08 January 2017

Franklin Graham and Trump's List of Heretics


Some Evangelicals will be disappointed by Franklin Graham but after spending twenty years learning that Billy Graham (and by extension Franklin) doesn't represent what I was raised to think he did... nothing surprises me anymore.

The Graham project both in the US and even abroad has always been about Ecumenicalism in the name of cultural impact. From the rise of Evangelicalism in the 1950's, backed by oil money and other Right-wing interests, to the 1960s and 70s Lausanne Movement in Europe and the rise of the American Moral Majority, Graham has been about rapprochement with Rome and theological liberals in order to bring political and cultural power to the 'Church'. While Graham did not join or formally endorse Falwell's Majority, he has always been in the background and really his vision came into its own in the 1990s after the Majority's collapse. It was the new movement led by figures like Charles Colson and the formation of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) that represented the fruit and harvest of Graham's work. He duped many people along the way.

Interestingly neither Billy nor Franklin Graham has ever formally endorsed ECT or the later Manhattan Declaration either. And yet, the ecumenicism at the heart of these movements resonates with their message. Are they above such pledges and formal declarations? Maybe, but I think there might be another element behind their hesitation.

After Nixon's downfall Billy has always been careful to keep a little distance between himself and overt politicking. He came out of Watergate looking pretty bad and (it would seem) he wanted to be careful in terms of political alliances that might harm his overall project.

His son has been equally careful in terms of formal alliances though certainly more outspoken and has openly supported the Iraq invasion and has been embroiled in various controversies over Islam. He's been a vocal opponent of Obama and an open supporter of Donald Trump. His presence at the inauguration dispels any doubts concerning his endorsement of the 45th president.

Reprehensible and egregious on so many levels, Graham's conduct during the election and now the inauguration is a mark of shame on the Evangelical community. But one must wonder if his style and perhaps even substance is laying the groundwork for the dissolution of his father Billy Graham's international work?

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) if somehow related to the Donald Trump administration and agenda may not resonate well with the international Christian community. Time will tell but it's something to note and watch. They weathered the Bush years and the general European Evangelical hostility to his policies. Trump is different, but so is the cultural climate. We're a long way from 2001.


  1. Do you have any material about the rise of Evangelicalism and oil-money/right-wing political funding? That sounds intriguing.

    I've read some stuff about the 70's and 80's Conservatives being connected to some weird Jesus People infused Opus Dei sort of stuff, real hardcore guys who served through Nixon into the Reagan years. It's always really bizarre. There are lots of know-nothings who gain popularity and stupidly get mixed into power politics (I think, particularly of, Rick Warren etc.) and then there are the shadowy operatives, usually behind the scenes, who really know what's going on and are moving the money, making the connections, and deploying the resources. Unlike conspiracy theorists, this isn't for some one-world government, or some nutty dystopia. I don't think Babel will ever happen again. But the road to Babylon is building a dynasty and guarding the palace, and that's what these guys do. It's spooky, fascinating, and disheartening (especially when you let the analytic-glasses slip, and you look with eyes of compassion).


  2. I believe Gary Wills mentions it, but I can't remember the name of the book right now. Iain Murray briefly mentions it in Evangelicals Divided (2000). The most extensive treatment that I recently recall reading was found in One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse.

    There's a ton of Opus Dei and Knights of Malta connections that extend into the Reagan years. The one that's a real trip is all the GOP and Christian Right connections to the Moonies.

    America came pretty close to Babel in the 1990s. The US was 'it', on top of the world.

    But then modern empires need enemies, and running 90% of the world wasn't good enough... had to make trouble and then it all began to blow up in their face.

    I've read stuff from Bush II administration people that talked about how Dobson was clueless as you say a know-nothing. Lots of talk but no clue how anything actually works.

    Colson on the other hand. He was an ex-insider, and a high and nasty one at that. The Bush White House operatives and staff respected him. He knew how to play the game.

  3. You also might find some references here and there to William Randolph Hearst's support for Billy Graham in the late 1940s. That was back when newspaper and magazine publishers like Hearst and Luce had real wealth and power.

    Maybe the Evangelicals should have raised the ransom money for granddaughter Patty in the 1970s?