrongly views homosexuality as primes inter pares, the worst of sexual sins and very nearly the worst of all possible sins. It’s a topic that clearly preoccupies him in a way that is, in my estimation, wildly disproportionate to what one finds in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. (I’ve laid out my views on Christianity and homosexuality before, here and here.)

I also have differences with Graham’s theology, believing that his moral mathematics in which sin yields to God’s judgment against nations doesn’t apply to us as it did to ancient Israel, in part because America is not a covenant community on the model of what we read in the Hebrew Bible. The way God dealt with ancient Israel was sui generis. (I examine what I deem to be the logical flaws in this kind of theology here.)

And while no one could accuse me of being favorably disposed to Mr. Obama and his policies, the Reverend Graham’s attitudes toward the president strike me as excessively harsh and personal. As for sharia law, it’s hardly on the verge of taking root in America, and Graham’s “go back to where you came from” line seems to me to be unnecessary and ungracious.

But on a deeper level, I wonder if Graham’s attitudes, which I’m sure he believes are shaped by the Bible, are in fact distorted by his own cultural and political assumptions. That’s true of all of us, of course, though it might be somewhat more true – or at least more true in a certain way – of Graham than some others.

I just don’t think a fair-minded reading of the Bible would correspond to the central place (and threat) Graham gives homosexuality. The people who have to answer for the weakening of marriage in American society are overwhelmingly heterosexuals, including professing Christians, rather than gays. And when speaking about God’s judgment on America, why is homosexuality at or near the top of the list of offenses while indifference to the poor, not caring for the stranger and alien in our midst, vanity, self-righteousness, our idols and the counterfeit gods we create, a judgmental spirit and avarice are left off? Surely Graham knows that the greatest hostility that occurred was between religious leaders and Jesus, not those viewed as outcasts and sinners.

I’m not suggesting, as some liberal Christians do, that we jettison the teachings of the Bible. I am suggesting that we all make more of an effort to put things in their proper place and order; that we better balance moral beliefs with humility, winsomeness and joy, and generosity of spirit. Think of Pope Francis, who hasn’t budged at all on traditional Catholic doctrine even as he has gotten the world to take a look at his faith with fresh eyes. “Francis has combined traditional moral teachings with a scandalous belief that people are ultimately more important than rules,” according to Michael Gerson. “[Francis’s] path to reform is not changing the catechism,” John Allen Jr., associate editor at the Boston Globe, said. Instead, it is “creating a zone for the most merciful application of pastoral teaching.” Francis has washed the feet of a woman prisoner who is Muslim, which sends a rather different signal than that sent by Graham.

There is no way to prove whose approach, Graham’s or mine, is closer to the truth of things. The devil can cite Scripture for his own purposes, Shakespeare wrote, and so can Franklin Graham and I. I have little doubt that Graham is in many respects an admirable man (the organization he heads, Samaritan’s Purse, does impressive humanitarian work). We’re both trying to be faithful and see through a glass a little less darkly. But we also bring to things flawed perceptions and spiritual astigmatisms, as well as different life journeys. They have shaped how we understand our faith, and how that faith ought to manifest itself in the world. Mr. Graham would probably say I’m dramatically understating the importance of moral righteousness and in danger of advocating what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” I would argue the effects of his statements are like a carnival mirror in which what is reflected aren’t accurate images but distorted ones – in this case a Christianity of judgment, stridency and punishment more than grace and redemption.

There’s no question that because I was drawn to Christianity more because of God’s grace than His moral demands, it has colored my theological perceptions, perhaps excessively so. But I agree with the words of Gordon MacDonald: “The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.”

Franklin Graham, at least based on some of his public comments, seems to have lost sight of that truth. It would help his witness to the world, I think, if he reminded himself what’s so amazing about grace. It’s what has brought him safe thus far, and what will lead him home.

Peter Wehner is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues and is coauthor with Michael Gerson of City of Man and with Arthur Brooks of Wealth and Justice.


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  • Wendy Murray

    Really well stated. Thanks for this balanced piece.

  • Bioethike

    A synonym for a “fair-minded person” in this piece would be “milquetoast”. Important points are clearly relativized, and even Franklin Graham’s beliefs are misconstrued. Is this what passes for “ethics” these days?

    • Tom

      I’m a strong and committed supporter of Franklin Graham, but I recognize this as a well-reasoned article worthy of more than vague, knee-jerk pushback. Bioethike, would you care to identify some of the important points that are relativized, and some of Franklin’s beliefs that are misconstrued in the article?

