I admit that this is not a piece I enjoy writing or one that I even want to write. Rebuking someone that you have looked up to and held in high esteem for such a long time is not a pleasant experience for anyone, particularly when that someone is a Christian brother who has done immense good for the Kingdom of God. If true religion is what the book of James tells us it is, “caring for orphans and widows,” Franklin Graham has lived it through his benevolence ministry, Samaritan’s Purse.
That good work, however, does not immunize Graham from being held accountable for his public witness. And it is upon those grounds that I feel compelled to implore Mr. Graham as a Christian brother to please choose silence in our current political environment.
A few clarifications:
First, I was hopeful that someone in Graham’s inner circle of Christian friends would address this with him personally. If I knew him personally I would have. Perhaps they did and Graham did not heed their counsel.
Second, this public rebuke is not a violation of Matthew 18:15. Graham’s comments were not personally harmful to me, nor do I have any personal issue with him that needs resolution. This is about his public remarks that have provided, and continue to provide, unnecessary stumbling blocks to non-believers by misrepresenting what is of true value to a Christian.
So what’s the issue that has me concerned? Franklin Graham’s persistent adulation of the Trump White House in ways far beyond policy affirmation. As I wrote about recently, the only logical defense left for Christians who vocally support President Trump is pragmatism. It’s the position that acknowledges the President’s unrepentant immorality, while finding him a useful ally in advancing public policy that Christians prefer.
A couple of recent tweets by Graham go far beyond that. Tweets like this:
“Happy birthday to @FLOTUS Melania Trump – the classiest first lady our country has ever had.”
Hyperbolic and intentionally exaggerative in an effort to be polite? Perhaps. A verbose overstatement not meant to be taken literally? I suppose it’s possible. But leaving aside the laundry list of former First Ladies whose class is second-to-none, let’s not forget that Melania is a former nude model – something that to my knowledge she has never repented from or expressed regret over.
No, of course she is not doing that now. And it is possible that Melania has extraordinary shame over the multiple pornographic images of her floating around the internet, though she has never said so. Regardless, the question remains why Graham would walk down this road. There’s simply nothing to be gained for a prominent Christian making a statement like this. And for those who would suggest that Graham is merely transcending politics and overlooking personal failings, how do they propose squaring that with this far more troublesome statement?
“Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman – not two men, not two women.”
This is so unfortunate. Not because Graham is wrong about the Bible’s instruction relative to homosexuality. But because this may be the most uncharitable, least effective way of proclaiming that truth. Jesus’s teaching about judgment in Matthew 7 is not what the world would tell you it is. It’s not Christ condemning moral discernment, or addressing sin for what it is. Instead it is a profound and powerful instruction for believers against hypocrisy; that is, holding others to a standard that we ourselves aren’t willing to be held to.
I don’t mean to suggest that Graham is struggling with any kind of sexual sin himself. But to intimate that Buttigieg’s unrepentant sexual sin is morally disqualifying while offering full-throated endorsement to a man whose unrepentant sexual sin led him to once proclaim this?
“I did try and f*** her. She was married…I moved on her like a b****, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married…When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”
This type of cherry-picking, inconsistent application of Biblical morality based on political party affiliation or pragmatic calculation is an insult to the greater cause of Christ. It shrouds the cross in the haze of partisanship. We believers should be desperately trying to cut through those manmade obstacles to the faith, not introducing them needlessly.
So please, Mr. Graham, boast only in Christ, use your voice to praise those things that are noble, and as for the politicking? For now, my brother, choose silence.