The Evangelist and His Wicked Advisers

Once upon a time there was a good king named Théoden of Rohan. King Théoden was one of the great rulers of Middle Earth, greater than Denethor of Gondor, and braver than Galadriel the Elf Queen. King Théoden’s chief advisor, Wormtongue, was wise and faithful until he was seduced by Saruman, who was driven by the pursuit of power. Under Saruman’s wicked influence, Wormtongue caused a thick delusion to fall upon King Théoden, making him betray the truth and justice of the kingdom. 

Graham Meets with Mitt Romney, then Endorses the Values Candidate

After Billy Graham’s half-hour meeting with Mitt Romney, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association placed full-page political ads in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and other newspapers, in the name of Billy Graham and with his blessing. According to the BGEA, “the new ads were paid for by ‘friends who support the ministry’ and that no general ministry funds were used,” as reported in the CNN Belief Blog. The political implications of the ads were unmistakable.

Billy Graham and Mitt Romney

Billy Graham and His Handlers

In his book, Holy Terror, Mel White describes three incidents regarding Billy Graham.

Mel White writes about Billy Graham

The first relates to the time White was ghost-writing a book for the evangelist. Billy Graham discussed Matthew 25, and how essential our active care for the poor, those in prison, and the infirm was. He was obviously grappling with the implications of the passage, and White eventually polished up the remarks and sent them to the publisher.

Graham got the galley proofs from the printer, and when he spoke to White he said to him that he respected his skills, but wondered why he had taken out the paragraphs on Matthew 25. Of course White hadn’t taken them out. Someone at the publishers, or someone on the evangelist’s staff, had nixed their inclusion for being too “social gospel.”

On another occasion Graham expressed his belief that people living in areas where they can never hear the gospel may have the opportunity to be saved.

Over the years Mel White contacted the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association requesting an appointment with Graham, but to no avail. Later on White happened to meet Graham, and he asked him why he had never responded to his requests for a meeting. Graham told him he had never received any of the requests, but if he had, that he would have gladly met with him.

Billy Graham always had a more tolerant, ecumenical approach to life and spirituality than many of his fundamentalist followers could stomach. I think we were cheated. I don’t think Billy Graham’s handlers ever allowed us to see the real Billy Graham. As ironic as this sounds, Billy Graham was not allowed to preach according to Matthew 28:19-20.

Therefore, as you are going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.

“No, you better not to mention Matthew 25, Mr. Graham. We’re in trouble enough with fundamentalists as it is.”

In a 1981 issue of Parade, the newspaper supplement, Billy Graham said,

I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.

Billy Graham’s Besetting Sin: A Protestant Pope and the Elected Kings

Unfortunately Graham apparently didn’t notice the machinations performed by Republican strategist Paul Weyrich to wed evangelical churches to the Republican Party. In 1977 he co-founded Christian Voice, and in 1979 he co-founded the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell. You have Paul Weyrich to thank for the term “Moral Majority.”

Billy Graham and his son, Franklin

I suppose these experiences earlier in Billy Graham’s career may have gotten him used to having his judgment and convictions being overridden by others. Or perhaps he took to heart the proverb, Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice. In any case, his son is apparently telling him to ignore what God taught the elder Graham after cozying up with Nixon far too closely, and providing that (expletive) respectable cover. According to the CNN Belief Blog,

The ad hit the prominent papers Wednesday and Thursday, and could hit a dozen more newspapers, a week after the famed evangelist met with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Graham’s Montreat, North Carolina, home and less than a month after his son Franklin Graham issued a full-throated endorsement of Romney in a USA Today opinion piece.

Commenting on the CNN Belief Blog story, Diana Butler Bass posted on her Facebook page,

I think that Franklin Graham is using his father in the most disgusting way, and this story reveals how far conservative evangelical leaders will go in their pursuit of power.

Reminds me of two characters in The Lord of the Rings. I guess we tend to give Billy Graham the benefit of the doubt, don’t we. It’s easier to blame somebody else. 

Gríma Wormtongue and King Théoden of Rohan (Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)


For posts on James Dobson, click here.

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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16 Responses to The Evangelist and His Wicked Advisers

  1. Denise Smith says:

    Well you said a mouth full again as usual Ron, especially given that the commandment given to Jesus Christ to His disciples were to go into the nations teaching them to observe whatsoever Jesus had commanded them, and that not being the “message” or the “teaching” of most in Christianity, the Graham’s included.

    Let’s also not forget that the bible also states “woe to the rebellious children, that take counsel but not of God….. seems once again there is far more of the rejection of Jesus Christ and His words and commandments being done among what is called “Christianity” today than most are willing to consider…. but then again… the bible also tells us that Jesus said it is those that LOVE HIM that will keep His commandments!!! His words… and the Bible’s …. not mine!


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Yes, there are so many woes when we don’t take counsel from God, especially the indwelling Spirit, the Image of God. Easier said than done, I must admit. But still essential, despite the difficulty.


  2. geo williams says:

    Isn’t it interesting how the religious right likes to cherry pick the charity out of Christianity?

    I think there’s a hybrid mutation, the result of the partnership between the fiscally conservative old GOP and the so called Moral Majority, one where both are willing step parents to the not-just-southern racist contingent of our society.

    The child of this union is today’s Republican, a schizophrenic mixture of the blue collar voting for corporate perks; the faith based voting to end charity and the fiscal conservative voting for evangelical dogma that will leave them out in the cold.

    I see it all coming to a head as well.

    I liked this post, even if you took some artistic license describing Theoden as braver than Galadriel.

    I dig your site too, keep up the good work!


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Forging coalitions makes for some interesting dilemmas. There is, of course, the old adage about politics and bedfellows.