  • mochalite

    Excellent! I have yet to hear a cogent argument on the question “Why this sin?” When evangelical groups start refusing to hire fat people, the arrogant, gossips, cowards, the unfaithful, and liars … First, they’ll have no employees, and second, I’ll listen to them on refusing to hire gays.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    “The people who have to answer for the weakening of marriage in American
    society are overwhelmingly heterosexuals, including professing
    Christians, rather than gays.” This is absolutely true and hits the nail on the head. But placing an imprimatur on same-sex marriages AS THOUGH they were equivalent in social significance and value (not to mention in the eyes of God) to opposite-sex marriages geared toward the birth and nurture of children and grandchildren doesn’t at all strengthen marriage in American society and indeed further weakens it. If that’s what Graham is trying to say, he doesn’t deserve to be criticized for it.

    • Donalbain

      Gay marriage has been legal in my country now for three days. When can I expect my marriage to be weakened as a result, and what are the signs I should be looking for?

      • trytoseeitmyway

        Look for declines in the birthrate. Look for an increasing rate of first births out of wedlock. Look for growth in the inter-generational transfer of poverty.

        And as long as you’re asking for my advice, try to remember that snark isn’t analysis. And try to think more for yourself, rather than depending on others to hand you obvious answers.

        • Donalbain

          OK.. can you show any decline in birthrate associated with gay marriage in any of the countries that has it? And what would you propose as the causal mechanism? After all, how does George Takei marrying his partner prevent my wife or any other woman from having a baby?

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Yes. Look up the data yourself.

            Individual anecdotes (George Takei) mean nothing. Social capital means everything. Look up the data yourself. But I guess you have never heard of a gay man leaving his wife and family for a lover. I guess you have never heard of a lesbian leaving her husband and family for a lover. If you think these things never happen, you’re more deluded than I thought. The causal mechanism for declines in birthrate and the increases in out of wedlock births and the inter-generational transfer of poverty have to do with a social devaluation of marriage. The rationale for gay marriage is that marriage should be “about” two people who love each other living together and sharing their lives and blah blah blah. No. That’s NOT what marriage should be about. Marriage should be about children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and their care and nurture and guidance and prosperity. Marriage is a mechanism for the intergenerational transfer of wealth and culture. Gay marriage is orthogonal to those things, as you perfectly well know. The whole point of “gay marriage” (a contradiction in terms, as we know) is the idea that, really, “gay people” shouldn’t be “discriminated” against by treating marriage (traditional opposite-sex marriage) as special or important or of greater value in comparison to other kinds of human associations. But of course it is all of those things! It is in society’s interest to hold marriage up as special and important and valuable and to preserve and strengthen family relationships by surrounding the institution with cultural approval. The tendency, instead, to approve of cohabitation and homosexuality undermines that force and leads to the decline in social capital that is reflected in the statistics I mention.

            Oh and a question for you: can you show that gay marriage has no effect on the trends mentioned?

          • Donalbain

            “Look up the data for yourself” simply means that you have no data yourself.
            A lesbian leaving her husband for a lover happens without gay marriage.

            Also don’t say “as we know”, I do not know any such thing. I do not believe that it is a contradiction in terms at all.

            And you didnt mention ANY statistics, just some unsupported clams.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Let’s just be clear then. Your opinion is that there are no increasing rates of 1st births out of wedlock in countries with gay marriage. Your opinion is that there is no decline in the birthrate in countries with gay marriage. Your opinion is that the intergenerational transfer of poverty is not an issue in countries with gay marriage. Oh, and you’re not willing to supply data for any of your contentions, while you disparage me for not doing your research for you.

            It is not as though I have a lot of time on my hands, but if I get a chance I will look up some of this for you and let you know. But let’s get this nailed down first: you think that there are no increasing rates of 1st births out of wedlock in countries with gay marriage; that there is no decline in the birthrate in countries with gay marriage; and that the intergenerational transfer of poverty is not an issue in countries with gay marriage. So if I come up with contrary data, you’ll be willing to admit that you were wrong.

            Why aren’t you willing to present your own fact-based argument? Hmmm?

            You also think that lesbians leaving husband and family will occur at the exact same rate before and after gay marriage. You also think that homosexual men leaving wife and family will occur at the exact same rate before and after gay marriage. Can you please confirm that you believe those things? Because when you do, I think that will demonstrate clearly your failure to grasp elementary attributes of the real world.

