Newsweek Slams 'Theological Bully' Franklin Graham, Tilting His Politics 'Hard to the Right'

Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller wrote a story on "The Fight Over Billy Graham's Legacy," but the most notable thing that comes out of it is Miller's loathing of Rev. Franklin Graham (no relation). Miller clearly believes he's mangling his father's moderation, especially when it comes to Islam:

Franklin — who’s been accused of being a rhetorical and theological bully, saying, for example, that Islam is “wicked and evil”— agrees with the assessment that he is less gentle than his dad. “We preach the same Gospel,” Franklin says, but “Daddy hates to say no. I can say no.” Franklin adds that he is much more engaged in the day-to-day management of the BGEA than his father ever was, and through the efforts of his humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse has much more experience on the front lines of global conflicts, such as those in Rwanda and the Middle East. This perspective, he argues, justifies his harder edge. “I’ve been doing a different kind of ministry,” he says. “That has shaped my views on a lot of things.”

To Miller, Franklin Graham was on the "hard right" -- possibly because he could be friendly with Sarah Palin.

And what of the criticism that Franklin, a Christian minister, takes political sides in a way that his father did not? Billy Graham formed friendships with many politicians, and had intimate (though complex) relationships with both Richard Nixon, a Republican, and Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat. Franklin’s political friendships lean hard to the right. He most recently expressed support for the quixotic presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, telling Christiane Amanpour, “The more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know, maybe the guy is right.”

How Donald Trump is "hard to the right" is anyone's guess (but guess that's a birther reference). Franklin Graham also praised Palin and MItt Romney on ABC, so he didn't really "express support" for the Trump candidacy. He just viewed him favorably, and said "sure," he might support Trump. Miller can whack the "theological bully," and ignore how he told Amanpour in that interview "I love Muslim people. I don't believe that Mohammed can lead anybody to heaven. I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. That's what I believe." (Miller probably still finds that exclusive claim to sound like bullying.)

She added: "Franklin says the rules of political engagement have changed since his father was a public figure. “It’s sad to see how polarized our nation has become. If a political party doesn’t like you, then they start attacking you,” he says. “I like the president. He’s a nice man. I just disagree—strongly—with the spending that both Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for. It’s not right.”

This is the paragraph where Graham's friendship with Palin was explored:

Most of Graham's visitors come through the back door, as it were, arranged by the children as special favors to special friends. As kids, the siblings -- Gigi, Anne, Bunny, Franklin, and Ned -- bickered ruthlessly, "grumbling, interrupting, slurring each other," according to their mother's journals. Now they're grown, ranging in age from 53 to 66, but the rivalry continues. As in so many famous families, each child struggles with how best to wear the family name. Franklin, who has a second home in Alaska (and plans to ride his motorcycle there this summer) has long been friendly with Sarah Palin, and in 2009 helped orchestrate a much-publicized visit between the former governor and his father. Palin, who was on her book tour, came with her parents and her aunt Sally, Franklin says, and she brought Billy a Carhartt jacket. "Sarah Palin loves my father, and like a lot of people she grew up watching him on television. It was just family time." After the visit, Billy Graham released a statement saying, "Sarah and her family will always be welcome in the Graham home." This bit of stagecraft looked to some like an anointing. To others, it looked like partisan meddling by Franklin.

Miller also underlines how Graham's children haven't built lasting marriages like their father, and have addiction problems. This isn't the way, say, the Kennedys are portrayed by Newsweek:

Billy Graham has not lived a faultless life, but he did act carefully to protect his legacy and the significance of his reputation. In private, aware of his own human weakness, he instructed his ministry staff never to leave him alone in a room with a woman who was not his wife. In these last years, he speaks frequently of Ruth and of his yearning to go home to heaven to see her. His children have not been so cautious. Bunny, Gigi, and Ned are divorced and remarried. Ned, whose ministry builds and encourages Christianity in China, has spent time in rehab for prescription drugs, and Franklin admits to having had an appetite for alcohol as a younger man. Among Graham’s 19 grandchildren, at least three have become Christian preachers. But according to a 2008 story in The Columbus Dispatch, there has been drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, and eating disorders in that generation as well. Gigi and Ruth have made ministries out of helping families endure such struggles.

“I’m just not comfortable being thought of as coming from a wonderful family,” says Gigi. “We’re not exempt from some of the problems that everyone has. We’re empathetic to, sympathetic to, all the problems that people have today. We support one another, love one another when we’re going through some of the things we’re going through.” Franklin sees these family troubles somewhat differently. He and his siblings “don’t see each other that often. I think some of them have made bad choices in life, but I’m responsible for my life. I have to stand before God and give an accounting of my life.” He pauses, then adds, “I love my sisters and would do anything I could to help them.”

You're supposed to catch Miller's drift that forgiveness and love doesn't seem to be there for brother Ned.

Earlier:

NPR Star Terry Gross Horrified at 'Very Extreme' Franklin Graham Ruining U.S. Image

Mike Malloy: Franklin Graham Should Blow His Own Brains Out

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis