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Franklin Graham and Donald Trump Explainer: Why Franklin Graham's June 2nd call to prayer for President Trump is no innocent call for prayer

The below blog post was initially a response to Franklin Graham on Sunday, May 26, 2019 calling for special prayer for President Trump on Sunday, June 2, 2019.  I was trying to provide resources for evangelical pastors as they considered whether to embrace this call to prayer. Many would initially be open to the request because Christians all are supposed to pray for government leaders. My goal was not to produce a viral article or opinion piece but rather to compile information so thoughtful pastors and elder boards might have the information necessary to make a wise decision about how they wanted to handle this call to pray. In the process of researching this, I have also compiled a lot more information about Franklin Graham and his relationship with Donald Trump which may be useful to people in the future writing stories about Franklin Graham or considering their involvement with Samaritan's Purse or the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. So, below there are transcribed interviews with Franklin Graham. There are also interviews with other Trump-supportive evangelicals explaining why they supported Franklin Graham's call to pray for President Trump. There are also quotes from people who are pushing back against Graham's support of Trump. I also include the story of what happened with Trump making an appearance on June 2nd at McLean Bible Church and David Pratt praying for Trump.

In short, I think Franklin Graham is a supporter of Donald Trump and someone who is active in political-maneuvering both in the United States and Russia, and therefore his standing as a convener of evangelicals is diminished because many evangelicals think it is wiser to denounce Trump's wrong-doing and affirm his good behavior, rather than flattering him because he furthers a few causes that evangelicals were known for in the 1980's.   

Why am I writing about this? I am a professor of evangelism and leadership at an evangelical Baptist-rooted seminary. It seems to me communicating about Jesus to people involves distinguishing Jesus from Donald Trump. As I train leaders, I think they too should learn to distinguish between wise leadership and that practiced by Donald Trump. Finally, the evangelicalism I want to see thrive is thoughtful Christianity that wants to see others find the beauty and goodness we have found in Jesus. It seems to me that there are many healthy, wise, gracious, effective evangelical churches, institutions, and leaders; but "evangelicals" are known publicly for their support for Donald Trump.  

Update: Andy Rowell, June 4, 2019

______________________________

 

Why Franklin Graham's June 2nd call to prayer for President Trump is no innocent call for prayer

Franklin Twitter

On Sunday, May 26th, Franklin Graham tweeted that:

"Along with 250+ Christian leaders, I am asking believers across our nation to set aside next Sunday, June 2, as a special day of prayer for the @POTUS, @realDonaldTrump."

If this tweet was all there was to his invitation, no Christian would object. In many churches, there is a prayer each week for government leaders. Alan Cross, who has been critical of President Trump, initially responded with an open heart and mind to this invitation in his tweet: "Evangelical ldrs/pastors call for a day of prayer specifically for President Trump on June 2. Good. The Bible says we should pray for our leaders. We should do this daily, but a special Sunday of prayer is good too." And, "I always led my church to pray for Presidents Bush and Obama when I pastored. Now that I am pastoring again, I will lead my church to pray for President Trump and for local, state, and Federal officials. We need to do this. Pray for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-4."

But Franklin Graham linked to the the full description of the initiative at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website and it is not so unbiased. 

 image from static.billygraham.org

"We the undersigned are calling for June 2 to be a special Day of Prayer for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, that God would protect, strengthen, embolden, and direct him.

We believe our nation is at a crossroads, at a dangerous precipice. The only one who can fix our country’s problems is God Himself, and we pray that God will bless our president and our nation for His glory." 

This is no nonpartisan Christian prayer. The prayer is that God would protect, strengthen, and embolden Trump. The prayer lacks moral content so that it is essentially wishing him to prosper regardless if he is wicked or not. It is careful not to imply Trump has any weaknesses or flaws or that his purposes or means might be askew. There is only the slightest suggestion that God should "direct" Trump. There is no prayer that Trump should then obey that direction.

Compare The Episcopal Church's prayer for the president in the current Book of Common Prayer, which was last revised in 1979, which stresses the goodness and integrity and service of the president. 

19. For the President of the United States and all in Civil
     Authority


O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governor of this
State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom
and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the
love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (p. 820

In the Book of Common Prayer, the prayer is for a president to have wisdom and strength so that the president might do God's will. The prayer is that the president will have a love for truth and righteousness and also that they will be aware of their responsibility to serve the people and fear God. A good president would receive those prayers with soberness and gratitude. An evil president would hear them as an affront. 

Franklin Graham's generally fair explanation of how to pray for President Obama in 2014 was much different from the June 2nd one for President Trump. In 2014, he wrote "God can turn the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21:1). That means that we should be praying for God’s will to be done and for our leaders to seek God and listen to Him." (See the 2014 article by Franklin Graham: Praying for Our Leaders is a Biblical Command).

Franklin Facebook

It is important that prayer for government officials not be used to deceive and flatter but rather to ask God to help them do their work with justice. 

"The nature of prayer during the Third Reich had to be reconfigured as praise and affirmation rather than atonement and petition. Prayers of repentance and requests for divine forgiveness also seemed out of place." Heschel, Susannah. The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton, N.J.; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.

People on all sides should be prayed for that they might recognize and mourn their sins of omission and commission, turn away from those past habits, and go forth from then on in the way of justice. As Christians, we can and should pray generally for blessing on all people, even our enemies, but we should be praying for the civil leader to be strengthened and emboldened to carry out justice and peace. We can pray that for both a wicked leader and a good one. 

The partisan nature of Franklin Graham's intention is made even more clear in a video that Franklin Graham also tweeted, in which he says, "I don't believe any president in the history of this nation has been attacked more than Donald Trump. He's our president and if he succeeds, we all benefit. But if his enemies are allowed to destroy him, and pull down the presidency, it will hurt our entire nation." Graham also wrote on his Facebook page about the prayer event June 2nd: "President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency. In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has." In an interview this week with Tony Perkins, Graham says that he remembers Watergate and Bill Clinton's impeachment, and that Bill Clinton's impeachment distracted Bill Clinton from Rwanda. Therefore, he says that impeachment hearings would distract Trump from dealing with North Korea and the China trade deal. It is clear that the attacks Graham is referring to are the investigations and growing calls for hearings to consider impeaching Trump.  

Alan Cross who had initially been open to the call to prayer, responds with disappointment to the video, "This video shows that Graham’s intention is political. I assumed it was, but I thought, you know, a call for prayer is a good thing. I’ll join. But, Graham reveals that he wants us to pray for Trump’s success and protection from political enemies. Sheesh." Again, there are no conditional clauses from Franklin Graham that suggest that Trump should only succeed if he is doing what is right.

Graham and others admit with euphemisms that Trump has done much wrong. Graham says: "Is he a perfect person? Absolutely not. Is he the best example to the Christian faith? No way." Similarly, Tim Wildmon said in an interview with Todd Starnes about the call to prayer, "Is he perfect? No. Does he tweet things sometimes that it probably would be best that he doesn't? Does he exhibit the fruits of the Spirit every day? No, he doesn't." But rather than the attacks on Trump being self-inflicted due to his misbehavior, the proponents of this call to pray for Trump attribute the "attacks" on him to be political attacks on Trump's evangelical views.

Wildmon says the prayer for Trump is important "because he is under siege from the secular left—and the religious left too such as they are—because of his stands for life and religious liberty and for conservative judges, those things that I think come out of biblical principles and certainly constitutional principles and because he identifies with us (that is, Christians in America) to a large extent on many different issues. So those are the reasons that he is under attack so I think that is what I think Franklin Graham is saying."

Tony Perkins asks Graham, "Why are the attacks so intense around this president?"

Franklin Graham responds, "I can't answer that question but there is a hatred of Donald Trump that I've never seen before … this has never been seen in the history of our country. It's like a demonic attack. There's no reason for it."

Tony Perkins responds, "If there's legitimate issues, then absolutely Congress needs to take care of it, but we know that's not the case after these investigations have been brought forward by the Special Counsel. It's all politics."

But Robert Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump and a thousand former federal prosecutors agree that Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he were not president and therefore could not be charged while in office by the Justice Department. 

Franklin Graham responds, "The politics we have today is so vicious. It wasn't like that when I was growing up." But his father Billy Graham regretted later in life his work with Richard Nixon. Jeff Greenfield writes about one of the tasks Billy Graham did for Nixon that took advantage of the fact that Billy Graham was a trusted evangelical figure. "But of course the message wasn’t outside of politics at all: It was deeply political, even opportunistic, and, as we know now, factually dubious." Is Franklin Graham failing to learn from his father's error? Billy Graham in 2011, “I … would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back, I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

In the same interview with Todd Starnes, Richard Land explains there is a need to prayer for Trump because the attacks on him are the result of a deep state conspiracy, not because of wrongdoing Trump has engaged in. "This president is under unprecedented siege. He is not only taking on the left, he is taking on the deep state. He is taking on the entrenched government apparatus. He is taking on the intelligence agencies. I believe we are on the eve of the biggest political scandal in the history of the country because I think that Attorney General Barr is not stopping until he uncovers what I think is going to be a lot of nefarious and illegal behavior by people in the deep state including the CIA and the FBI. They are panicked and they are attacking him in an even more unprecedented way and I think we need to put up a spiritual shield." In his concern about the "deep state," Land here is echoing people like Fox New's Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity

Then one looks at the people who have signed the statement. All of the more well-known names who signed the proclamation about June 2nd came to "speak love to power" and "appreciate" Trump at the White House last August. These are Trump's "court evangelicals" (as John Fea has rightly called them in his 2018 book Believe Me and on Twitter and his website). This is no nonpartisan group of people. In comparison to last August, this list of Trump's court evangelicals gained zero representatives from well-respected organizations and lost J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Trump "court evangelicals" on this list might better be called Trump's "Baptist fundamentalists and independent Pentecostals."

Franklin Graham says, "I was surprised that a few that would call themselves 'evangelical' would not even join us for having prayer. That was just shocking to me." Yes. only fundamentalists said yes. It's shocking to evangelicals, who are typically more thoughtful and engaged with the world, to see a call to pray that Trump would be "emboldened." Franklin Graham also said, "A number of people we have asked to join us in this prayer have refused to do it. Church leaders! I was surprised. But probably 98% that we called said 'Absolutely!'" When framed as prayer of protection for Trump from attack, only Trump's court pastors say yes.

The singer Michael W. Smith is one notable new addition. (Warren Throckmorton notes Michael Tait, formerly of DC Talk as another). In December, Smith sang his song "Friends" at George H. W. Bush's funeral. Like all Christians, he surely believes in praying for leaders in civil authority. Perhaps he did not know the June 2nd prayer focus would be a partisan one—asking God to support Trump, rather than asking God to help Trump do what is right.

Warren Throckmorton puts it well, "It appears they are asking God to keep Trump in office no matter what he does. If that’s not true, then I think they need to work on their messaging. If it is true, then they have the wrong message." So, pray for President Trump on June 2nd. Pray for him everyday. But do not pray that he would be emboldened or succeed. Rather, pray that he will be protected, strengthened, emboldened, and succeed in so far as he is doing what is right. And pray that God will bring justice.