          • adam

            Since 1970, out-of-wedlock birth rates have soared. In 1965, 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born to single mothers. By 1990 the rates had risen to 64 percent for black infants, 18 percent for whites. Every year about one million more children are born into fatherless families. If we have learned any policy lesson well over the past 25 years, it is that for children living in single-parent homes, the odds of living in poverty are great.


            THIRTY years later, first gay marriage.

            Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have been a couple for more than 50 years were the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the United States on February 12, 2004.


            What is MORE likely the cause is the Drug War (the new Jim Crow).


            THIS more than anything else has led to the intergenerational transfer of poverty….

          • trytoseeitmyway

            If you’re saying that the OOW birthrate problem preceded gay marriage, of course I agree. See my earliest comment on this page, agreeing that the problem is much larger than gay marriage. But we ought to admit that it IS a problem and that further diluting the status of marriage in society does nothing to alleviate the problem and is accelerating it. It’s sort of … what’s a kind word? Its sort of naive to suggest that the problem of OOW births and increasing rates of co-habitation and the other social ills mentioned can all be ascribed to higher-than-average incarceration rates for African-American males. While the problems are certainly exacerbated for black families, the trends clearly cross racial lines and have more to do with the ongoing erosion in moral values, of which the normalization of homosexuality is a piece.

          • adam

            It is not naïve at all to understand the underlying economics of the Drug War on the poor and minority.

            It is naïve to claim some correlation between your homophobia and OOW births.

            The erosion of moral values IS CLEAR in the Drug War and the economic consequences of those affected.

            The erosion of moral values is clear that the Drug War was just a new Jim Crow.

            It is also clear that the erosion of moral values is present in homophobia, where the belief is that certain people don’t deserve to be treated fairly and equally.

            Bottom line:
            It is the ECONOMY stupid.
            We WASTE our money locking up young minorities for possession and limit their educational and economic capabilities, PRODUCING more poverty and less desirable and AVAILABLE marriage partners.

          • Donalbain

            Obviously gay marriage is so bad that it can travel back in time and cause birth rates to drop!

          • ahermit

            The onus is on you to show that there is actually a cause and effect relationship between same sex marriage and any of those other trends. I can point you to statistics that show that the incidence of certain crimes in Winnipeg correlates with the sale of ice cream. Doesn’t mean ice cream cause criminal activity, just that both go up when the weather is warm.

            And spare me any lectures about what marriage is; I’ve been married (happily and heterosexually) for thirty years, I think I know a little bit about what a marriage is and isn’t…and you don’t get to tell me or anyone else that their marriage isn’t “real.”

          • trytoseeitmyway

            This is very typical,. You think that you don’t have to support what you say with any facts but I have to “prove” what I say to your satisfaction, which you fully intend never to grant. That’s an old, old game. You think that the amazingly recent innovation of same-sex “marriage” (an oxymoron, but OK) has no impact on the role of marriage as an institution in society … but you don’t want to have to offer evidence of that. I understand. We both know it’s because you can’t.

            You think that we can all be watching increasing rates of out of wedlock birth, decreasing fertility rates, and increasing rates of cohabitation … and have perfect confidence that, somehow, redefining marriage AWAY FROM birth, child rearing and the inter-generational nurture of children is entirely unaffected. If you want to know what B.S. is, that’s it right there. No wonder you don’t want to discuss evidence.

          • ahermit

            You’re the one making the assertion here, you’re the one who needs to back it up. Even by your own argument sane sex marriage is at worst a result of changing attitudes about marriage, not the cause.

            And let’s remember, the old model of marriage was about ownership and property; wives were considered their husbands “chattel.” So the mere fact that the understanding of what constitutes a marriage can change is not in and of itself necessarily a bad thing.

            Neither are declining birth rates, given the pressures of overpopulation. with improved health care more children survive infancy, so having lots of children isn’t necessary. In fact it may well be that children in smaller families benefit from greater parental attention.

            There’s also good evidence that once you control for factors like income and educational background what matters most in child rearing is a stable environment, not the number or gender of caregivers… http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/familystability.htm

            So f healthy families and well cared for children are your concern then extending the legal protections and benefits of marriage to families of same sex couples is a benefit and something you should be in favour of.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            “Kamp Dush said she is not suggesting that there are no advantages for children living in two-parent homes.”

            Same sex marriage does nothing to promote stable healthy child rearing. To the extent that opposite-sex marriage partners are induced to leave existing families to form same-sex relationships, that is obviously harmful to children. You admit that, right? If you think, like someone else here, that the normalization of same-sex relationships doesn’t encourage that to happen, you have the “onus” of proof on that laugher.

