In an interview recently Franklin Graham said that Donald Trump is a “defender of the Christian faith.” That received a lot of attention and a response from the atheist community. Shortly after that took place Newsweek had a cover story that examines the dying relationship between younger evangelicals and politics. Young evangelicals are walking away from the church in bulk because they are sick of the politics.
“I never said that he was the best example of the Christian faith. He defends the faith. And I appreciate that very much.”
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem.”
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20-21 NLT
There is news with Franklin Graham again. With Graham the news is seldom good. Franklin Graham gave an interview that grabbed a lot of attention and was picked up by regular political press in Washington, D.C. Let’s look at what Graham said.
What Franklin Graham Told Axios on HBO
On November 25, 2018 Franklin Graham granted an interview to Axios on HBO. In the exchange he discussed Donald Trump and why he supports him so strongly. In the interview Franklin stated that Trump is a “defender of the Christian faith.” In dismissing the sexual misconduct and extramarital affairs the son of the late Billy Graham said the following in the interview. “Now people say ‘Well Frank but how can you defend him, when he’s lived such a sordid life?’ I never said he was the best example of the Christian faith. He defends the faith. And I appreciate that very much.” In the same interview he said that Trump apologized for his mistakes. He mentioned that the misconduct by Trump does not matter because it happened before he became president. You can read the interview here. The interview was picked up by one of the main press publications in Washington, D.C. that covers politics in the capitol. The Hill wrote about the exchange late in the evening that same day. You can read the coverage that Graham received in The Hill here. Newsweek also wrote about what Franklin Graham said which you can access here.
This behavior by Franklin also got the attention of the atheist community. Over at The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta addressed the situation in calling Franklin Graham “a confused Jesus follower.” In a blog post Mehta pointed out Graham’s hypocrisy. The reason why Graham likes Trump is because he is anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-intelligence. Mehta goes on and says that Graham means that being an evangelical Christian is that you don’t defend the poor, disenfranchised, and helping people out. Being a white evangelical Christian as Mehta claims means to embrace white nationalism, tear families apart and surrounding himself with criminals. In that same post Mehta also addresses two other claims by Franklin Graham. Liberalism is not why all churches are declining, after all in his own denomination which is Southern Baptist they are declining as well. Graham ignores that fact. Then in regards with evangelicals being too closely affiliated with the Republican Party. He supports the freedom of worship that the Republicans are giving evangelicals. In response Mehta says that what Franklin Graham wants is white evangelical supremacy. You can read that post here. This is a good segue into the next section of this post.
Newsweek Cover Story on Young Evangelicals Fleeing Politics
On December 13, 2018 Nina Burleigh wrote an article that is a cover story that is ominous for the evangelical Christian church. The article explores how many young evangelicals are leaving the church because of politics. It starts out by sharing a story of a 29 year old Connecticut social worker who left the church he was involved in long term because his pastor said that Trump’s election is “a miracle of the Lord.” Another story after dealt with another evangelical who had a pastor who railed against Muslims after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. When the actual bomber turned out to be a white nationalist nothing was said. The article continues with other like minded stories.
The article by Newsweek should be a concern to anyone who claims to care about the evangelical Christian church. The article addresses white evangelicals and voting in national elections. What you see is a shrinking voting block. What is happening is that as the younger people leave evangelicalism while the older people are in the process of dying off. Newsweek asks the question if the alliance between Republicans and evangelicals is coming to an end? In the article it even looks are how evangelicals are responding through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. This is done by Robert Jones, who leads the Public Religion Research Institute who has studied and researched the relationship between white evangelicals and voting. Younger evangelicals, the millennials, are fleeing evangelicalism in mass. Younger people resent partisanship and do not like how evangelicals have been treating gays and lesbians. Polling is revealing that younger people are stronger supporters of gay marriage. I would encourage you to read the rest of the article here.
Analysis of Franklin Graham’s Comments and the Newsweek Cover Story
These posts are tiring as it seems as if Franklin keeps opening his mouth to rotate feet that he has inserted. What Graham said I believe is indefensible. The fact of the matter is that the hypocrisy on display is ugly. As things unfold and continue to get worse that will continue. Graham is a court evangelical. Earlier this year I read and reviewed a book that looks at court evangelicals as well as evangelicals and politics. You can read that review in, “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Fear, Lust for Power and 81%. A Look at John Fea’s “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump” Honestly I wish Franklin Graham and others would come out an admit that to be an evangelical Christian is to pursue raw, naked political power. Its not about faith, Jesus or God. In the end faith is a means to obtaining power. For people like Franklin its a shield to hide behind. Talk about Jesus and have a hidden stealth objective. For younger people this approach by older white evangelicals is cataclysmic. It has turned many off from evangelicals and the results is damage and loss. The wreckage from the culture wars is growing and its driving many people away. That is reinforced by what the Newsweek cover story is showing. Millennials are done with faith and politics. They are turned off by it and want a faith that is apolitical.
For myself the reason why you should also be concerned about Graham is that every church I have been involved in has used Franklin Graham’s programs. I sat in an Evangelical Free service in the Fresno and Clovis area recently and saw them also participating in Graham’s programs. Its troubling as it taints top much of the faith. And even if programs like Operation Christmas Child are popular the baggage from Franklin Graham should cause most Christian thinking individuals to second guess if its worth being affiliated with Franklin Graham. For me I am baffled how Graham can say some of the things he says about migrants and the poor and then lead a ministry that helps them. That is kind of like serial killer Ted Bundy assaulting people while also running a rape help line. It would make no sense. The silence by many evangelicals is leading to show support which is tragic.
I don’t think its a coincidence that the Newsweek story came out shortly after Franklin Graham’s comments received the coverage that they did. Its like the cause and the affect playing out. You see what bothers people and then how they respond. From my perspective I am looking forward to the divorce of evangelicals and politics. The end of the relationship with be good for both the evangelical Christian church and the Republican Party. When that happens I think both organizations will become much more healthy.