 

On June 1st, Donald Trump retweeted ten tweets about call to prayer for himself including two quote-tweets where he added comments. 

_______________________________________

What happened on Sunday, June 1st when President Trump went to McLean Bible Church on Sunday afternoon and was prayed for by David Pratt: 

In summary, Trump played golf and then apparently without much notice asked to make an appearance at McLean Bible Church (where one commenter on John Fea's blog suggested Vice-President Mike Pence sometimes attends). David Pratt decided to agree to the request to pray for Trump on stage. Pratt prayed in a nuanced and biblically responsible way for Trump. There was some applause for Trump when he came onto and off the stage (while at least two of the people-of-color musicians on the stage made pained facial expressions). Some media surely will use the photo of Trump being prayed for to try to bolster the sense that Trump likes evangelical. Likely Trump's people chose the church because it was near the golf course and very unusually for an evangelical church was having an afternoon service. It seems clear from Trump's golf attire and the fact that Platt reports they had not been given prior notice that Trump's people had not planned for him to attend a church on Sunday even though it was a day Franklin Graham had asked people to pray for Trump so perhaps Trump or his people were trying to do damage-control and therefore hastily arranged this schedule addition. Also, Trump did not attend the service but rather just made an appearance to be prayed for. There is some criticism of Platt that he could have said that he would not participate in the political staging of praying for Trump by agreeing to the request to publicly pray for Trump.  

Sources and commentary about Trump's appearance at McLean Bible Church:

David Platt letter to his congregation
PRAYER FOR THE PRESIDENT
June 2, 2019


David Platt Asks God to Grant Trump ‘All the Grace He Needs to Govern’
The “radical” pastor prayed for the president during an unannounced stop at his suburban DC megachurch.
KATE SHELLNUTT JUNE 03, 2019 7:36 AM
Christianity Today

Why Did Trump Go to McLean Bible Church?
JUNE 3, 2019 / JOHN FEA

Pastor David Platt Prayed for Trump While Trying Super Hard Not to Sound Like a Trump Supporter
By RUTH GRAHAM
JUNE 03, 2019 9:30 PM
Slate

On Praying for the President
Donald Trump’s controversial stop at a Virginia mega-church after a mass shooting showed how even normal Christian behavior has been scrutinized during this administration.

EMMA GREEN
JUN 3, 2019
The Atlantic

[Note there is a problem in the subtitle to this Atlantic piece in that Platt did not mention the Virginia Beach shooting though a Trump spokesperson did and the church is 3-4 hours from the shooting].

 

"As someone who staffed President Obama at numerous church visits, I just can't tell you how utterly manipulative and unusual it is for this to happen. Trump and his staff basically crashed a worship service yesterday.
The timeline here is astounding. President Trump golfed all morning. His staff then called the largest evangelical church in the metro DC area to let them know Trump would be dropping by in the middle of service and expected stage time. Trump got the stage time and photo and left
Oh man this really burns me up. Don’t mess with church service."
Michael Wear
Tweet thread

 

Presidents visit churches — but not the way Trump did
By Michael Wear June 5 at 12:55 PM

Washington Post

"What was truly outrageous about the president’s visit to McLean are those details that are specific to this president and his staff’s conduct. There we can see a manipulation and crass politicization of a house of worship that is, to my knowledge, without precedent at a national level."

Problem with being “studiously neutral” 1) “declining to mention politics is itself a political act” 2) history shows clergy neutrality gives way to the worst impulses of power & oppression by their failure to address their roots. Ministers should grasp the full ministry of MLK.
Gerardo Martí tweet

So many white Christians miss how the effort to be apolitical IS political & has allowed religious nationalism to thrive in American public life.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove tweet

David Dark takes 


Thread by Kyle J. Howard
A Thread
1. I know y'all mean well & I honestly before the Lord have no beef w/ any of you. But seeing all the retweets & praise of Platt praying for Trump was hard yesterday. That man has cost my family everything. Our church, friends, a ton of trauma, etc...
2. @plattdavid was faithful. He IS a faithful man of God. He did nothing wrong praying for the president. He legit didn't. At the same time tho, this is why my family can't be in your churches. Cuz your churches are places where a president like Trump will show up & be prayed for
3. Your churches are a place where one minute my wife and I could be worshipping the Lord and within a matter of seconds, completely out of nowhere, our PTS is triggering and we'd have to spend a week picking ourselves off the floor. If we were there; we would have been broken...
4. It's not about what Platt said. It's about the culture. Evangelical churches are places where at any moment y'all will traumatize us and its such a non-category, it's not even considered. I don't think anyone thought; "how will this hit our black & hispanic members?"
5. My place of worship has to be a safe space. It has to be a place where my pastors know, "there is too much pain here due to the things this man has said & done. He is a welcomed guest but I can't force my congregation to pray for him out the blue like this w/ no warning."
6. Don't get it twisted, I pray for the president, I pray for leaders. I pray regularly for our country's leaders. But every time I've seen that video it has hit me harder than I wanna speak on here. I can't imagine what it would've been like actually being there; thought hurts.
7. And I am not any less spiritual or mature than any of you for being more bothered by that video than celebratory. If you come onto this thread and suggest such it will be an insta-block.
8. Our, how will this hit members of our church who have been victims of sexual assault/abuse. I know a decent amount of very mature women in Christ who would've also been profoundly triggered by having Trump walk onto stage of their church and seeing their pastor pray for him.
9. My understanding is that he was there for abt 16 minutes. I dunno, maybe this makes me unqualified for pastoral ministry to some of you & you won't support my plant in the future (😅), but I do not think it was worth it. 16 minutes w/ the President > wounded/traumatized sheep.
10. Maybe that church's demographics made this a non-issue. For me, I plan to pastor/build a church that'll be a refuge for wounded & traumatized sheep. A place Trump wouldn't want to come to & if he did I wouldn't let him on stage or put saints on the spot to pray for him.
11.
Let me say it again just to be abundantly clear; It was a great prayer and I understand the church culture dynamic that says if a president shows up; we should pray for him as a church. I get it, I’m not mad at Platt. I love him! That culture just isn’t for me or my family.
Since y’all keep asking...

Pastor: “Mr. President, thank you so much for coming. You are welcome to attend our Service”

Trump: I want to be on stage for a moment.

Pastor: Mr. President, with respect, your words have wounded many of my sheep. It would not serve them...
Pastor *continued*: “to have you on stage, especially without any time given to them to prepare. You are welcome here, we are so thankful you came, but I cannot have you on stage. I’d love to pray for you privately with my other elders in the back.”
.... SBC leadership should’ve done the same thing with Pence at last year’s convention.
.@plattdavid issuing this statement doesn’t surprise me at all, cuz David Platt is a faithful brother, pastor, man of God. This reenforces what I already knew to be true but I wanted to make sure I posted it on this thread. I’m Thankful for Platt.

Next thread by Kyle J. Howard:
This isn’t a slight at @plattdavid who I know to be a faithful brother in Christ & leader. No question in my mind regarding Platt’s faithfulness. However, if I was a member of this church, I would’ve been weeping when my brothers & sisters started clapping
I pray his church abounds, I pray his church flourishes in ministry and Kingdom work. With that said, I could never be a member there & I know a lot of people who would never visit in light of this video. I’m just sayin, something to think abt as this is retweeted so broadly. ❤️
Seems like folks aren’t getting it. I am a trauma counselor. I am writing a book about spiritual trauma as well as working in a project about racial trauma in the church. I wouldn’t be weeping cuz the president is being prayed for, that’s ridiculous...
I’d be weeping b/c as folks applauded, I’d have the 100s of faces of wounded women and saints of color flash before my eyes who are working through profound spiritual pain due to the ways their churches embraced Trump. I’d be thinking abt how triggering the event was for them! 🤦🏽‍♂️

Tweets by Danté Stewart (Stew)

That’s the blow that hits the deepest. It seems that in the prayer for peaceful and quiet lives we have to ask for who and at what cost.The yells and applause burn.

The image of such a situation standing above the dangerous memory of Christ in communion is chilling.

In the scriptures, prayer is not simply language that comforts the weary and wounded, it is also the tool of subversion against the one who wounds.

In that case prayer isn’t simply for peace, in resistance to false peace, prayer becomes protest for love and justice.

One must be reminded of Daniel. Prayer was not simply for personal piety but an expression of public protest. One much think of Paul and Silas. Prayer meant that whatever threatens joy is resisted.

It’s courageous work and should not be treated lightly.

Oh yes. That’s one thing that was so powerful about prayer and songs in slaves quarters. It was fundamentally about forming a type of ethic that resisted all that threatened joy and hope. It should be seen as political, liberating, mystical, and redemptive.

I ask:

1. At what point do white evangelicals say no to Donald Trump?

2. At what point do prayers for peace become prayers of protest?

3. How does one become so well adjusted to the one who wounds in the presence of the wounded?

 

And lastly:

How can one pray for peace when our prayers for peaceful lives mean hell for others?

If our fundamental commitment is first and foremost to the image of God in others and neighborly love then how is one to stand up to and against the one who hates?


Yeah that’s been tough to watch. It’s kind of weird that Platt acknowledged this reality and when people try to press into it and allow it to speak, somehow they’re being overly critical, armchair quarterbacking, and morally superior. I was like “Platt literally acknowledged it.”


I will say I think highly of brother David Platt.

But we must challenge this myth at work in evangelicalism that believes that when you don’t confront those in positions of power who are using that power illegitimately, that becomes the most biblical sign of moral authenticity.


Tyler Burns tweet

Pastoring is difficult and these situations are hard to navigate. Trust me when I say I‘m not throwing shade.

But it’s important to note that other Pastors have experienced similar circumstances, and one chose a different route. Respectful but bold.

 

 

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More analysis of Franklin Graham's call to pray for Trump later in the week on Friday, May 31:

Franklin Graham Declared a Day of Prayer for President Trump. Christian Leaders Weigh In.
How is the church meant to heed Paul’s directive to pray for “those in authority”?
KATE SHELLNUTT MAY 31, 2019 8:00 AM

Christianity Today

A number of reputable people give their reflections on Franklin Graham's call to pray. 

Here is the strongest criticism: 

M. Sydney Park, associate professor at Beeson Divinity School:

Most surely, every Christian should pray for those in governing authority, as I am sure many do especially for the current president. Yet, the prayers Paul encourages aim toward conversion to faith and pointedly, “to come to the knowledge of truth” (1 Tim. 2:3), not as Franklin Graham suggests, to condone unrighteous behavior demonstrated by President Trump nor to evade just repercussions under the law. The same prayer should be offered on behalf of Franklin Graham, as he has misrepresented the evangelical faith by endorsing a man who cannot be defended by non-Christian ethical standards, let alone those of evangelical faith. Isaiah’s indictment should be heeded in these turbulent times: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isa 5:20).

___________________________________

Franklin Graham wants the nation to pray for Trump on Sunday. But other Christians call it propaganda
By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor

Updated 11:07 AM ET, Fri May 31, 2019

CNN

John Fea and Warren Throckmorton are both quoted. 

 

On Friday, May 31, Franklin Graham was more restrained and diplomatic in his appearance on the Todd Starnes Show.

 

 

Graham’s call for a Trump day of prayer makes a sacred rite profane

Michael Gerson, columnist

  • Jun 3, 2019
  • Washington Post

Good comments here from Gerson:  

  • In their day of prayer, Graham and other Trump evangelicals have used a sacred spiritual practice for profane purposes.
  • So: This is blasphemy, in service to ideology, leading to idolatry, justified by heresy. All in a Sunday’s work.
  • This displays an inflated self-conception on Graham’s part. There is no evangelical pope by parentage.
  • Graham has become a prophet in exact reverse. Instead of calling out Trump’s cruelty and poor character, he excuses them.
  • Why does this matter? Because genuine Christian influence is needed in American politics. Trump evangelicals could be making a broad, consistent defense of human dignity, including the unborn, the prisoner, the migrant and the refugee. They could be opposing verbal violence and dehumanization in our political discourse. They could be taking leadership in the difficult, ongoing process of racial reconciliation. They could be affirming and exemplifying the essential role of truth and honesty in the process of self-government. They could be defending the civil liberties of all religious people rather than seeking the protection of their tribe alone.
  • Does he think that more people, or fewer, will be open to following Christ after a day of partisan prayer?

_______________________________________

Analysis of quotations from Franklin Graham's May 28, 2019 interview with Tony Perkins

Twitter thread below on interview with Franklin Graham and Family Research Council's Tony Perkins about Graham's call for prayer on June 2nd for President Trump. All Christians believe in praying for government officials but this call to prayer is tainted by Graham's framing of it.

Why are the attacks so intense around this president?
Franklin Graham: "I can't answer that question but there is a hatred of Donald Trump that I've never seen before … this has never been seen in the history of our country. It's like a demonic attack. There's no reason for it."

Franklin Graham: "Is he a perfect person? Absolutely not. Is he the best example to the Christian faith? No way. But there is something in his heart—God has placed it there—to defend the Christian faith."
The ends justify the means. Got it.
"Attacks" come because many disagree.

Franklin Graham: "For us Christians, this president has been the most-Christian-friendly president in my lifetime. He wants evangelicals in the White House. He wants to support and defend Christians."
But being a Christian is about loving your neighbor as the Good Samaritan did.

Franklin Graham: "I'm not getting into politics. This is not an endorsement." Then Graham mentions Watergate and Bill Clinton impeachment and says it distracted Clinton from Rwanda, and says that impeachment hearings would distract Trump from North Korea and China trade deal.

So, there it is. Franklin Graham's reason he feels called to pray for Trump is he is worried impeachment proceedings would distract the president from other issues and the president has helped Christians. Also admits Trump is "not perfect" or an example—euphemisms for "immoral."

Tony Perkins: "If there's legitimate issues, then absolutely Congress needs to take care of it, but we know that's not the case after these investigations have been brought forward by the Special Counsel. It's all politics."
That is not what Justin Amash and 1000 prosecutors say.

Franklin Graham: "The politics we have today is so vicious. It wasn't like that when I was growing up."
"But of course the message wasn’t outside of politics at all: It was deeply political, even opportunistic, and, as we know now, factually dubious." https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/21/billy-graham-death-richard-nixon-217039

Note too these tweets from Randall Stephens:

Much concern about Franklin Graham, Falwell Jr, & other eager court evangelicals. Not unprecedented. There are shades of this in the past. Evangelist Billy Graham in an Ap '73 interview w/ the AP: "I cannot conceive that [Nixon] knew anything about [Watergate] ahead of time...."
"First of all, he has a very high sense of moral ethics & obedience to the law. Secondly, he is just too capable of a man to have approved or had knowledge of illegal acts." Graham then called Watergate a symptom of "permissiveness, corruption and crime" pervading American life.
Said Graham: "I don't think any political party can stand up and say it's 'Mr. Clean.'" His takeaway: "What the country needs to do is get down on its knees in repentance before the Lord." Star-Gazette (Elmira, NY) , 5/1/1974, p4.


Franklin Graham: "I was surprised that a few that would call themselves 'evangelical' would not even join us for having prayer. That was just shocking to me." Yes. only fundamentalists said yes. It's shocking to evangelicals to see a call to pray that Trump would be "emboldened."

Franklin Graham: "A number of people we have asked to join us in this prayer have refused to do it. Church leaders! I was surprised. But probably 98% that we called said 'Absolutely!'" When framed as prayer of protection for Trump from attack, only Trump's court pastors say yes.

Franklin Graham: "If he makes a bad decision, then we are all going to pay for it. So we need to be praying that God will use him to make good decisions." All Christians do support that prayer. But Graham's emphasis is not on this but on asking God to protect Trump from attacks.

 

_______________________________________

Here is my comment on Franklin Graham's Facebook page and Instagram post

All Christians believe in praying for their government leaders. But this initiative in its wording and signers has been shaped to be an event flattering President Trump without regard to the morality of what he does. This is not how Franklin Graham rightly instructed people to pray for President Obama in 2014. Nor are the signers of the statement a broad representation of Christian leadership. Rather they are mostly fundamentalist Baptists and independent Pentecostals. These are the same "court pastors" who gathered to "appreciate" and "speak love to power" to President Trump in August 2018. I will pray for President Trump every day including June 2nd but it is a shame that Franklin Graham would manipulate people's openness to biblical prayer for government leaders into an event that promotes and flatters Donald Trump. I am a ministry leadership professor at an evangelical Baptist seminary. The longer version of my thoughts and research into this issue are at this blog post: https://www.andyrowell.net/.../why-franklin-grahams-june...

 

More background on Franklin Graham's relationship with Donald Trump

Transcript of interview with Franklin Graham and Craig Melvin January 30, 2019

On January 30, 2019, Franklin Graham had an interview with Craig Melvin and Graham would not admit that the president does not tell the truth.

Transcript:

Craig Melvin: "You wrote an op-ed for Fox News recently and I read that op-ed and you wrote that "Truth is 100% right." The Washington Post, as you probably know, the Washington Post fact-checker, their analysis reports that the president of the United States has made 8,158 false or misleading claims in his first two years. How do you reconcile that?

Franklin Graham: "Well, I don't know how to reconcile that cause I mean I don't know. You have a fact-checker for the president but I don't know that that you have a fact-checker for the media at the same time." [Melvin interrupts him].

Craig Melvin: “You and I both know that this president has said things, over and over, that aren’t true."

Franklin Graham: “No, I don’t know that. I don’t sit around and try to find every fault in the president every day, looking for everything that he might have misspoken or mis-said. I don’t do that.”

Craig Melvin: “But you can acknowledge that the president has said things that aren’t true?”

Franklin Graham: “I don’t think the president is sitting there behind the desk trying to make up lies. I don’t believe that for a second. Has he misspoken on something? Sure. All of us do that. You do it and I do it. And sometimes we get the facts wrong and we say something that later on we realize, we could’ve said it better or it was misrepresented. I think the president is doing the best that he can under very difficult circumstances.”

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Note too: 

Scholars fear Franklin Graham will cut off access to Billy Graham archives
June 3, 2019

RNS

Tim Funk

also published at: 

Christianity Today

Billy Graham Archives Begin Move from Wheaton to Charlotte
While Franklin Graham aims to consolidate the late evangelist’s legacy, some scholars raise concerns about research opportunities.
TIM FUNK – RELIGION NEWS SERVICE JUNE 04, 2019 9:37 AM

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Another thing to wonder about. Like Trump, Franklin Graham is also unusually friendly with Russians connected to Putin. 

Note too that Franklin Graham in March of 2019 went to Russia and met with officials there including Vyacheslav Volodin, who’s been sanctioned by the U.S. for five years and is close to Putin. Graham also met Putin himself in 2015. Clearly, Franklin Graham is supportive of Trump's embrace of Putin. Graham claims to be building friendships for furthering the gospel and perhaps also to collaborate in promoting conservative social policy such as opposing the GLBTQ movement and Islam. Like Trump, definitive evidence has not yet emerged whether there is some additional financial or other reason why Graham is so unusually positively disposed toward the Russians. See the two articles below and analysis about what is currently known. 

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Casey Michel lays out what is known about this trip at:

"Why was Franklin Graham schmoozing with a sanctioned Russian official this month?"
CASEY MICHEL
MAR 20, 2019, 5:24 PM
UPDATED: MAR 21, 2019, 12:05 PM.

Think Progress

Casey Michel writes, "As Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar noted in All the Kremlin’s Men, his 2016 book examining Putin’s inner circle, Volodin — described as the Kremlin’s “gray cardinal” — has also played a seminal role in attempting to unwind Washington’s Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky."

For those not following Russia / U.S. relations, overturning the Magnitsky Act is the number one thing Putin and his oligarchs want from the United States because it is costing them billions. This is what the Trump Tower meeting, from the Russian side, was all about. The person Franklin Graham met with is responsible for trying to get this overturned.   

 

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Franklin Graham met Putin himself in 2015 as described in this article: 

The Russian connection: When Franklin Graham met Putin
Aug 8, 2018
by Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service

National Catholic Reporter

Tweet from Franklin Graham:

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What could be going on here between Franklin Graham, the Russians, and Trump?

We can only speculate. It is possible that Trump, Putin, and Graham merely have overlapping ideological goals such as restricting the GLBTQ movement (though this seems far-fetched for Trump), or perhaps it is religious freedom for evangelicals which seems far-fetched for Putin, or perhaps it is opposing Islam, which all three espouse. It is obvious why Trump is grateful for Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham could help Donald Trump to get elected again in 2020 by mobilizing evangelicals. There is some evidence that Graham likes and believes in Trump as seen in these statement from 2011 to Christianity Today.

How come he doesn't come out at a news conference and hold up his birth certificate? I don't know. I'm only responding to what she asked me. She asked me about Donald Trump. When I first heard about him entering, I thought it was a joke. The more I listen to him, the more I say, "Maybe he's right." She asked, "Could you vote for him?" Vote for him as compared to what? Depends on who else is running. Certainly, America needs somebody like a Donald Trump who's got business experience to get us out of the mess that Republicans and Democrats alike have gotten us into.

Or perhaps like many other evangelicals, he simply believes that Trump is better than a Democratic president in terms of issues like abortion and GLBTQ restrictions and evangelicals' freedom. To help the Russians, Trump could continue to try to have sanctions like the Magnitsky Act cut back or removed. Or he could try to weaken NATO and defer to Putin's wishes in Montenegro, Syria, Venezuela, and Ukraine. In return, it is possible that the Russians could help Trump with getting elected, or with financial remuneration, or by declining to use kompromat. In return for Graham's assistance, Russia could reinstate the ability of evangelicals to adopt Russian babies, or could make religious policies better for evangelicals in Russia, or could assist Graham or his organizations financially. Again, the range of motivations here range from innocent ideological overlap to corruption.