            Marriage is devalued in society compared to earlier years as seen in statistics regarding levels of cohabitation. You’re not addressing that here, for obvious reasons – it doesn’t help your case. Marriage is devalued in society compared to earlier years as seen in statistics regarding levels of out of wedlock birth. You’re not addressing that here for obvious reasons. Opening the concept of marriage to relationships that IN PRINCIPLE aren’t procreative further decouples marriage from child birth, child rearing and intergenerational relationships. If you think that’s not true, then I think you have the burden of proof. Or else we can throw burden of proof back and forth until the cows come home. I will fall asleep long before then out of sheer boredom.

            My friend, I will let you have the last word. I think that any fair minded person who is concerned about the role and status of the family in our society is properly concerned that gay marriage is not a step forward. I’m not sure that you even want to claim that it is, because the notion is absurd on its face.

          • Gregory Lynn

            I notice you completely discount the much more common phenomenon of a person in a heterosexual marriage leaving it to pursue a separate heterosexual relationship.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            I discounted that? No, not at all. What an odd thing to say.

          • ahermit

            There’s a big difference between “not suggesting there are no advantages to two family homes” and “Same sex marriage does nothing to promote stable healthy child rearing..”

            In any case the first makes no distinction between same sex and heterosexual couples.

            “To the extent that opposite-sex marriage partners are induced to leave existing families to form same-sex relationships, that is obviously harmful to children.”

            Family instability may tend to have negative effects, but I don’t see an epidemic of people suddenly deciding to leave a heterosexual marriage for a same sex relationship. I’m sure it happens occasionally but not as often as people ending relationships in favour of a different opposite sex partner or for other reasons.

            And depending on the family dynamic it may be better in the long run for some children not to be raised in a household full of tension and lies. You can’t make general exclusions of whole classes of people on the basis of a few outlying hypothetical cases.

            “Marriage is devalued in society compared to earlier years as seen in statistics regarding levels of cohabitation.”

            Which seems like a strange reason for denying the right marry to large numbers of people who do value it…

        • ahermit

          Bullshit. There isn’t a shred of evidence to connect same sex marriage to any of those things.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            How Christian of you to say. But you’re wrong. I’ve already mentioned evidence. You just don’t want to accept it, because you’re in denial.

          • ahermit

            Oh you “mentioned” evidence…good for you.

            Can you actually show us any? And I’m talking about actual evidence of a causal relationship not just a stack of parallel but unrelated statistics…

          • trytoseeitmyway

            I’ve done that. Waiting for yours.

          • ahermit

            No, all you’ve done is what I just described; posted a bunch of unrelated statistics and declared a causal relationship without any actual evidence of such a relationship.

            Try again.

          • adam

            You HAVE NOT.
            The trend shows up from the 70’s.
            First gay marriage was 2004.

            THIRTY YEARS!

            I have provided you more reliable and better causal relationship based on the Drug War and its disastrous social and economic consequences that ACTUALLY correspond with the increase.

            All you have done is espouse homophobia as a solution to an economic and social problem unrelated to gay marriage.

            FEAR- mongering.

        • Donalbain


          Specifically, heterosexual marriage rates and divorce rates in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands displayed no significant change in trends after implementation of rights for gay couples; longstanding trends in nonmarital birth rates showed no sign of acceleration attributable to passage of partnership laws; and nonmarital birth rates showed the same changes in countries with and without partnership laws.

          Sorry to interrupt you with some actual data there… please continue..

          • trytoseeitmyway

            I’m interested in data, but maybe more interested in the idea that you think you’ve provided data. The link is to the abstract of a paper apparently published in 2004 (so, 10 years ago) which included … well, we don’t know, because the paper itself is behind a pay wall, but any factual information must have been even older. So, I get that you’ve done some research – good for you, that’s exactly what you should do – but let’s don’t call the abstract “data.”

            (I notice you edited your comment after I posted this response. The edit adds a quotation from the abstract, which was missing before. It remains true that conclusions about data aren’t data, they’re conclusions. You can assess the conclusions by looking at data and methodology, but in this case, that is all behind a pay wall. It is humorous to find that you regard conclusions as “data,” as long as they support your predetermined viewpoint, but not otherwise.)

            The authors conclude, in the abstract, that “longstanding trends in nonmarital birth rates showed no sign of acceleration attributable to passage of partnership laws; and nonmarital birth rates showed the same changes in countries with and without partnership laws.” Similarly, they report “no significant change in trends” for marriage and divorce in the Scandinavian countries surveyed. (It doesn’t appear from the abstract that the authors cross-compared the Scandinavian trends with those of countries without same-sex marriage or equivalents.)

            So, to begin with, it is exactly those “longstanding trends” that concern me. It is of interest that they appear not to concern you. That is indeed part of the problem. Longstanding declines in rates of marriage, increasing rates of divorce and increasing rates of illegitimacy are serious social issues, and as far as I can tell, your response, and others here (you know, the atheists) is utter indifference. You don’t even see the effect of legitimizing (and compelling social recognition by force of law) homosexual “marriage” as an issue. If someone (me, for instance) brings up the issue, what you all mostly want to do is call names and accuse the person of being motivated by belief in Jesus Christ, which you regard as being entirely disreputable.

            Right? I didn’t misstate that did I? But regardless of your rejection of religion and your quest to normalize homosexuality, I and others are perfectly well warranted in regarding those “longstanding” trends as issues of concern, and in considering causes and consequences. You don’t care, but I do.

            (But perhaps I did misstate you. I don’t mean to conflate your comments with those of ahermit or others. If your attitude is that this is a legitimate discussion to have and that all points of view are equally welcome, then I would be delighted to hear you say that.)

            Anyway, the authors of your study say in their abstract that the trends “showed no sign of acceleration attributable to passage of partnership laws.” In other words, they DID show signs of acceleration, which is what I predicted in my original response to your original snarky comment. But the authors wave their hands at the acceleration by saying that it is “attributable” to other factors.

            The question of attribution and of cause and effect is complex. Everyone knows that correlation isn’t causation, but everyone also knows that correlation needs to be found before causation can even be considered, and here we have correlation established even in one 2004 study of Scandinavian countries. What I said to you earlier is look for that correlation everywhere, and I predicted that you will find it everywhere. Perhaps you agree.

            Similarly, the authors noted changes in trends related to marriage and divorce … but dismissed the changes as lacking in significance. Hmmm. I wonder if others might disagree, or if other data collected in the last 10 years might find significant changes.

            But, look, to be fair, this is exactly the right kind of conversation to have. It probably burdens this comment page, but the point is that there is a legitimate social policy/social capital analysis that needs to be undertaken. To repeat a point I made earlier – sorry, but it deserves emphasis – the trends with respect to marriage and illegitimacy are serious and negative. There is a logical and intuitive potential for the elimination of the opposite-sex element of the legal and social understanding of marriage to affect those trends. People who are concerned with those trends – not you, of course – can legitimately be concerned about the possibility of a causal effect, and can urge hesitation before adopting radical social changes. These considerations are orthogonal to religious considerations, and need not be conflated with religious motivations.

          • adam

            2004 THIRTY years after the trend has been established by the Drug War and economics.
            THIRTY years…
            You say you are interested in data, then supply some that supports your homophobic claims….

          • trytoseeitmyway

            “Drug war.” LOL.

          • adam
          • trytoseeitmyway

            Name calling. Typical.

          • adam

            I didn’t call you a name any more than you called me “Drug war.”
            THAT’s more typical….

            Of people who can’t support their claims…

            With EVIDENCE…

          • Donalbain

            And still you have NO data to support your claims.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Sure I do. You even provided some. Do you contest the FACT that rates of marriage are steadily declining, that rates of cohabitation are steadily rising, that rates of illegitimacy are rising? This is data that supports my concern that marriage is losing its social cachet.

            The issue concerns the interpretation of that data in relation to the normalization of homosexuality. You have no data that rules out any linkage. My view is that a redefinition of marriage which further attenuates the relationship between marriage and raising families can’t possibly help and likely makes matters worse. You disagree, I know, and besides, you don’t care. I get that.

            This grows tedious. You can have the last word.

          • Donalbain

            You stated that gay marriage would have those effects. You have shown NO data to support that claim. I have no doubt however that you will continue to make that claim. Liars are not usually stopped by facts.

          • adam

            Since the trend started in the 1970’s, a report of the THIRTY YEARS since the trend sure seems like DATA.

            And certainly a LOT more than you’ve provided with your OPINIONs.

      • ahermit

        It’s been legal in my country for about a decade now and it’s been just awful. My heterosexual marriage has gone all fabulous since then…we’ve taken to interior decorating and throwing dinner parties and everything…/stereotypes

  • j m

    Dear Pete,

    Name me an Old Testament city destroyed for divorce, and while you are at it show me how the cities destroyed for sodomy were under the covenant. And as I recall, the world was destroyed at the time of Noah but God had no covenant with the world, either, so why shouldn’t we be liable to God’s punishment just because Paul might disagree? And after you finish doing that, please explain to me why Lot could still be “righteous Lot” according to Jesus even though he committed drunken incest with both (!) of his daughters, who apparently had been married to “men” destroyed with the rest of the catamites.

    Last time I checked it was “primus inter pares”, referring to Augustus’ self-described new role as head of the so-called restored Republic. But you obviously don’t understand the meaning of the phrase no matter how you spell it. It means first among equals, which as you misuse it would imply that homosexuality is first among equals. Well, some equality is more equal than others, even if they are all equal. There’s another phrase, not pagan, for why this is so: “Be fruitful and multiply”, which makes you know what persona non grata. That’s why we exist according to the earliest of our myths.

    The Christians of early America routinely executed homosexuals even though they were God-fearing Puritans and other assorted Christians. The liberal Thomas Jefferson intruded on this practice and suggested castration was a more enlightened response.

    I agree! Let’s get started!

    • Gregory Lynn

      When Christians start calling for mandatory fertility testing and refusing to recognize the marriages of those who are naturally infertile or are married after the woman has passed menopause, then they might have some logical ground to say that marriage is solely for the purpose of childrearing. As for Sodom and Gomorrah, I point you to Ezekiel 16:49: Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

      • j m

        The womb is not barren by definition, but the asshole and the mouth are.

        • Unah

          Do you seriously think heterosexual couples don’t have oral or anal sex?

          • j m

            No, I seriously think they do, and stand condemned.

      • trytoseeitmyway

        This is such a ridiculous argument, it is annoying to encounter it so frequently.

        • Gregory Lynn

          And yet, you offer no counterargument, only an insult, and no counter at all to the Bible verse I quoted.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            If the argument is ridiculous, I should be able to say so without you treating it as an insult. I didn’t say you were ridiculous, I said that the argument is ridiculous, and annoying to encounter for that reason. So don’t get huffy.

            What’s the counter argument, you want to know. Well, now, you really are courting an assessment of your intelligence or candor. To be clear, I express no opinion as to the reasons God destroyed Sodom. There were probably lots of them. The ridiculous argument is the one that denies legitimacy to linkage between marriage customs and family and child rearing. It is just not the case that the linkage cannot be cited as a grounds to oppose redefining marriage unless fertility is verified prior to the consummation of marriage, or whatever variant of that nonsense one wishes to espouse. All you have to do -duh! – is think of the fact that heterosexuality is IN PRINCIPLE procreative, while homosexuality is not. All you have to do – duh! – is ask yourself what percentage of solemnized opposite-sex relationships include childbirth or nurturing of children or grandchildren versus the percentage of same-sex relationships. The heterosexual side of the comparison doesn’t have to hit 100% efficiency to have social value, but the same-sex side isn’t even going to top 10% on its best day, so the notion of treating the two as socially equivalent lacks practical merit. Since this is obvious to literally everyone, it is hard to understand why so many ostensibly intelligent people – see, I’m being nice – want to advance an argument that so badly overlooks real-world facts.

            And the moral element is that children deserve to be born to and raised by a father and mother who are married to one another. Pseudo marriages do nothing to encourage this, and create a disincentive by treating pseudo marriages as though they were the real deal. The more gay marriages you form, the fewer opportunities there are for true marriages with children. And don’t tell me that homosexuals never marry or have children, because there are lots of men and women who are perfectly capable of fertility, even if they might choose an alternate lifestyle if granted the same legitimacy.

          • The Thinking Commenter

            The more gay marriages you form, the fewer opportunities there are for true marriages with children

            Same goes for “those who are naturally infertile or are married after the woman has passed menopause”, O intelligent one that believes fairy tales for dumb reasons. And don’t insult my intelligence too. “The Thinking Commenter” self-defines myself as intelligent. It’s in the definition, O super smart person.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            This just restates the original argument, which lacks validity for the reasons I explained. By the way, I’m sure that you’re a perfectly bright person, but clearly I would be uninterested in how smart you define yourself to be. Surely I’d be entitled to downgrade my assessment of your intelligence based on that bit of foolishness. Anyway, heterosexual women (men too – are you a misogynist or something?) who become infertile over time might very likely have had children at an earlier stage, and a re-marriage would likely still be concerned with the nurture, guidance and support of children and grandchildren, and align with the value of marriage as a social institution on that ground. This can also be true of the marriage of the naturally infertile, which comprise, oh, what percentage of the population would you say, smart guy? Seriously, what’s your estimate of that? I’d be curious.

