Liberty University held its first convocation on Wednesday September 16, 2020. And its first speaker was Franklin Graham. The choice is troubling because of Graham’s controversy and did Liberty need such a polarizing individual after Jerry Falwell Jr’s departure? Franklin Graham has not repented for a number of issues that this post looks at. The selection of Franklin Graham sends an ominous message that Liberty has not learned from the problems of Jerry Falwell Jr.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Franklin Graham has an alter call for you.
Franklin Graham’s September 16, 2020 Convocation
On September 16, 2020 Franklin Graham spoke to Liberty University in their first convocation of the school year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was held in the Liberty football stadium and it appears as if social distancing was practiced based off watching the video. In the talk Franklin Graham called on Liberty University students not to defile themself to this pagan culture in the United States. Graham preached out of Daniel and and stated that Daniel is an example for Liberty students in the modern society. “Like Daniel, my prayer is that you will purpose in your heart that you would not defile yourselves before God with the things of this world,” Graham said. “Yes, we live in a pagan country, and society says it’s OK. But God doesn’t say that it’s OK.” Graham also touched on the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and how they stood firm in their support for the Lord. Even when they were thrown into a fire they did no compromise. You can read Liberty University’s description in, “Evangelist Franklin Graham delivers Convocation message inside Liberty University’s football stadium.” Franklin Graham called on Liberty students to participate in the upcoming Washington, D.C. Prayer March.
There are a number of issues with FRanklin Graham’s talk at Liberty that raises many issues. Let’s remember some of Franklin’s past behavior.
Recalling When Franklin Graham Supported Jerry Falwell Jr After Zippergate Started
When the above picture came out on social media it started a firestorm which led to Jerry Falwell Jr taking a leave of absence on August 7, 2020. One individual who rushed to Jerry Falwell Jr’s defense is Franklin Graham. In a New York Times article Graham praised Falwell’s leadership and said that all people make mistakes. These are the quotes in the New York Times. “He is a great leader and he has taken this school — it is one of the largest universities in the United States. He’s done an incredible job,” Mr. Graham said. “He is a great leader and I certainly support him.” Graham also stated about the photograph. “All of us in life have done things that we’ve regretted. I think he certainly has regretted that. It was a foolish thing.” To my knowledge Franklin Graham has not backtracked or stated that he was wrong about Jerry Falwell Jr.
This issue makes it complicated to have Franklin Graham to speak at Liberty. Because it shows that Franklin Graham doesn’t know Christianity at all. He didn’t call Jerry Falwell Jr to own his mistakes or come clean. Instead he rushed to defend him. Is that an example that Liberty should put before it students after its former president videotaped and watched a Latino have sex with his wife and made his homemade porn? But there is more about Franklin Graham that is disturbing.
Recalling the Many Other Issues of Franklin Graham. From Abandoning Baptists in Russia to Saying Its No One’s Business if a President Has a Relationship with a Porn Star
Andy Rowell of Bethel put together a good Twitter thread that shows the ethical issues with Franklin Graham. You can read that in, “A Look at Franklin Graham’s Ethics. A Twitter Thread by Andy Rowell.” But this blog has also written about the many issues with Franklin Graham over the past few years. This blog has no respect for Franklin Graham and views him as a fraud. Graham illustrates why nepotism is the most problematic issue in modern evangelicalism. But what are some of the issues with Franklin Graham? Let’s look at them.
- There is the efforts of Franklin Graham’s salary and double dipping and not being transparent about ministry finances. The Charlotte News & Observer did a deep examination of his salary. Plus the 501 (c)(3) status was changed to allowed for finances to be concealed. You can read more in, “Franklin Graham’s Salary, the IRS Change to Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Should Churches be Supporting “Operation Christmas Child?”
