Franklin Graham and Donald Trump
Donald Trump chose Franklin Graham to deliver a prayer at his inauguration. Graham had campaigned for Trump, and defended his moral lapses. The headline in RNS declared: “Inauguration speaker Franklin Graham: God allowed Donald Trump to win.” Trump and Graham have a good deal in common.
After 9/11, Franklin Graham called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.” He was short on details, long on demagoguery.
By 2009, he managed to find some details. In an interview on CNN, he said: “True Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that.” Needless to say, these are demagogic misrepresentations. Mr. Franklin also ignored the fact that these are biblical values. The Bible says the penalty for a woman’s adultery is death by stoning. (The penalty does not apply to men, who can have many wives and mistresses. The Bible says King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 consorts, and that he kept them all in the same palace. The Bible also says King Solomon was the smartest man on the face of the earth.) The Bible was the source of Islam’s law.
In 2010, Mr. Graham made further progress. Again on CNN, Franklin Graham espoused the “birther” claim that President Obama was not a Christian, but a Muslim: “I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name.” But later Mr. Franklin acknowledged Obama’s claim that he accepts Jesus Christ: “That's what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said.”
In 2011, Graham returned to the birther theme, claiming that President Obama “allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to become part of the U.S. government and influence administration decisions.” No facts were presented, but his following is faith-based.
In 2015, a professor at Wheaton College, an evangelical university, said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. This enraged Mr. Franklin, who learned to supplement his vitriol with scriptural claims. He said on Facebook (he’s too verbose for Twitter):
“She said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Well she is absolutely wrong—she obviously doesn’t know her Bible and she doesn’t know Islam. The God of the Bible, has a Son named Jesus Christ. The god of Islam doesn’t have a son, and even the thought of that would be sacrilegious to Muslims. The God of the Bible sent His Son to earth to die in our place and save us from our sins. The god of Islam requires you to die for him to be sure that you’re going to heaven.”
Let me first note that Mr. Graham suppresses or ignores important facts, which I will discuss after his Facebook comments.
When Franklin Graham refers to the “Bible,” he is deliberately being ambiguous. He is only referring to “theological” sections of the New Testament, and not any of Jesus’s sayings. Furthermore, the Hebrew Bible contradicts him. The God of Israel is the same as the God of Islam, as I discuss below.
Regarding Mr. Graham’s claim that “The god of Islam requires you to die for him to be sure that you’re going to heaven,” this is preposterous and sheer hate-mongering. Both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles condemn such behavior.
Like Muslims, Jews do not believe that Jesus was the literal son of God. Does Mr. Graham believe that Jews worship a different God? Historically, many Christians did not believe that Jesus was the literal son of God. The Teaching of the Apostles says nothing about it. Furthermore, most New Testament scholars would agree that Jesus never claimed to be the literal son of God.
Demagogue or Imbecile? Or both?
It is well known that Muslims claim the patriarch Abraham as their ancestor. They descend from Ishmael, Abraham’s oldest son, while Jews descend from Isaac, his later son from Sarah. Does Mr. Graham think there are two Gods of Abraham? Conceivably he did not know that Muslims are ancestors of Abraham when he denounced them following 9/11. But is he such an imbecile that he never learned it?
More importantly, Muslims revere Jesus, and consider him a prophet. Muslims have a higher regard for Jesus than Jews do. No religion that reveres Jesus worships a different God than Christians. I suspect Franklin Graham knows this, but is unwilling to let it interfere with his hate-mongering.
But Graham could conceivably be ignorant. The media have been amazingly negligent in informing the public about Muslims’ reverence for Jesus, especially given the prevalence of hate-speech from people like Franklin Graham. While some media have criticized Graham for political incorrectness, none said the facts prove him to be an ignorant demagogue or worse.
Similarly, the media failed to note that Jews also deny that Jesus was the literal son of God. But no one claims Jews worship a different God. Graham’s arguments are absurd.
More similarities between Graham and Trump
Both had very successful fathers, and both inherited the family business. Franklin Graham is less talented, and does not attempt to conduct large “crusades” like his father. His main concern is running large charities, and pocketing a lot of the money. Trump went on to the casino business, and multiple bankruptcies. Trump’s media career was more successful than Franklin Graham’s, and almost as successful as Billy Graham’s. His reality TV persona established his brand, and led to various product extensions. Both Trump and Graham are demagogues, both espoused the Obama “birther” claim, and both abuse their private charities. Both reject Jesus’ teaching that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Trees and their fruit
Billy Graham and Richard Nixon were friends since the Eisenhower Administration. Billy helped Nixon win the evangelical vote in 1968 and become president. Billy was in effect President Nixon’s pastor; he held many private services in the White House. After the Watergate affair, Billy Graham assured the public that Nixon was a highly moral man, beloved by God and Billy. Time, however, told a different story than Billy’s revelations. Nixon was probably the most corrupt president in history.
Now Franklin Graham is once more following in his father’s footsteps. It remains to be seen whether he will become as close to Trump as Billy was to Nixon, and whether he learned anything from his father’s errors. It also remains to be seen how Trump’s corruption will compare to Nixon’s.