            See, the point I was making – over which you’re pleased to elide – is that marriage as an institution, as a social construct serves powerful purposes. I already said that not 100% of marriages need to align perfectly to those purposes in order for marriage, as such, to serve its purpose. But forcing through law and regulation a contrary definition of marriage for legal purposes – and then demanding that it be recognized as equivalent for all social purposes – is completely orthogonal to those purposes and values and therefore diminishes social capital. You know this very well, and so does everybody else. You just want to PRETEND that you don’t know it, because you have independent political ideological reasons for wanting to insist on the redefinition. I get that – and we could have a discussion about what those reasons are, and whether they are valid or not – but let’s don’t pretend that you’re not trying to undermine the status of marriage as a social and cultural institution on those grounds.

          • adam

            ” You just want to PRETEND that you don’t know it, because you have independent political ideological reasons for wanting to insist on the redefinition.”


            The problem is not redefining marriage.

            DIVORCE is a much bigger problem than gay marriage.
            Want to do something to support marriage?
            OUTLAW divorce.

            If you REALLY want to best address the problem, then address the ECONOMIC side.

          • ahermit

            Plenty of same sex couples have children, either by previous relationships, in vitro fertilization or adoption. And even if they didn’t the bottom line here is that we don’t deny the legal rights and benefits of marriage to any heterosexual couple just because they don’t or can’t have children, or have adopted children or even if they are bad parents. So there can be no rational legal argument for denying those same rights and benefits to same sex couples; certainly not on the basis of a vague philosophical musing like the one you’re pushing.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            There’s nothing vague about it. I’m talking about real world facts and a real world problem, that you prefer to ignore.

            Here, I’ll prove it: what’s your solution?

          • ahermit
          • Gregory Lynn

            Here’s mine: Take the word “marriage” out of government language entirely. Let any two (or more!) consenting adults who wish to formally join their households into one do so and call it a domestic partnership. That way, the issue of what does and doesn’t constitute a “marriage” is left entirely up to the religious, and the people in such an arrangement can consider themselves married or not as THEY decide.

          • ahermit

            ” The more gay marriages you form, the fewer opportunities there are for true marriages with children”

            This is utter nonsense, by the way; extending the legal rights and benefits of civil marriage to same sex couples in no way prevents or discourages heterosexual couples from getting married or having children. It’s not like marriage is a limited resource which needs to be rationed…

            (edited to kerect spieling misteaks)

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Far from utter nonsense, it is self evidently true. But this becomes tedious. Please continue to spend time thinking about Christianity though. Rev. 3:20.

          • Gregory Lynn

            Gravity is self-evident. Light is self-evident. The existence of reality is self-evident.

            Trying to connect gay marriage to reduced birth rates is FAR from self-evident.

            Which would be better for a child: Being brought up by a loving, committed gay couple who were monogamously involved with only each other, or being raised in a “normal” marriage where one or both parents were abusive and unfaithful?

          • ahermit

            I spent a lifetime thinking about Christianity; the first half clinging to it and the last half letting go. The last half has been much better in almost every way.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Well there you go. Thanks.

          • ahermit

            You’re welcome. I sincerely hope you can find the inner strength and intellectual honesty to abandon your superstitious prejudices, or at least to stop insisting that they should have the force of law over those who don’t share them.

          • ahermit

            By what mechanism do you imagine recognizing same sex marriage will reduce the number of opposite sex marriages?

          • Donalbain

            Obviously there is a limited amount of the element Marriagium in the universe. Every time a gay couple gets married, it uses up part of the finite supply of Marriagium, meaning less is available for straight couples. This explains why every time a gay couple gets married Newt Gingrich has to divorce his wife.

          • I want to gay marry this comment.

      • Tom

        GL, your first point is an argumentum ad absurdum. Silly on its face. But on your second point, Franklin’s father Billy Graham made that same point a couple of years ago from the same scripture you cited. Franklin’s mother, who died a few years ago, once said that if God doesn’t someday punish America, he’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Some claim she was referring to homosexuality, but her husband Billy — just a couple of years ago in a public letter — repeated the quote and linked it to the Ezekiel passage, calling out America for a lifestyle of pride, overeating, and prosperous ease without sufficient care for the poor and needy.

