A Canadian Controversy: Franklin Graham
I’m not a fan of drama. As a quiet and introverted guy, I have always hated when I am sucked into a dramatic situation. You know those situations, right? Those situations where people get at each others’ throats for some reason or another. I despise those moments. Sometimes those dramatic moments are necessary in order to confront an idea or person, but most of the time they are completely unfounded, there’s no reason for the argument to happen at all. We call these dramatic moments controversies. And one just happened last week in Vancouver B.C. and it could begin a terrible trend.
Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist - Billy Graham, was asked to speak for an evangelistic crusade in Vancouver by a group of many Christian churches wanting to have the Gospel preached publicly. So far no problem right? Well, some were not happy about Graham coming. A group of pastors and church leaders who claim to represent “60 percent of Christians in the metro area” of Vancouver signed a letter asking Graham to abstain from the event citing his “disparaging and uncharitable remarks about Muslims and the LGBTQ+ community, while portraying the election, administration and policies of U.S. President Donald Trump as intrinsically aligned with the Christian Church.”
I will not defend Graham’s political points of view, because as my church members could attest I have not supported Donald Trump’s agendas. Nor will I defend his character. What I will say is this simple fact, Franklin Graham is a believer in Christ who wanted to preach the Gospel to many attenders in Vancouver. These church leaders should have rejoiced at that like Paul to those preaching for incorrect reasons in Philippians 1:18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
There are 3 main issues I have with how these church leaders have handled this situation.
It Muddies the Definition of the Gospel.
These church leaders made it appear as if they held that these political views were in some way a part of the Gospel. One minute the letter reads, “Our concern is that the contentious and confrontational political and social rhetoric that Mr. Graham has used has the potential to overshadow the message of Jesus and incite hostility in our highly charged social climate.” Which would seem to suggest that the issues raised are not Gospel issues, but secondary in nature. Yet, a few paragraphs later it reads, “Regrettably, Franklin Graham's public comments appear to compromise Jesus's mission of love and justice for all.” This would seem to imply that Jesus’ mission was in regards to these issues, but his mission as He said in Luke 19:10 was to “seek and to save the lost” i.e. the Gospel. The wording of this letter in regards to the Gospel is dangerous.
It Makes Divisions.
The assumed goal of this letter was that so divisions would not happen over political stances, but through releasing this letter a division has been made over more than political stances, but over Gospel outreach. I am left questioning whether this was the real goal or not as the cover note of the letter clearly states “[Graham] gave us a gracious response and has publicly pledged to avoid controversial topics while in Vancouver and to focus on the "simple Gospel.” However, Mr. Graham has neither retracted nor sufficiently addressed the harmful statements to which we drew his attention, and which can be found here. Therefore, we are releasing our letter.” I am confused by this reasoning, the letter asked for the Gospel without politics, and upon Graham’s agreement, the letter is released anyways? This would appear to suggest that the signers wanted a line drawn in the sand - division.
It’s a terrible Precedent.
As mentioned above, the Gospel was to be preached at this event. Regardless of one’s political views, one should be able to rejoice that there were over “600 decisions for Christ.” Yet, those who voluntarily signed this letter were publicly against this event. This event could set a terrible trend that those who preach the Gospel must comply with the cultural norms and political views of the recipients. This could lead to further issues down the road, which may undermine the Gospel. The letter reads, “Such blending of politics and religion is dangerous.” Indeed, it is dangerous.