But back to our topic above, whatever Franklin Graham is doing meeting with the Russians and calling for prayer for pro-Russia Donald Trump, Franklin Graham seems clearly to be maneuvering and lobbying. The most innocent explanation is that his agenda is furthering Graham's ideological priorities of religious freedom for evangelicals, challenging the GLBTQ movement, and opposing Islam. He thinks Trump can be motivated to appoint conservative judges and enact favorable rulings in the United States and that by getting in close with the Russians, Graham can get them to do so as well. Even if this is it, it is still remarkably calculating and political in its goals and methods. Again, it is hard to imagine that this June 2nd initiative is a naive, innocent, pure call to pray for our president to do what is right and just and wise. 

 

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Franklin Graham's comments on Perspective and Prayer Before the Election on November 5, 2016

"Well, first of all, three years ago this coming Monday my father celebrated his 95th birthday,” Graham replied. “Donald Trump was a guest, he came. And we presented a film that night, ‘The Cross,’ and my father gave an invitation and many people that night gave their hearts to Christ, and Donald Trump indicated that night that he had—he did that.”

“Only God knows where his heart is,” Graham continued. “But a lot of things that have been accused of Donald Trump are things that happened 11 years ago, that happened more than five years ago. I don’t think people are taking into account that maybe God has worked on his heart and is changing his heart. So I think you have to consider, what does Donald Trump say today? Not what he said 11 years ago, but what does he say today? And that’s what we’ve got to judge you on.”

While Franklin Graham claims this was a turning point for Trump turning to Christ at the Billy Graham 95th Birthday event (with 900 guests) on November 7, 2013, Trump flew straight from there to Moscow for the Miss Universe competition from Friday, Nov 8, 2013 to Saturday, Nov 10, 2013, where a number of his activities were documented on social media. The Steele dossier had claimed that Trump had been videotaped observing a sex and urination act while on that trip. While on that trip to Moscow, according to the New York Times and Washington Post, Trump's bodyguard Keith Schiller says that Trump was offered prostitutes but Schiller dismissed the request and then left his post by Trump's hotel room. Schiller continues to be paid as of Feb 2019 by the Republican National Committee. The Mueller Report says that a Russian contacted Michael Cohen to let Trump know that videos of him in circulation but had been squelched. “Stopped flow of tapes from Russia but not sure if there’s anything else. Just so you know….” Giorgi Rtskhiladze wrote to Cohen. Later, the Russian claimed he was told the videos were fake. Note also with Emin Agalarov "in the early-morning hours of June 15, 2013, some five months before the alleged Moscow incident, Trump visited a Las Vegas night club called the Act that was infamous for its sexually explicit theatre shows. Among the skits regularly performed at the Act were two in which semi-nude women would simulate urination onstage." In other words, Trump immediately flew to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant and did not seem to be a changed man and the most salacious allegation about Trump is from day or two immediately after what Franklin Graham remembers as a powerful conversion. From that week, there is more evidence for the veracity of the urination allegation than for Trump's conversion. 

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Here is a Twitter moment (a compiliation of tweets) from May 27-31, 2019

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See also other responses to the June 2nd plan to pray for Trump: 

Jonathan Merritt tweeted this rejoiner: "Former President Kennedy was unavailable for comment bc he was actually attacked and is deceased."

Jamie Tworkowski writes about Graham's comment on the video, "'If he succeeds, we all benefit.' Really? The folks at the border, the ones fleeing violence and poverty, do they benefit? Do Muslims benefit? Does the LGBTQ community benefit? Do people of color benefit?"

Shane Claiborne: "I will continue to pray for Donald Trump - to repent, to surrender to Jesus, and to resign from the Presidency."

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: Trumpvangelicals will hold a prayer rally next Sunday to prop up a corrupt administration that is executing policy violence. People of faith who know America needs a will bear witness outside the White House on June 12.

Brian Zahnd: I will pray for the President like the early Christians prayed for the Emperor. I won’t pray for the President as a public display of the church bestowing political support, which is what Franklin Graham is up to.

Drew G. I. Hart writes, ‏"I'm thinking I probably should keep my imprecatory psalm for the president to myself."

Michael Wear worries that this is "a cynical appropriation of prayer to send a political message."

Referring to Nancy Pelosi's comments three days ago on May 23rd, "I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country," Bill Kristol jokes: "Who knew Nancy Pelosi had so much clout? No sooner does she say 'I pray for the president of the United States' and implies we all might do so, than Franklin Graham announces a 'Special Day of Prayer for the President.' Will Rev. Graham invite the Speaker to lead the prayers?"

Historical and theological reflection from a year previous: On Praying for Donald Trump Posted on June 13, 2018 by Chris Gehrz

 

Another radio talk show also discussed the June 2nd prayer for Donald Trump. 

Event:

Todd Starnes Discusses A Day Of Prayer For President Trump
May. 29, 2019 - 11:59 - Todd Starnes speaks with AFA President Tim Wildmon and Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land discuss Franklin Graham's call for a Day of Prayer for President Trump.
Todd Starnes Show
Fox News Radio
https://video.foxnews.com/v/6042391396001/#sp=show-clips

 

This is more evidence that this call to pray for Trump against the attacks he is facing is reflexively partisan rather than broadly Christian.  

Analysis and then transcript of the interview below. 

Analysis: 

Tim Wildmon says Trump appoints conservative judges so that is why he supports him. It is transactional. He (like Franklin Graham in his interview with Tony Perkins above) both mention that Trump helps Christians. Wildmon worries about Christians being attacked by liberals and therefore this means it is best to support Trump despite him "not being perfect" and not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit. There is no acknowledgement that it is precisely these "non-perfect" (that is, morally wrong) behaviors are what have led him to be "attacked" (that is, criticized and investigated).    

Richard Land believes there is a deep state conspiracy against Trump. Land continues to argue as if the choice in May 2019 is still the November 2016 election between Trump and Hillary Clinton. He was (and is still?) terrified of Hillary Clinton. One assumes when he says "Hillary Clinton" he means liberals. His faith is in Bill Barr finding out the truth about the conspiracy. Because he still thinks the issue is Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, apparently there is no place for taking a principled conservative position of objecting to the wrong things Trump does and approving of the good things he does. Someone like Republican Congressman Justin Amash supports conservative principles but objects to the behavior of Trump. Similarly, conservatives George Will, Michael Gerson, Bill Kristol, Charlie Sykes, and George Conway also object to the immoral behavior of Trump. The Trump court evangelicals support what Trump accomplishes despite the means, what they call his "imperfections." While there are other conservatives like Amash denounce the illegal, immoral, ("imperfect") behavior of Trump for sullying the conservative cause.    

See also the analysis of the Wildmon and Land interview by John Fea at: https://thewayofimprovement.com/2019/05/30/last-nights-court-evangelical-tweetstorm/

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Transcript: 

Todd Starnes: Why do you think we need a special day of prayer for the president?

Tim Wildmon: Because he is under siege from the secular left—and the religious left too such as they are—because of his stands for life and religious liberty and for conservative judges, those things that I think come out of biblical principles and certainly constitutional principles and because he identifies with us (that is, Christians in America) to a large extent on many different issues. So those are the reasons that he is under attack so I think that is what I think Franklin Graham is saying. It is not Republican or Democrat. He is saying that President Trump needs prayer right now because they are under attack spiritually and politically.


Richard Land: I think the Holy Spirit laid this on Franklin Graham's heart . . . This president is under unprecedented siege. He is not only taking on the left, he is taking on the deep state. He is taking on the entrenched government apparatus. He is taking on the intelligence agencies. I believe we are on the eve of the biggest political scandal in the history of the country because I think that Attorney General Barr is not stopping until he uncovers what I think is going to be a lot of nefarious and illegal behavior by people in the deep state including the CIA and the FBI. They are panicked and they are attacking him in an even more unprecedented way and I think we need to put up a spiritual shield. . . . I am praying that God will give him wisdom and strength and guidance and the president will be an instrument of God's will.


Richard Land: Well, look, I am one of the people who takes encouragement from Robert Mueller's statement this morning because it shows the panic of the deep state (and James Comey's editorial in the Washington Post). These people are scared to death that William Barr is going to uncover all of their nefarious deeds and all of the ways they have broken the law and they are out to kill politically William Barr and kill the president before Barr can kill them.


Todd Starnes: Why do you support this administration?

Tim Wildmon: Well, number one if you look what we would have if he had not been elected, we would have had President Hillary Clinton and that would have been horrible for us on so many levels: the Supreme Court would have been lost for a generation, the attacks on Christians would have intensified, they would have started denying to us radio licenses. I guarantee to you that would have happened because we would have been labeled a hate speech by the federal government. So the alternative at the time was horrible. President Trump wanted to be our friend. Does President Trump have a complete biblical world view? Uh, No, he doesn't. He doesn't come out of that but yet he wants to be our friend and he wants to understand us. And he is a patriot. He also understands what is happening with the court system in this country and is relying on the Federalist Society and people we trust to tell him who is best to appoint to the courts so the man listens to us. He cares about us and wants to be our friend. And that is why we support him. Is he perfect? No. Does he tweet things sometimes that it probably would be best that he doesn't? Does he exhibit the fruits of the Spirit every day? No, he doesn't. But we only have one president at a time. And this is the man for the hour. We need to stand and support him in every way that we can. We can be critical if we have be. The same forces that are aligned against President Trump right now are the same forces that are aligned us and will come after us if given the opportunity.


Richard Land: I hate to think where we would be without the American Family Association getting the truth out against the horrendous propaganda of the secular news media. It is just horrible. What we have got to do is understand that the alternative was Hillary Clinton, who would have been the most dangerous and worst president in the history of the United States. No question about it. Hands down. I am going to make a statement now that I am willing to stand by. If Hillary Clinton had won this last election, we would have just participated in the last fully free election in the history of the United States because they would have subverted the rule of law. They would have come after us. They would have weaponized the federal government against us. Hillary Clinton was dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, criminally dangerous to religious freedom and political freedom in the United States. Frankly, I voted for Donald Trump as the lesser evil but he has been far better than I thought he would be. I find some Christians who oppose him. I say 'I like my way of getting involved and making a difference over your way of not getting involved and not making a difference.' To not support Donald Trump when he was running against Hillary Clinton was to support Hillary Clinton. That is just a simple fact. People can live in fantasy land if they want to. But in the real world, if you do not help the lesser evil prevail, you are part of helping the greater evil prevail. And Hillary Clinton is the greater evil unless she's running against Lucifer.

 

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Appendix: Scriptures to pray in hope in times of injustice

"do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming."

― Psalm 37:7b, 12-13

 

"But to the wicked person, God says:

When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
You harness your tongue to deceit.

When you did these things and I kept silent,
you thought I was exactly like you.
But I now arraign you"
― Psalm 50:16a, 18, 19b, 21ab. 

 

"But do not kill them, Lord our shield, or my people will forget. In your might uproot them and bring them down. For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. For the curses and lies they utter"

― Psalm 59:11-12.

 

"There are those who move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen.

But God drags away the mighty by his power;

He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways.

For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone." 

― Job 24:2, 22-24

 

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty."

― Luke 1:52-53

 

 

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