Franklin Graham, son of deceased Evangelist leader Billy Graham, claims he is a virulent supporter of Donald Trump because he “defends the faith”.
On “Axios on HBO,” Graham, who runs his father’s organization, argued that he can put aside the president’s personal morality and “sordid life”, because he claims to support all the things he does.
“Now people say ‘Well Frank but how can you defend him, when he’s lived such a sordid life?’ Graham said.
“I never said he was the best example of the Christian faith,” he continued, answering his own question. “He defends the faith. And I appreciate that very much.”
Later in the interview, Graham excused Trump’s appalling treatment of women by saying that the president has “admitted his faults and has apologized to his wife and his daughter for things he has done and said”.
This includes bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, calling women “pigs”, “dogs” and “slobs”, allegedly raping his ex wife and being accused of sexually assaulting dozens of others.
“He has to stand before God for those things,” said Graham.
But not apparently in front of the predominantly white, Evangelical Christian community in America that, contrary to all other religious groups in the country, has steadfastly supported the president.
The Evangelical Christian movement is unique in its support for Donald Trump for good reason: it is a uniquely empty religion, completely divorced from the teachings of Christ and devoid of any meaningful spirituality. To reconcile supporting a man who rips immigrant babies away from their mothers, showers billionaires with money, and treats women as sexual objects with their supposed love of Jesus, is an extraordinary feat of moral dissonance. By any reasonable assessment, Trump is the literal opposite of Jesus Christ — a greedy, narcissistic, lying, racist who picks on the vulnerable and protects the powerful.
It is almost impossible to not see through Trump’s shameless use of religion to bolster his support amongst conservatives. Those who don’t are either willfully ignorant, or too bigoted to notice. Franklin Graham it seems, is a mixture of the two, concocting a truly twisted narrative about Trump’s ascendancy to power.
“He [Trump] did everything wrong, politically,” Graham told the Atlantic’s Emma Green in 2017. “He offended gays. He offended women. He offended the military. He offended black people. He offended the Hispanic people. He offended everybody! And he became president of the United States. Only God could do that.”
“No president in my lifetime—I’m 64 years old—can I remember … speaking about God as much as Donald Trump does”.
In Graham’s warped mind, it is ok to do the exact opposite of what Jesus taught, as long as you speak about God a lot and vilify gays and lesbians:
“We’re in a sick world,” he [Graham] said, “very sick.” Christians “have been targeted by the gay-lesbian groups, purposefully, to put them out of business,” he said, and “we are exposed to the gay lifestyle [through] television, music, school.” He believes that organizations like the Boy Scouts “have lost it,” he told me, because they have opened up their membership to LGBT kids and allow gay men to lead troops. “It’s not an organization that’s fit to exist.” He especially worries about the influence of gay troop leaders. “Gay couples cannot have children,” he said. “All they can do is recruit your child. … There’s going to be a lawsuit one day, where a child will be molested, and will have been taken advantage of … I hope the directors are going to be held accountable.”
For a man who claims to be following the teachings of Christ, it is worth pointing out that his Lord and Savior mentioned homosexuality a total of zero times in the New Testament. But no matter, Graham sees a warrior for God in Trump, and his rise to the White House a sign that the Lord wants to persecute gays, Muslims and brown people.
If this is movement is so undecidedly Christian, then what exactly is it?
The identity politics religious right
To get to grips with this it is useful to understand the fact that the Evangelical movement is not a religious movement in any sense of the word. It is an identity politics movement. It is a white, male dominated sect that sees itself under threat from marauding minorities, liberals, and sexual deviants. It is no surprise then, that they support a white man who pretends he is defending them.
There are many kind and decent Christians in American who have been appalled by Donald Trump and speak out passionately against him. An Evangelical Christian once wrote to the Banter pleading the media not to treat the movement as monolithic — and to be fair, it hasn’t always been. But in the era of Donald Trump, the distinction between Christianity and Evangelical Christianity is becoming more pronounced than ever. With leaders like Franklin Graham pronouncing their overt support for Trump, many are now dropping the ‘Evangelical’ and referring to themselves simply as ‘Christian’. This is useful in that it helps define the movement more clearly, allowing those who disapprove of Trump to understand exactly what it is they are condoning by affiliating with it.
The Religion of Trump
There is of course, a parallel with what is happening to the Evangelical movement and the modern Republican Party. Those who continue to self identify as Republican and refuse to vote against the president are now complicit in his behavior. This is why many observers now call the GOP the ‘Party of Trump’, and it would be fair now to apply the same labeling to the Evangelical Christian movement in America.
If Franklin Graham sincerely believes God chose Donald Trump to lead America, he might as well come out and say what he really believes. He no longer worships Jesus or promotes his teachings of compassion, tolerance, and humility. He is a follower of Donald Trump, and the hateful bigotry he promotes, and Graham is urging his followers to do the same. Because Evangelical Christianity is no longer about Jesus Christ, it is about Donald Trump and the ideology he espouses, and little else.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.