      I was warned about the foray into Middle Earth. Point taken!


  3. jasdye says:

    Those are some helpful stories to give some more clarity (or not?) surrounding Graham and his handlers. Personally, I think Billy has always had a thing for strong male figures, and right now he puts his trust in his son – the strongest male figure near him. I doubt he has any idea what he’s signing up for, but nonetheless trusts Franklin. Of course, he should have gotten rid of him years ago, when it was obvious the younger was just a complete, arrogant hack.


  4. Noel Harshman says:

    I always respected Bill and Ruth Graham. Part of that respect was based on his tolerance for others who think differently and his personal concern for those in need. I think he is being used in his last days on earth when he is not perhaps at his sharpest. That is a crime for which Franklin will pay and anyone else who is involved.


  5. Dan says:

    I find this whole episode and the one where an anti-marriage equality ad was put out before the NC vote last spring extremely sad. It definitely tarnishes the legacy BIlly Graham will leave behind. Ron you wrote the piece in a fantastic way comparing Billy Graham’s situation to King Theoden and Wormtongue.

    Here is another article on the same matter


  6. Wayne Weaver says:

    I believe a little deeper study of the history of Billy Graham might be of benefit. The effort to prevent JFK’s election in 1960 based on the elder Graham’s belief that Catholicism was and is a cult is no great secret “now”. It was however in 1960. Graham and the group of religious leaders he associated with met in Europe to discuss their game plan to, at any cost, prevent what they believed would be an abomination. The ultimate outcome of this inserting the “church” into politics was to sell Christianity to the Right-Wing. Billy Graham made the bed and picked the Right-Wing to prostitute the “Moral Majority” to.

    The problem with believing you have the exclusive line to God is the fact that you most assuredly do not. Therefore the narcissistic self-appointed “man of god” got it all wrong. It is as they say impossible to un-ring the bell.I’m afraid the only option is to burn the bell tower and begin again. Growing up Baptist I heard repeatedly Catholicism is The whore of Babylon. Seem like perhaps the Whore is someone else. Not everything Graham has done is not wrong but being a mortal is what it is. If there is only one God we as Christians would be well served by acting like it. Deification of a man always leads to disaster.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Thanks, Wayne. I was not aware of Graham’s efforts against President Kennedy. There’s a good article on the subject here:,_again


      • Denise Smith says:

        Thanks for sharing the link her Ron… many people are not aware of Graham’s efforts against Kennedy, or much about Graham overall. Jesus is recorded in the bible to have states, “that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God”. I have to agree with history and with Wayne’s comment above. Deification of a man always leads to disaster.

        We seem to have missed a very profound lesson/message from the opening pages of the bible. It states it is God that speaks to each Himself, and commanded man from his beginning, not to partake of the knowledge of good and evil from what is in the garden with him….. man was not to know God and about God from ‘flesh and blood” or the teachings or words of any other…. it was to be a “direct connect” from God to each of us. As Jesus reminded and the prophets as well said.. “all shall be taught by God”… “man is to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”… when we are doing so … and NOT repeating the tradition of Adam, in hearkening to the voice of another… there is no reason to have a “man of God”.

        Let’s also remember that the bible states that it is God himself that identified Jesus Christ as being His only begotten Son, in whom God was well pleased and commanded man to “hear Him”… so in keeping with the commandments of Jesus, and those prophets as well… if God ain’t saying it…. and God has not said it…. then why hearken to the voice of another about it?? Always leads to a mess according to the bible…. doesn’t it???


  7. Pingback: Franklin Graham and the latter-day politicization of the BGEA

  8. Floyd Miller says:

    The “religious right” leaders have all called Billy Graham the Anti-Christ at one point or the other, for reasons ranging from his civil rights support, to associating with Catholics and other non-Baptists, to ministering to Democratic presidents. When Billy dies, Franklin wants to invite these same name-callers to his funeral. Franklin, like Mitt Romney, has forgotten the face of his father.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Elegantly put, Floyd. Thank you.

      I think that most of us who “grew up with Billy Graham” are feeling a sense of disappointment.

      Over the years I’ve stumbled across several websites that specialize in documenting the “errors” of, I kid you not, virtually every individual and group with which they disagree. They feature lists of hundreds, from Christian Science to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Inevitably Billy Graham has an article dedicated to his error and apostasy, for the sorts of reasons you mention.

      According to their vision, it seems there will be fewer people in heaven than even the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society anticipate.


  9. I agree that I feel the disappointment with Billy Graham, not for me, I never followed him, but for loved ones who followed or still revere him. I live in North Carolina, so I often hear the praise of the Graham Ministry.My friends dislike when I point out the flaws in the ministry as they applaud the Grahams work.

    I myself am a former Jehovah’s Witness, who disassociated myself and have been fortunate enough to have fallen through the cracks. I have not suffered being Disfellowshipped, which would lead to my family shunning me, only because the Watchtower Society forgot I exist. They still shun me in a way, and my family has never once approached me to help me find the “Truth” again. They quietly see me as the enemy with no hope, and being gay is something they tolerate but will not condone. The Witness anointed are self appointed.

    I am so glad I had an epiphany 3 years ago and finally awakened. I now focus on the only thing the Creator asks of me, To Love.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      I think your journey is similar to that of many others. We start from our various “systems,” and manage to receive our birth right of independent approach to God (the Priesthood of Believers who don’t need human intermediaries), and accept the commandment, or two, which Jesus and Paul agreed were central to everything. To Love.

      You seem to have “escaped” unharmed and undamaged, and I’m glad for you on that score. Many suffer a lot of damage. I escaped relatively undamaged, but the experience of becoming a committed fundamentalist left its mark.


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