        • Gregory Lynn

          Of course it’s an argumentum ad absurdum, though you seem to have gotten the definition wrong. An argumentum ad absurdum attempts to show that a statement is true or false by extending it to its logical end. Hence:

          *If marriage is solely about bearing and raising children, only those who are both able and willing to bear and raise children should be allowed to marry.

          That is the logical extension of all arguments attempting to claim that marriage is ONLY about pumping out babies. Yes, there is still a heavy element of childrearing tied to the institute of marriage, but it is no longer the sole purpose, as it might have been when the practice began. Over the centuries, marriage has been used for so many different things, including securing political alliances and ensuring financial security, that the notion of marrying purely for love is actually a fairly recent development in the history of human culture. It wouldn’t be incorrect to classify marriage for much of Western history as a simple transfer of property, where ownership of a woman is transferred from her father to her husband. Some people still treat it like that, particularly in second-and-third-world countries, but it happens here in America as well.

          Honestly, with the world already overpopulated and as many children trapped in orphanages and the foster system as there are, I seriously wonder why ANYONE would consider their specific genetic material so important that they HAVE to have a child born from the fruit of their loins, rather than adopting.

          • Asemodeus

            You can do a quick thought experiment when it comes to the hedonistic desire to propagate your genes.

            Any children you have has 1/2 of your genes. Any child of that child has 1/4, and any child of that child has 1/8 of your genes and so forth. It is a 2^n progression. A average human has around 20,000 genes within their DNA.

            So. How far down the line do we take the 2^n progression until the 1/2^nth power child has less in common with your genes than he has with total genes?

            2^n= 20,000. Solve for n. n is between 14 and 15, so 15 generations of children you can have before your genes get washed away by other people. If we assume a average lifespan of 50 years, taking into consideration life expectancy over centuries, that is at best 750 years that you’ll matter.

            In a universe that is roughly 13 billion years old.

    • Tonto

      What a wonderful idea! That will surely learn those dirty, disgusting young homosexual boys and girls the next time they even THINK to choose to endure themselves to endless bullying and torment by their peers and the countless judgemental righteous individuals calling for such strict penalties. After all, JM, it IS a choice, right? I mean, who wouldn’t choose To insert themselves into the jaws of the holier than thous like yourself and be subjected to the loss of alleged god-given body parts. Yeah, you would think that..

      • j m

        Keep it coming. I love hearing what Pete Wehner’s supporters really think.

        • Tonto

          Funny, how did you know of the many Pete Weiner posters plastered all over my bedroom walls? Yeah, I remember back in ’06 at one of ol Pete’s anti castration rally’s. Those were the days. Maybe one day he’ll let me sodomize him and then we’ll invite you over and you can cut off my testicles! Oh how grand that would be!

      • Tonto


    • Reason #56 I’m glad to be an atheist.

      I can listen to someone call for the execution or castration of my LGBT neighbours and loved ones and tell them, without equivocation, that they are a terrible person with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

      • Canbuhay

        Really, based on what moral grounds?

        • If that’s your gut reaction to someone speaking against forced castration and execution, it’s not my morals we should be discussing.

  • Mr. Wehner, it’s called cherry-picking. It’s a common practice for religious leaders. Choose the passages in your holy book that best correspond to your own biases, politics, and prejudices and ignore the rest, even when others point them out.

    That’s how you have people like Fred Phelps and Franklin Graham both calling themselves Christians, both proclaiming similar anti-gay messages, but only one gets the vitiriol they both rightly deserve.

    • adam

      It is really about politics…
      Divide people to create a problem for the solution they offer.
      Offering relief from the ‘sin’ that religion creates to sell it’s ‘cure’.

  • Canbuhay

    I don’t think Franklin Graham or most Christians who are faced with this issue actually want to talk about it. We’re talking about it because our culture keeps telling us we need to adopt their views on the topic.

    Culture doesn’t tell Christians we have to adopt their view of sex outside of marriage or of porn or lying. Our jobs aren’t threatened (Mozilla anyone?) if we don’t follow their views on the Bible or God. But on this issue, we are attacked on all sides and called names if we don’t tow the party line.

    I think it’s unfair to call out Franklin Graham to say that he talks about this issue too much when all you are relying on are reports, often from secular media, about what a Christian leader is saying on a current issue.

    • adam

      Funny, looks like they LOVE talking about it.
      In a Ted Haggard sort of way….

  • Matt McLaughlin
  • criterionstalker

    Excellent piece but far too kind to Graham, who is no real Christian – except in today’s insane GOP where a thug atheist Russian dictator is doing right by his people for beating up homes. Graham is a phony