Opinion Richard Mouw: Civil Evangelicalism wp-export

Billy Graham’s granddaughter sends a wise message to her famous uncle

(RNS) — Jerushah Armfield has been publicly criticizing President Trump, both on CNN and in The Washington Post. In one interview she said that not only has Trump not said or done anything that gives evidence of a personal Christian faith, but that he has actually “encouraged racism, sexism and intolerance, exactly what Jesus taught against.”

Armfield is no left-wing activist. She is a granddaughter of Billy Graham, and she regularly gives expression to her deep evangelical convictions in her writing and speaking. Her husband is a Baptist pastor in South Carolina.

She is also a niece of Franklin Graham, the well-known evangelical leader who has been an outspoken supporter of the president. Armfield sees her uncle as seriously misguided in doing so. When Franklin Graham portrays Trump as aligned with the cause of Jesus, she says, he “diminishes not only my Jesus but all he stood for and came to Earth to fight against.”


READ: Inauguration speaker Franklin Graham: God allowed Donald Trump to win


But Armfield also has something positive to say about her uncle: “He has an incredible humanitarian ministry that’s been on the front lines often before a lot of ministries have been there,” she told a CNN interviewer. And then she added: “I think he probably needs to stick to doing that.”

Jerushah Armfield is outspoken in her opposition to President Trump. Video screenshot

I agree with Jerushah Armfield on both counts. Commending Franklin Graham for his humanitarian efforts should not be dismissed simply as a niece wanting to play nice to an uncle whom she will be seeing at family gatherings. Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization is accomplishing some important things in addressing needs of suffering people.

I experienced the ministry’s positive impact on a brief visit to North Korea seven years ago. I had just returned to my room from breakfast at my Pyongyang hotel when the phone rang. It was a medical doctor whom I had gotten to know in California. He had seen me in the lobby and suggested we get together to chat.

When we met he told me he was in North Korea providing medical services for Samaritan’s Purse. “Have you been here before?” I asked. He replied that the ministry spends considerable time serving people in North Korea. This was, in fact, his 24th visit. And, he said, Franklin Graham was arriving later that day with more than a million dollars’ supply of medicine — an arrival confirmed that evening in local TV news coverage that I watched.

No publicity that I know of back home is given to these efforts. So, yes: credit where credit is due. Franklin Graham is doing some admirable things.

And his niece is also right in her second point. He should stick with those humanitarian activities and stop offering his public support for Trump.

I would only add another point. Graham should publicly admit that his support for the president has been seriously misleading and harmful. Graham, a member of Trump’s informal evangelical advisory board, has consistently encouraged evangelicals not to focus on character issues in thinking about Trump’s leadership. We don’t need the president to be, he says, a “pastor in chief,” as long as Trump does what we want him to do as commander in chief.

Evangelist Billy Graham, left, and President Nixon bow their heads in prayer during the president’s visit to the Billy Graham East Tennessee Crusade at Knoxville, Tenn., in 1970. RNS file photo

There are issues to argue with Graham about on that. But this much is certainly clear: Graham does have a “pastoral” role among evangelicals, and he is not serving us well in this role by asking us not to focus on matters of moral character.

Here Graham can learn much from his father’s example. Billy Graham got very cozy with Richard Nixon in the 1970s — preaching at worship services in the White House, spending time as a spiritual counselor to the president and testifying to Nixon’s positive qualities as a Christian leader. Later, Graham learned from the Watergate-related tapes how terribly wrong he had been. To his credit, the evangelist publicly apologized for having misled Christians about Nixon.

Franklin Graham, heed your father’s example — and also listen to your niece! We don’t need any kind of elaborate political critique from you, but we do need reassurances about your own spiritual integrity. Your father knew that he needed to admit to his fellow Christians that he had endorsed attitudes and behaviors that were unbecoming in a presidency. If you have not yet seen the evidence for doing that yet, what would it take?

Some of us have not only admired your humanitarian efforts, but we have also listened carefully and appreciatively to what you have preached about in the past. We need a word from you that reassures us that we were not wrong in having seen you as an important voice for moral and spiritual clarity.

About the author

Richard Mouw

Richard Mouw is Professor of Faith and Public Life at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he also served as president for twenty years. He is the author of twenty books, including Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. He earned his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Chicago.

55 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Okay, so Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz say one thing, and Jerushah Armfield says another.

    Which simply means that Christians — even those who deeply share and honor one of the biggest names in American Christianity — won’t agree on everything, and especially not regarding politics and politicians.

  • We advise UK schools to understand fully what Samaritan’s Purse will do with their shoe-boxes before getting involved.

    There are reputable organisations doing equally admirable relief work who do not use people’s need to try to inculcate superstitious belief.

  • I really dislike Operation shoebox as well but they do do some good relief work. On the other hand, so do other agencies and not sure how many of them pay their CEO $500,000 – that right there would be my best reason for not donating to any charity. And that represents only half his income. Perhpas he was embarrassed enough to make a change there.

  • Sorry someone who talks with the
    C ommunist
    N ews
    N etwork
    & Wapo.
    is just not trustworthy a { false Prophet } on a #FAKE NEWS Channel And paper…

  • Actually there other sources than just the two you mentioned, LOL But thanx for your help, have a nice day…

  • There are. But CNN is a fairly run of the mill news source with a baseline of credibility to its factual reporting. Not my favorite source, but not one which can be dismissed easily out of hand for accuracy.

    Generally the “CNN is Fake News” crowd likes sources which are not known for accurate or honest factual reporting. I have yet to see intelligent, well informed remarks from them. I hold out hope you could surprise me to the contrary.

  • I think we make a mistake when we try to transpose the virtues of a famous father to his son. Each must fulfill his own destiny. Further..
    “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20.

  • ROFLMBO…….. Oh please, I just spit coffee out my nose… CNN has been proven wrong on so many times it is no longer even funny, next thing you know you are going to try and say that ted Cruz is a Natural born citizen…
    Have a nice day.

  • Which puts them on a fairly higher level of reliability than Fox News and various “Conservative” news outlets but hardly on par with more reliable foreign news sources like the BBC.

    Its not that CNN is a liberal mouthpiece of a news source (that would be MSNBC) it is that they are not wildly openly partisan like Fox and their ilk.

  • As I have quite a bit of time on my hands, could I have some of your sources? I like knowing all six side of issues.

  • Must be nice to be perfect…of course at that point who needs a redeemer?Does this author know the spiritual condition of Trump…According to Jeffress,Trump got saved and that would make him a babe in Christ. I believe others know more about a fellow believer than Mr. Mouw..holding your opinion would be wise.
    We’re quite clear on Hillary though…taking bribe money from countries that kill gays and non-compliant women,good choice America.

    Here’s some wise words from another Mouw..Tunis.
    Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
    Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not of works, so that no one can boast.

    “The purpose of the atonement was universal—Jesus died on behalf of all people, not just the elect.”

  • Any human being, let alone the President of the United States, who spends less than 15 minutes with victims of a school shooting so he can head over to the disco party at his place is most definitely NOT trying to do a good job.

  • Reportedly, by whom? Hucksters with their hand out looking for a little favor from the president.

    “shouldn’t we support a babe in Christ”

    Nope.

    Cheap unearned labels of religiosity aren’t worth a pile of dung. Nothing about the guy’s actions show an ounce of humility or care expected of one “saved”.

  • I guess it comes down to whatever you use to rationalize putting in a malicious cheat, serial adulterer, lazy bigot in the White House.

    “I believe others know more about a fellow believer than Mr. Mouw”

    From the behavior I have seen of your fellow believers, there is very little positive which can said about their honesty, moral standards and values.

  • Well, I tell you why. They watch the News that don’t like him there. Guess what their the liars. Believe what you want.

  • Dr. Mouw, I have so often been a fan of yours, re-tweeting your articles, reading your books, and respecting you from afar. As a grad of Calvin and Fuller – the 2 institutions you gave your life to – you disappoint me in this article. You violate the very civility you espouse. This is too partisan, and beneath you, IMHO.

  • Billy Graham made some mistakes of his own with how he described some groups, the occasional political advice he gave to different presidents. and some of the foreign leaders he supported (see https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/21/billy-graham-and-the-gospel-of-fear/ ).Franklin Graham has only accentuated his father’s mistakes. The difference between the two is that society was more in agreement with Billy Graham’s mistakes than it is with Franklin’s. In any even, Franklin has shown that he has not fallen far from the tree.

  • BS. Trump doesn’t need the liberal news to demonstrate to America and the world that he is an insecure, narcissistic fraud. He does that on his own.

  • Except she was kind to her horse’s ass of an uncle. Franklin Graham, in contrast is a vengeful, spiteful, sad, scared little man who wouldn’t ever amount to a pimple on his Daddy’s tuchis.

  • Was this your first encounter with the Dinosaur?!!! You will learn to simply ignore it. It gets paid for being here….you don’t.

  • In this guise yes.. by his use of words and the structure of his talking etc. I am sure that I have ran into him as other ” people ” …. It is more amusing anymore to see such low born plying their trade.. I hope that you have a good day and year Sir. 🙂

  • Of course you’re speaking of that famous whore mongering, sodomizing rapist William Jefferson Clinton.

  • Who?

    Someone who hasn’t been relevant in the world since the new century. Maybe you might refer to Ronald Reagan or LBJ while you are at it.

    As I said, whatever helps rationalize such terrible judgment you have now.

  • Here’s the dilemma for people like Franklin Graham. He and other evangelicals (most notably, the Falwells and Pat Robertson) have long equated leadership with virtue and virtue with Christianity. The idea that a non-Christian could be a good president just doesn’t compute for them.

    For that reason, they can’t just admit that they support Trump for purely ideological reasons but that he is, by all indications, a moral train wreck. They have to go through the convoluted process of trying to justify all his gross and uncharitable behavior as being incidental to his true character, which must be Christian.

    Personally, this Christian has no such conflicts. I make no judgments about the state of Trump’s soul, but I do know that when it comes to who’s going to serve as Commander in Chief, I’d much prefer a competent atheist to an incompetent Christian any day of the week.

  • I’d be happy to support him through Sunday School. But with the nuclear codes? Not so much.

  • You’re really going to compare Trump’s moral and ethical behavior to Clinton’s? What a downward spiral that will be — kind of like comparing Al Capone to Lucky Luciano.

    Besides, where is it written that a good president by definition is also a good Christian? I make no presumptions one way or the other about Trump’s faith or lack thereof. I just know that he’s incompetent and an embarrassment to the nation.

  • I appreciate being able to read various points of view about President Trump, especially from Christians who have deep thoughts about why they are disturbed by his leadership. I catch myself condemning Trump but try to remember to pray for him to have wisdom and to receive gifts of repentance and salvation, the latter in the event he doesn’t have it.

  • I thought the article was an honest plea for Franklin Graham to consider changing his focus from being so supportive of Trump to being more circumspect and prayerful. I thought the article was well-written.

  • Your point is well taken. I’ll admit I have a hard time praying for Trump, but that’s probably all the more reason why I should.

  • I find it becomes easier when I move more into my own humility since I am by nature so judgmental to the point of detriment. May increased peace be upon all of us!

  • I think I am moving into praying yet more for Trump in terms of wisdom and compassion in leadership. More sincere prayers will make a difference, and certainly we need leaders who inspire us. Keep the faith.

  • What a wonderful verse. That whole part of Isaiah has such profundity. Thank you for recalling that for me.

  • Jerushah’s statement that when “Franklin Graham portrays Trump as aligned with the cause of Jesus, he diminishes not only Jesus, but all that he stood for and came to earth to fight against” is very appropriate.

    Neither Jesus, nor any of the first-century Christians, got involved in politics, nor in worldly conflicts such as wars (Matthew 26:52).

    Their main focus was preaching and teaching about God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Matthew 4:17) as the only hope for mankind on earth.

    Since we are now living in the last days of a wicked era (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), God will soon intervene in man’s affairs and his government shall replace all human governments:

    “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall BREAK IN PIECES and CONSUME ALL these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).

    That government will then start its loving, just and peaceful rule over all meek mankind on earth after destroying all wicked ones (Isaiah 11:1-5), by Christ Jesus, its King (Isaiah 9:6,7).

    That government and its rule shall also put an end to all sickness, disease, old age, and even death of mankind on earth (Revelation 21:3,4).

    None of these blessings will ever be realized through imperfect men, nor any of his governments, but only through God and his kingdom (Psalm 146:3,5), which we should now support completely.

  • I am sure, from reading all the comments, that all have forgotten the phrase “the better possible good”. You either voted for Hillary or Trump. I’ve been through the Clinton Chronicles and scandals. Trump does not hold a candle to the Clinton scandals and it would take him quite a while to catch up if he so desired. The “better possible good” won the election or as some might put it “the least of two evils”. You only had two choices, one of them was going to become president. Let God work it out and yes pray for the business man that is not beholding to any politician and is not part of the establishment that has proven to do nothing positive.

  • Nice try, but then it’s the internet and we never do know if you’re really that stupid or just selling that crap..

  • 8 months to reply ?? what happened ? they take away your internet privileges ? or were you just released on good behavior ?
    Have a nice day now.. BTW TRUMP is STILL YOUR President !

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs