Tag Archives: Billy-Graham

Why Evangelicals Should Love the Pope (copyright The New York Times)

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SundayReview

Why Evangelicals Should Love the Pope
APRIL 4, 2015

ON Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate an event that inspires more than two billion of the faithful with eternal hope. Jesus spoke often about the life to come. Yet he also spoke about God’s will being done here on Earth. How best to live out one’s faith in this world has been a complicated issue throughout Christian history, and it remains so today.

Since the mid-1970s, one dominant strain of cultural engagement among Christian leaders in America has been to warn about God’s judgment on a disobedient, decadent nation. This approach assumes that the main task of the church is to call us back to moral righteousness. Among the most prominent representatives of this kind of Christian cultural engagement is the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of the famed evangelist Billy Graham. Last month the younger Mr. Graham warned that our nation has “turned its back on God.” For nations that do this, he said, the “end is near.” The “tide of immorality has risen to new heights,” Mr. Graham said in 2013, with homosexuality and “all the anti-God people” being the main cause. He has gone so far as to praise the autocrat Vladimir V. Putin for his anti-gay policies.

These beliefs have a theological corollary: It is the duty of Christian leaders to fight on behalf of traditional values and to reprove sin. According to Mr. Graham, “We are locked in a war against the Christian faith.”

But this two-generations-long culture war is not going particularly well. The cultural influence of evangelical Christians is rapidly waning. As one religious leader put it to me: “We used to be the home team. Now we’re the away team.” The response from some Christian leaders, like Mr. Graham, is to ratchet up the condemnatory rhetoric. This has led to greater disaffection, especially among younger evangelicals who find this approach to be brittle, alienating and unforgiving. We are living through a moment of introspection and reconsideration, then, as Christians search for an alternative way to engage the culture that is both faithful and effective.

Enter Pope Francis. For those of us who are part of the evangelical movement, the popular leader of the Roman Catholic Church offers an archetype. He views the role of the church not as a combatant in the culture wars but “as a field hospital after battle.” He has also said, “Without mercy, we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of a world of ‘wounded’ persons in need of understanding, forgiveness and love.”

In 2013, the pope told a young audience in Rio de Janeiro, “Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.” Two weeks ago, Pope Francis did just that, meeting with gay, transgender and H.I.V.-positive prisoners during a visit to Naples.

Pope Francis criticizes the church not for its unwillingness to rebuke sinners but for ignoring the weak and vulnerable. He washed the feet of two women and two Muslims in juvenile detention — the first time a pontiff has included both women and Muslims in the rite. Without changing church doctrine, he has altered how the Catholic Church is seen. These are symbolic acts packed with theological content, reminding us that individuals are infinitely more valuable than moral rules, that failures don’t define us.

Of the two approaches — Franklin versus Francis — the one taken by the pope is not only more popular but also better reflects Christ’s example. Jesus confronted sin, not to be censorious but because it puts us at enmity with God, one another and our true nature. “Go and sin no more” were words meant to produce greater human flourishing. Yet time and again in the Gospels we read about Jesus embracing those denounced by the religious elite of his day.

The authorities were constantly at odds with Jesus because he hung out with the “wrong” people — the despised, the outcast, the ceremonially unclean — and he claimed the authority of God in doing so. Jesus was condemned for being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” and for consorting with prostitutes. His anger was directed most often against the proud, the hypocritical and the self-righteous. The powerful hated him, while those who were broken flocked to him.

Some of my fellow evangelical Christians may respond by saying they are called to stand against unrighteousness for the good of the whole. But Pope Francis is not reversing the teachings of his church; indeed, Mr. Graham’s and Pope Francis’ views align on matters of marriage and protecting unborn life. The difference has far more to do with tone, animating spirit and emphasis. In the words of the New Testament scholar Richard B. Hays, “What the Bible does say should be heeded carefully, but any ethic that intends to be biblical will seek to get the accents in the right place.”

That is where Mr. Graham and those evangelicals he speaks for have veered off track. He obsesses on some issues while ignoring others, speaks with stridency rather than mercy, and thereby creates a distorted impression of Christianity, one that is at odds with Jesus’ approach.

The award-winning Christian author Philip Yancey once took to asking a question of strangers, when striking up a conversation: “When I say the words ‘evangelical Christian’ what comes to mind?” Mr. Yancey reports that he mostly heard political descriptions — but not once did he hear a description suggestive of grace. This is quite an indictment of a faith in which the concept of grace should be at the very center.

Pope Francis, on the other hand, understands that Jesus’ main mission was to persuade a world in need of God’s love and mercy. If the pontiff speaks of the church primarily as a field hospital, Mr. Graham sees it as a sentencing court.

Steve Hayner, one of the baby boom generation’s most respected evangelical leaders and my spiritual mentor, died earlier this year. The last time I saw him, he told me that the central characteristics of God are love and grace — and that therefore the central mission of Christians is to extend his hand of grace to others. What God has given to us, we owe to others. “If what you’re doing in your life is leading toward reconciliation and redemption,” he once told me, “then you’re most likely headed in the right direction.”

Pope Francis is heading in that direction. There are an awful lot of evangelical Christians ready to follow his lead.

Peter Wehner is a contributing opinion writer and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the last three Republican administrations.

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The utterly unpleasant Franklin Graham (son of Billy)

exclusive interview with Huff Post

In just the first 60 seconds of this interview with Franklin Graham, the son of charismatic preacher Billy Graham, viewers are treated to his condemnation of gay adoption as “recruitment,” fear-mongering about a political gay agenda, as well as a strong endorsement of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s harsh policies towards LGBT individuals.

The interview, conducted by Charlotte Observer religion reporter Tim Funk, stands in stark contrast to the statement released earlier this week by major Christian charity World Vision, which announced that it would treat gay job applicants the same way that it would consider straight ones.

“Gays and lesbians cannot have children,” Graham commented. When Funk pointed out that they could adopt, he retorted, “Yeah, they can recruit.”

He went on to imply that gay adoptions are tantamount to exploitation of children:

You can adopt a child into a marriage, but you can also recruit children into your cause. I believe in protecting children, OK? From exploitation, all exploitations.
During the interview, Graham insisted that he was simply speaking out the way his father once did, despite the unpopularity of his views.

“You talk about controversy – my father stood with Martin Luther King in the early 1960s,” Graham told Funk, according to the Charlotte Observer. “My father never worried about polls. I don’t care about them, either. And with the issues we are facing today – if my father were a younger man, he would be addressing and speaking out in the exact same way I’m speaking out on them.”

Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer, author of The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond, questioned Franklin Graham’s assessment of his father’s civil rights record in an email to The Huffington Post:

Billy Graham, to my knowledge, never stood publicly with MLK. He did invite King to give the invocation one evening at one of the gatherings during his 1957 revival campaign in Madison Square Garden, but Graham was conspicuously absent during the March on Washington or the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in the wake of the police shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson in nearby Marion.
For Franklin Graham to compare the Civil Rights movement to his opposition to gay and lesbian rights is not only laughable, it is, frankly, odious.

Graham’s comments over the course of the interview are not limited to jabs at the LGBT community — he also warns of the threat posed by American Muslims, the left-wing media, and the Obama administration.

Watch it above, if you can stomach it.

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March 27, 2014 · 08:53

Franklin Graham (from Huff Post)

imageFranklin Graham Thinks Putin’s Stance On Gay Rights Is Better Than Obama’s
Kevin EckstromReligion News Service03/14/14 03:45 PM ET
(RNS)

Evangelist Franklin Graham is praising Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggressive crackdown on homosexuality, saying his record on protecting children from gay “propaganda” is better than President Obama’s “shameful” embrace of gay rights.

Graham, who now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started by his famous father, praises Putin in the March issue of the group’s Decision magazine for signing a bill that imposes fines for adults who promote “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

The Russian law came under heavy criticism from gay rights activists, and from Obama, ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In response, Obama included openly gay athletes as part of the official U.S. delegation to Sochi.

“In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues,” Graham writes. “Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”

“Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.”

With the caveat that “I am not endorsing President Putin,” Graham nonetheless praised Russia’s get-tough approach toward gay rights.

“Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?”

Graham also implicitly seems to side with Putin’s ally, embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the ongoing civil war that has claimed more than 140,000 lives. Syria’s small Christian population has largely sided with the Assad regime throughout the three-year conflict.

“Syria, for all its problems, at least has a constitution that guarantees equal protection of citizens,” Graham writes. “Around the world, we have seen that this is essential where Christians are a minority and are not protected. … Christians in Syria know that if the radicals overthrow Assad, there will be widespread persecution and wholesale slaughter of Christians.”

Graham’s father was a virulent anti-Communist in his early years; in 1949 he called communism “a religion that is inspired, directed, and motivated by the Devil himself who has declared war against Almighty God.” But as he took his message around the world, he softened his rhetoric on a host of issues, including politics and hot-button fronts in the culture wars.

“If I had it to do over again, I would avoid any semblance of involvement in partisan politics,” the elder Graham, now 95, wrote in his 1997 autobiography, “Just As I Am.”

For years, Billy Graham sought to take his gospel behind the Iron Curtain, ultimately preaching to huge crowds in Moscow in 1982. At the time, Putin was a young agent in the KGB. “In fact, he was in charge of monitoring foreigners in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) when my father preached there in 1984,” the younger Graham wrote. “If he was eavesdropping on our meeting, which I hope he was, he heard the Gospel!”

Since Franklin Graham took over in 2001, he has steered the Graham franchise in a more political direction by openly questioning President Obama’s faith, endorsing a North Carolina measure that banned gay marriage, calling Islam an “evil and wicked religion” and implicitly endorsing Mitt Romney’s 2012 White House bid.

Michael Hamilton, who has studied the Graham legacy as a historian at Seattle Pacific University, said both father and son have been known to wade into controversy, but Franklin Graham responds differently.

“When the firestorm would hit, Billy Graham would always backtrack or walk back his comments in some way,” Hamilton said. “But when the firestorm hits Franklin, he doesn’t seem to really care.”

Hamilton also questioned why Franklin Graham — who has received wide praise for his relief work through his organization Samaritan’s Purse — didn’t approach Syria through the lens of “its enormous humanitarian crisis.”

A spokeswoman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said Friday (March 14) that Franklin Graham was traveling and unavailable for comment. A statement from BGEA noted his article went to press before the current crisis in Ukraine that’s pitted Putin and Russia against the West.

“Franklin Graham consistently encourages Christians to be informed and take a stand for biblical values and biblical truth,” the statement said. “The Putin cover article was a way to provoke engagement of readers on this important issue and encourage further thought, prayer, and action.”

But Marianne Duddy-Burke, who heads the gay Catholic group DignityUSA and is a member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable of gay-friendly religious groups, said she’s met with gay and lesbian Russians who have been beaten, stabbed and burned as Russia cracks down.

“It’s really disturbing when a religious leader seems to endorse laws that lead to this kind of behavior,” she said.

(Adelle M. Banks and Cathy Lynn Grossman contributed to this report)

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Jesus was not a white man

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December 19, 2013 · 20:35

Billy Graham’s Prayer for America, at 95 years

billy-graham-my-hope-america-last-sermon

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have  rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have  ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from sin and set us free. Amen!”

 

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July 5, 2013 · 10:43

The Pope, Billy Graham, and Pat Robertson died

The Pope, Billy Graham, and Pat Robertson died in a plane crash and showed up at the pearly gates. St. Peter was surprised “Oh dear! We weren’t expecting you and your quarters aren’t ready. We can’t take you in and we can’t send you back!” so he called Lucifer and said “I have three gentlemen who are ours, but their places aren’t ready yet. Could you put them up for a couple of days? I’ll owe you one.” The Devil reluctantly agreed but after a short time, called heaven. “Pete, this is Lucifer. You have to come get these three guys.

This Pope guy is forgiving everybody, the Graham fellow is saving everybody, and Robertson has raised enough money to buy air conditioning!”

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May 1, 2013 · 11:48

Post Office

The Meenister’s Log

The Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was.

When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven.” 

“I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said. “You don’t even know your way to the post office.”

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