Franklin Graham remains unashamed of the Name,
despite public criticism. No generic prayers for him.
The following are portions of an interview with Christianity Today editor David Neff
and deputy managing editor Timothy Morgan.
Your book The Name defends your use of Jesus’ name in public prayers. How surprised were you by the reactions to your prayers at Columbine High School and the 2001 presidential inauguration?
I can’t say I was surprised, because I’ve seen this before. We as Christians should not be afraid of mentioning the name of Jesus Christ. The freedoms other religions enjoy in this country are because of Christians, who came to this nation searching for freedom. Jews have had more freedom in this country than in any nation on the face of this earth outside of Israel. A Muslim has more freedom in this country than he has in a Muslim country. Christians gave them this freedom.
Why do you think some people say they’re offended, then?
Because they are. Listen, if I mention the name Muhammad, people go: Okay. You mention the name of Buddha: Oh, that’s nice. You mention the name of Jesus Christ, and it divides a room. People scowl. People breathe a sigh of relief. This is more evidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that Satan wants to do everything he can do to discredit that name.
Local pastors often get asked to give prayers or to say a few words at community events. Should they follow the pattern that you set forth and always speak in the name of Jesus?
All I can do is speak for myself. I didn’t ask to be at Columbine. It just happened. When I get invitations like that, I just have to believe that God opens those doors because he expects the name of his Son to be interjected into that situation. I would be showing dishonor to my Father in heaven not to mention the name of his Son in those settings.
At the inauguration, Houston pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell and you took mutual strength and encouragement.
We were in a room at the hotel. The program committee was meeting. Kirbyjon saw me and said, “Franklin, are you going to use the Name?” I looked at him. He said, “In the prayer, are you going to use the Name?”
“Ah. Yes, I’m going to pray in the Name.”
“Good. So am I. We’ll both get in trouble together.”
Kirbyjon gave a great prayer, and it came from his heart.
How do you feel about Christians commemorating events separately compared to what happened in New York City last year, where everybody got together under Oprah’s umbrella?
[After the memorial service at] Yankee Stadium, I talked to a lot of pastors who said, “We were left out.” It was people offering generic messages and prayers. They tried to make it a Hollywood event. Hollywood has nothing to offer to anybody. Who offers more hope—Oprah or Almighty God?
You’ve been speaking out about HIV and AIDS. What is the biggest obstacle to Christian ministry in responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis?
One is the perception in the church that it’s caused by homosexuality, which in this country accounts for the majority of cases. Churches say, “This is dirty. We don’t even want to get near it.” But the AIDS issue around the world is basically heterosexual.
The world’s response is condom distribution. But the problem is people don’t use them, for whatever reason, even people who are educated. I was invited to speak at an AIDS fundraiser in New York City with the Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS. Former ambassador Richard Holbrooke is the head, and he said, “Franklin, we’d like for you to come and give the benediction.”
“Can I say something other than a prayer?”
“Yes. The only thing we ask is that you don’t attack homosexuals.”
“That’s not what I do.”
When I got up to speak, I reminded them that every one of the 40 million people infected with HIV has a soul, precious to God. I said, “I will work with each and every one of you to save life.” Oh, they applauded.
Then I said, “I’m prolife.” Silence. I said, “I think it’s just as important to save the life of an unborn child as it is to save the life of a man or woman eaten up with AIDS.” Silence.
“We can’t do this without God’s help. That’s why I’m here to ask for God’s help.”
The number one obstacle is the world’s concept: Just give me a billion condoms and we can solve this issue. What the world wants to do is continue in a sinful lifestyle.
The church is sitting back, saying, “I told you so. If you all would keep your pants zipped up, then there wouldn’t be any of these problems.” We have failed to get involved because homosexuals are in this fight. We’ve got to be willing to get down with people we don’t like.
The greatest mission field in front of us is HIV/AIDS patients. Yes, it’s tough, but what a challenge. These people have a soul, made in the image of God, and Jesus Christ died for them. Are we to say, “I don’t want to get my hands dirty?”
Would you see this happening through organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision?
No, I see it working in the local churches. Every local church ought to be looking for ways to have hospice care for HIV/AIDS victims, counseling, and education.
We need to be right up in the front. We are so wrapped up in our little programs. I’m saying, Just do it. Quit talking about it. How much money do you have in your budget for HIV/AIDS? Anything? Put it in there. Make it a line item so that the elders and the deacons and the pastor, everybody, sees it.
Then let’s start looking for somebody in the community who we can invest in-somebody who has a heart for HIV/AIDS, who’s doing something for HIV/AIDS in the community. Let’s pray that God will raise up men and women out of that church who say, “Pastor, I’m here, I’ll go to the hospital, and I’ll visit.”
As a Christian leader, you are unusual in that you are involved in social ministry through Samaritan’s Purse and in evangelism through the BGEA. How are your two callings related?
I don’t see a division. The thing is Jesus Christ. He healed people. That’s social ministry. He fed people. This is social ministry. But that wasn’t the end in itself. Christian organizations got off on the social ministry, and they forgot their purpose. The soul is the purpose. Every miracle Jesus did, he did so that those who were the recipients of his grace and his mercy would put their faith and trust in him as the living Son of God.
With Samaritan’s Purse, we do evangelism. That’s the core of everything we do. The goal of the BGEA is evangelism. But as I walk down life’s road, I’m just not going to bypass people who are hurting. I’ll want to help them so that I can tell them about Christ.
Some major Christian ministries got involved in just helping people. Christian people came into the organization who weren’t really evangelical. They began to compromise and say, “We can have a witness by our presence.” Give me a break. Don’t say you’re going to be a Christian by just sitting there like a knot on a log. “Faith cometh by hearing.” People have got to hear it.
How do you build into organizations the ability to keep that Christian focus?
You’ve got to get committed people, and you have to review constantly what the goals and objectives are. Keep coming back to the Cross. Keep coming back to the focal point.
You have called Islam “wicked” and “violent” and not “this wonderful, peaceful religion.” To what degree have your views on Islam been shaped by your experience in Sudan?
It’s not just Sudan. I have also been to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan. I’ve been around the Muslim world for a long time. Out of all of these Islamic countries, there’s not one democracy. There are no personal liberties. There are no freedoms, religious freedom or any other freedom. I see how they treat people of other faiths. It frightens me.
After 9/11, there were groups that said we all worship the same God. It’s not the same God. The God of Islam is not a father. The God of the Christian faith is a father. He has a son: his name is Jesus.
Christianity Today, November 18, 2002, pages 58-60