A divisive message

Billy Graham’s son Franklin is ruining his legacy of unity

The Rev. Billy Graham was a leader. Whether or not you believe in his charismatic brand of evangelism, he was largely viewed as a good man for many reasons, including his push for racial equality. Among those efforts: inviting The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to join him on one of his “crusades.” Religious tolerance was also important to Graham, who worked alongside Catholics, much to the dismay of his fundamentalist followers.

But Franklin Graham is very much not his father’s son. And Chico got to see that firsthand on Sunday (June 3), when he appeared in front of some 3,000 to 4,000 people at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds for what he dubbed his “Decision America California Tour.” The goal? To appeal to rural Republican Christians and encourage them to vote.

That’s something we can get behind: Vote. We believe the late Billy Graham would have agreed with that message as well. But what would the elder Graham have thought about his son’s bigotry and partisanship? After all, Franklin has called Islam a “very wicked and evil religion” (and he once suggested President Obama might be a “secret Muslim”). It should come as no surprise that he supported President Trump’s “Muslim ban.”

Apparently, Franklin believes—and preaches—a similar thing about progressives. Specifically, he calls them “godless.” In a tweet in April, he said, “Christians should be aware of candidates who call themselves progressive. Progressive is generally just a code word for someone who leans toward socialism, who does not believe in God, & who will likely vote against Godly principles that are so important to our nation.”

That’s certainly painting with a broad brush. We wouldn’t label all conservatives Bible-thumping greed-mongers.

Local Christian churches that agree with Graham’s rhetoric ought to do some serious soul-searching—and biblical research, particularly with regard to the New Testament. His offensive and divisive comments underscore how far the modern evangelical movement has strayed from its core principles: things like “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

While the crowd cheered, it was clear that not all in attendance were prepared to heed the call (see “Church, meet state,” page 8). Indeed, several folks countered his message. That includes a local believer who went out of his way to point out Graham’s decidedly anti-Christian rhetoric. Another man who spoke to the CN&R expressed wishes that the reverend stay out of politics altogether. We concur.