- Russia a few years back passed the most restrictive religious freedom laws since the days of Soviet Union. The laws targeted Baptists and other religious minorities inside the country. As Baptists and others were forced to flee the nation or face police along comes Franklin Graham who has kind things to say and praises Vladimir Putin. Does Franklin Graham care that Baptists are being arrested and that they are fleeing? No. You can read more in, “Franklin Graham’s Affection for Vladimir Putin, Plus is Franklin Graham a Modern Day Charles Lindbergh with His Love for Authoritarian Leaders?“
- Then there was the issue with Stormy Daniels. Stormy Daniels is a porn star who acted in over 300 movies including titles such as “Battle of the Breasts” and “Breast Side Story.” Donald Trump had an affair and then paid her off and bribed her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. When this was all coming out Franklin Graham came forward and said that Donald Trump’s sex life with a porn star is no one’s business. This contrasted with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal during the Bill Clinton impeachment saying that character counts. You can read more about this in, “Franklin Graham is Upset that Walmart Sold “Impeach 45” T-Shirts. Plus Graham Believes that Trump’s Affairs with Porn Stars is Nobody’s Business.”
- When the alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh came forward Franklin Graham said that it didn’t matter. Sexual assault is fine. Is this part of the reason, this flippant attitude toward rape explain why there is a crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention and modern evangelicalism with sex abuse? You can read more in, “Franklin Graham Believes Christine Ford’s Alleged Sexual Assault by Brett Kavanaugh is “Not Relevent.” Does Graham’s Behavior Help Explain Why there is a Sexual Assault Crisis in Evangelical Christianity?”
- Then there was the time that Franklin Graham called Donald Trump a defender of the Christian faith. So that settles it affairs with porn stars, having racist beliefs, screaming that other countries are shitholes and grabbing pussy is all a part of the Gospel. Its in the Sermon of the Mount or when Jesus taught at the temple somewhere. You can read more in, “Franklin Graham Says Donald Trump is a “Defender of the Christian Faith.” Plus Newsweek on Young Evangelicals Abandoning Faith Because of Politics.”
- Then there was the time that Franklin Graham proclaimed that Donald Trump is the most persecuted President in American history. Think about that…more than Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon. What it shows is that Franklin Graham who has made the Gospel about Christian nationalism never learned from his father’s mistakes with Nixon and Watergate. You can read more in, “The Politicization of Evangelical Christianity Gets Worse with Franklin Graham Calling for People to Pray for the Most Persecuted President in American History – Donald Trump.”
- Franklin Graham moved his father’s archives away from Wheaton and down to North Carolina. Currently there is no archivist. Is this an attempt to censor history? When I did grad level work I appreciated archives. You can read more in, “In Moving the Billy Graham Archives From Wheaton to Charlotte, North Carolina is Franklin Graham Planning to Censor History?“
- In late May of 2020 Franklin Graham defended Trump’s use of the military on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. As the Gospel becomes more synonymous with Christian nationalism and politics. Franklin Graham has certified himself as a fluffer. You can read more in, “Considering Christian Nationalism. How Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress Are Nothing But Fluffers.”
Choosing Franklin Graham Indicates Why Its Unlikely that Liberty University Will Not Change
Stop and consider all those issues written up above in the previous section. Is Franklin Graham what Liberty University needs for its first convocation? Especially after how and why Jerry Falwell Jr left? Does Liberty need another polarizing individual? No… For many of the issues above Franklin Graham has not repented at all. What kind of model is that for the students at Liberty? Having Franklin Graham teach sent a message that it will be business as usual and the issues that took place at Liberty will not be addressed properly. Franklin Graham was an awful choice. Whoever selected him should have “points” added to their record. But for the writer of this blog it sends an ominous message that Liberty has not learned the dangers or problems of celebrity Christianity. Also is Liberty willing to learn? Or be open to change and search internally? Well their investigation will tell us a lot when that is completed. And in addition they are not helping Franklin Graham either by giving him a platform. This was a disappointing development to see and this blog would encourage people not to get their hopes up to high because it is highly unlikely that these issues will be resolved as cultural issues are deep.