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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Is Franklin Graham a Christian?

Franklin Graham is the son of America's leading evangelist, Billy Graham, and runs Samaritan's Purse, a Christian international relief organization. He also runs the Billy Graham Evangelistic organization and he gets a hefty compensation package for both, totally over $880,000 per year (last figure reported in 2015). So we can assume it is higher than that at the present time.

That figure is in the upper tier of compensation packages for mega-pastors and their ilk. Some such as Pastor Rick Warren "reverse tithe" and give much of their salaries back to various charities and their own congregations. Graham has said that he is not doing so in order to accrue enough money so that he can work for free when he is 70. One wonders how much work he will be doing at that age.

It must be said that Samaritan's Purse receives a high rating by Charity Navigator, despite Graham's salary being about 50% higher than average for aid organizations such as Graham's. His salary has not gone unnoticed by many within the Christian church. Some comments on Charity Navigator are as follows:

To Franklin Graham, "How much is enough for you?" It doesn't matter if you give much of it back to the ministry, why take it in the first place? Your children are grown, expenses must be modest at this stage of your life. Would you do the same work for less? If so, then why not take less? What other compensation do you receive? Allowances, vehicles, book royalties, etc. We fill 1,600 shoe boxes each year. You could fill a lot of these boxes with some of your income.

This is supposed to be a Christian based organization. I don't remember Yeshua comparing his salary to Pontius Pilate, saying it's not so much. Reminds me of Matthew 7:15--ravenous wolf anywone? Or Micah 3:11: ...her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the LORD's support and say, "Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us."

Samaritan's Purse has been connected with political support for anti-gay legislation in Uganda, other countries in Africa, and in Russia. This political work, far outside their core mission and focus, should be of concern to anyone donating to the charity and interested in where the money is really going. http://www.theguardian.com/.../us-evangelicals-africa

Graham's actual salary is higher if you take into account that as a non-profit he is being subsidized by the government.

Franklin Graham is now touring America, going to all fifty states, holding prayer vigils for our politicians and candidates, so that Americans will support candidates who will support "biblical values." There is no political affiliation as such, however it can be assumed that "biblical values" does not include the Democratic Party or progressive ideals. Biblical values has long been code for supporting anti-gay legislation, anti-gay marriage (supporting the supposedly biblical definition of marriage as being one man, one woman except that there is no "biblical definition" of marriage), support for pro-discriminatory laws such as that attempted in Indiana, and of course anti-abortion laws. He has supported Republican candidates in the past but for this year's election he has stated he endorses no one, wishing only to get out the Christian vote in a "campaign for God."

He hasn't said if he believes Trump is a Christian (he said nearly the same thing regarding president Obama, which implied that he wasn't positive the President wasn't a Muslim either) and that voters needed to make that decision for themselves. He has supported statements that Trump as made in the past, particularly re the Iran treaty and the candidate's views on political correctness:

"This political correctness, everybody's afraid of offending somebody or saying something that's going to turn somebody else off. I mean it's terrible," Graham said.

This is a bit odd for a Christian pastor to say, since offending people is likely not to be considered along with loving one's neighbor. Franklin's own father, Billy Graham, always made certain not to offend people since this would take away from his chief ministry, leading people to Christ.

It is chiefly Graham's stance on supporting anti-gay rhetoric and legislation in Africa and Russia that leads some to question Graham's own christian beliefs. Would a Christian say, as Graham has, that President Putin, who cracked down on the gay community in Russia, has a better policy toward gays than our own President Obama? These laws have put the lives of gays within Russia in danger. [This has earned Graham his very own "Pukey" award.]

Samaritan's Purse has also been very active in South Sudan, and throughout Africa. Its support for the anti-gay agenda has put many people's lives at risk throughout the continent.

Christians often see a duty, an obligation to help the less fortunate, those in poverty, the sick, those seeking asylum. This comes from Jesus' own ministry (cf Matthew 25). However, Graham is very outspoken regarding the obligation of Americans to help immigrants coming from the war torn areas of the Middle East. He lauds Trump for his call for cutbacks --a ban-- on Muslim immigrants. He's fine with letting Christians in, but not others. Here is his Facebook post:
Four innocent Marines(United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in ‪#‎Chattanooga‬ yesterday including a policeman and another Marine--all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized--and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we've got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.
Samaritan's Purse no doubt has done its fair share of charity work in undeveloped areas of the world and during catastrophes. One does question how it can withhold aid though until after a half-hour or so prayer meeting. The people in El Salvador, after  enduring an earthquake, were told they would be shown how to construct shelters but were told to wait after a prayer meeting was held. It must be noted also, that these people were likely already Christians, as El Salvador is a Catholic dominated nation. But protestant evangelicals see Catholics as a field for harvest; you apparently can be Christian, but Christian of the wrong sort.

If one takes a broad view of Graham's activities, and his statements, one might conclude that he is no Christian at all. Remember Jesus' own words, "You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" The fruits of Graham have consistently been of hate and greed: grapes of thorns, one might say. That is not behaving as a Christian would behave, if one had truly undergone a transformative spiritual experience, which is what evangelicalism actually means. 

So is Graham a Christian? Perhaps. Let's have the voters decide. 

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