Franklin Graham is coming to town and he’s already having the opposite effect of his father

It was recently announced that Franklin Graham, the son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, will be touring Australia in 2019.

He’s coming for the 60th anniversary of Billy Graham’s historic 1959 crusades in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Launceston, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, which attracted over 3 million Australians (and another 350,000 across the ditch in New Zealand).

Franklin Graham will retrace his father’s steps to six of those Australian cities as part historical commemoration, part evangelistic campaign.

The ’59 crusades, which lasted four months, were unquestionably historic. Karl Faase, a member of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Australian board, says it was the closest thing Australia has come to experiencing a religious revival. One hundred and forty six thousand people went forward as “inquirers” at the end of the rallies.

But Karl Faase says the effect could be seen in more than just the size of the crowds.

He says there were appreciable drops in crime, alcohol consumption, ex-nuptial births, and bad debts, as a result of the ’59 crusades. Theological colleges saw a boom in student numbers, as did mission societies. And Bible sales went through the roof.

That all sounds definitely worth commemorating.

And you’d think Franklin Graham should be the one to do it. He’s not only the great evangelist’s son, he’s the current president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and an evangelist in his own right.

Case closed.

Well, not so fast.

New Testament scholar at Ridley College, Melbourne, Michael Bird has written an incendiary piece saying he will not be attending the Franklin Graham crusades in 2019, because of Mr Graham’s generous and often enthusiastic support for President Donald Trump.

“The fact is that Franklin Graham has tethered himself to the Trump administration, and he has used Christianity as a political prop to sanitize Trump for some Christian voters – despite Trump’s egregiously non-Christian character and the dubious moral quality of many of Trump’s policies,” Bird wrote.

Whether you think Michael Bird is being melodramatic here or not, the fact is that Franklin Graham has been ready to praise the American president, saying, “Donald Trump is a good man.”

When asked about Mr Trump’s habit of tweeting cruel attacks on his enemies, he retorted, “I can’t think of anything mean he’s said.”

On the matter of Mr Trump’s multiple affairs and the various bribes paid to women to cover them up, Franklin Graham will only concede, ”These affairs are alleged.” And he’s quick to point out if they did occur it was prior to being elected to the highest office in the land.

For Franklin Graham, the fact that Donald Trump is nominating conservatives to the Supreme Court, and has granted Christianity preferred religion status during his term, is enough to cover a multitude of sins.

“He defends the Christian faith… He speaks the truth… I’m grateful for him,” are all Franklin Graham quotes about Donald Trump.

BGEA’s Karl Faase wrote a response to Michael Bird in which he admitted Mr Graham’s support for Donald Trump but assured his readers that while in Australia the evangelist would stick to the religious script:

“I am confident that the events being planned across Australia in 2019 will be marked by three key qualities: a clear gospel message, a series of fabulous meetings and a politics-free agenda,” Faase wrote.

But this leads me to my concern about this matter.

Even if Mr Graham does forswear mentioning his politics while in Australia, that’s the only thing the press will ask him about.


They will pepper him with questions about the following:

  • His statements against Islam in support of Mr Trump’s travel bans;
  • His willingness to turn a blind eye to Mr Trump’s extra-marital affairs;
  • His support for the birther movement which cast doubt on whether Barack Obama was American-born, and his questions about whether Mr Obama might be a Muslim;
  • His praise for Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws;
  • His criticism of football players for refusing to stand for the national anthem;
  • His recent comments that those whistle-blowers who spill the beans about Mr Trump’s indiscretions might incur the wrath of God.

The media will present Franklin Graham as part of the pro-Trump Religious Right precisely because that’s what he is. Even if Donald Trump’s name never passes his lips while he’s here, he will be introduced to the Australian public as the president’s loyal defender.

And I’m concerned that evangelicals in this country will be tarred with that same brush.


Currently, the term evangelical is a bit of a mystery to the average Aussie. They might equate it with a kind of holy-roller Hillsong version of Christianity. Others might be conscious of evangelicals’ involvement in advocacy groups like Love Makes a Way. Still others might connect it to the conservative politics of, say, Cory Bernardi or Tony Abbott (neither of whom are actually evangelicals). Nonetheless, the term doesn’t currently connote anything like the Religious Right in the USA.

Not many Australian evangelicals would identify with the politics of the American gun lobby, or be champions of the Second Amendment, trickle-down economics, states rights, religious liberties for Christians primarily, and aggressive free trade.

I wouldn’t go as far as Michael Bird and pledge not to attend a rally. Neither would I want to openly discourage others from attending. And I’m pleased that the Australian BGEA spokesperson is promising that Graham won’t mention politics in his addresses.

But whereas the Billy Graham crusades of 1959 drew evangelicals together and enhanced the reputation of the church, I’m afraid the Franklin Graham crusades of 2019 are already dividing evangelicals and could send very mixed messages to the community at large.




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40 thoughts on “Franklin Graham is coming to town and he’s already having the opposite effect of his father

  1. Well said Mike – Franklin Grahame is not his father, is not even his father’s shadow, his theology and his politics (could he or anyone else divided the two?) are abhorrent and he really is not worthy of representing his father.

    His father famously was seen as too soft on communism and evolution, in fact Christianity Today writes about him “he shared the vision of Harold Ockenga, Carl F. H. Henry, and others for a new evangelicalism that would shed the skin of fundamentalist extremism”. This is something that can not be said about his son.

  2. So true, Mike. So sad. So upsetting. May the Holy Spirit move in power in Australia. And may God hold Franklin Graham accountable for the words he has spoken which don’t reflect the will and the heart of God.

  3. Send him packing!!!

  4. Maybe the church of Australia should hold 6 Crusades on the same night? In the same area. An alternative voice and a clear message for the people searching for truth, the press corps, the church itself, and that perhaps the BGEA has served its purpose?

  5. Also, there is just something wrong with commemorating the Crusades of 60 years ago in my opinion. How many times did Billy Graham commemorate his successful tours? I’m afraid that the BGEA plans in Australia appear to be pure and good and wonderful to the BGEA faithful, but the entire exercise of it will be known as nothing Jesus would ever do. It has a nice ring to it, but it seems like it will be missing a couple of key players. Jesus and the Holy Spirit. — and I’ve supported BGEA my entire adult life until Billy stepped down. I’m 55.

    Side note, I went to High School with Hugh Halter and been a supporting fan of his since 1990.

  6. Franklin Graham conducted a small crusade through conservative leaning cities and towns in California a couple months ago. I did not attend the rally in my small coastal town because I assumed he would infuse it with his political agenda and I am disgusted with his support for Trump. And I read a story afterwards about how his tour of CA was intended for political benefit.

  7. What a load of twaddle. I gues the Apostle Paul has the same reaction, so nothing is new under the sun. As convert of the 1959 Melbourne crusade I am excited and expecting great movement of the Holy Spirit touching peoples lives and changing them. God only knows this is what’s needed. You’ve got my backing Franklin. God bless you and your team.

    1. Good on you George! I’m with you. Some of the above posts are very ungracious and un-Christian. Franklin Graham is a loving gracious Christian man and has been mightily used by God. He has my support also. 70% of American Evangelicals support the US President so Franklin Graham is in the majority. He is certainly not the pariah the above posts make him out as being. Michael Bird and his ilk don’t like Graham mixing Christianity and politics, but in boycotting his tour aren’t they doing the same thing.

    2. I just read acts 21 where Paul became like a Jew to save Jews and to unite church as Jesus prayed in John 17, may they be one. People were against paul because of untrue gossip that spread through Jerusalem church. Perhaps this is what’s happened with FG. Or he’s not bright when handling medias questions. You can be supportive of president as we’re meant to pray for our leaders, but maybe he should tell media that he can’t answer for trump only God. Jesus would tell us to mind our own business I’m sure and not answer for someone else. Or Gods word says such and such and God is judge of all.

  8. How sad that the church has been blinded by the left wing media they cannot see A Godly man . At least Trump stands up for Christianity something Obama and his Muslim views never did . GOD bless Franklin Graham .

    1. Obama was and is not a Muslim. Even his 2008 opponent John McCain acknowledged that and refused to allow his supporters to promote that fallacious view. I pray you’ll be freed from this left-right polarity that seems to hold many people in its insidious grip.

  9. God will use the Franklin Graham Tour of Australia to bring glory to Jesus whatever Franklin’s political stance because he is standing up for the gospel. I am disappointed with this article – we need more hands to the harvest working towards promoting the Kingdom of God, not armchair critics throwing stones because of politics.

  10. As an Australian Christian born and bred I have to ask why do we have the need for an International person to come and speak to us. Where are the Australian Men of God. I live for Jesus not anybody else so why are our churches so quick to jump on the Hollywood preacher bandwagon. I’m really distressed by this. Is this a work of man or a work of God?

  11. “A clear proclamation of the gospel,” is promised by Graham’s promoters. In all fairness to Jesus, Mr Graham rarely shares “good news” anymore. If Jesus were pulling together another 12 disciples today to pass on his LIFE and message, I dare say he would put an arm around Mr Graham and say something like, “ Franklin, I don’t need you out front at the moment. We have sone work to do.” I can imagine Graham saying, as perhaps would I,
    “What are we going to do, Lord?” To which Jesus replies, “ Come on Frank,
    we’ve got some feet to wash – Muslim feet. And while we’re at it, we’ll break bread with some of our homosexual friends who’ve invited us over for dinner.” “But Lord, “ Graham protests, “these people are…..well, you know…..sinners.” Jesus walks over and picks up a mirror and holds it up in front of Mr Graham and says, “Take a look at this sinner……cherished of God…..broken… need of saving……and unable….ever… save himself.
    Now hold the mirror a bit longer and let’s see if we can get that plank out of your good eye.”

    1. Wow. This is awesome. So well put. And what I believe Jesus would actually say and do. Thank you.

    2. Amen

  12. I hereby give Michael Bird the bird … he’s just an academic … ignore him … has he ever led anyone to Christ? … Australia is riddled with hate for Christ and his Church and Christianity … and Australian churches are so dead and the preaching is so limp and trivial and pathetic … we need tough-talking evangelists desperately … we need messages that will bring people to Christ …

    1. Not that I aim this at any one post…but to shame the Australian church to back up FG seems, well moronic. If our churches are dead and preaching limp messages, why do I personally witness among many of the churches I know, salvations, discipleship and growth…that which the gates of hell cannot prevail against. I love the debate, side somewhat with those questioning FG tour but would never, ever have the audacity to condem the Aussie Church to promote the voice of any one man, save Jesus Christ.

  13. I am looking forward to Franklin Graham coming to Sydney and Australia; and pray something extraordinary happens!

    1. Amen

      1. A really large number of Aboriginal people came forward at the recent Graham Tour event in Darwin. Over 3000 attended and around 700 of them were indigenous. Of the 370+ that responded a high percentage were of darker skin. The impact of this is going to be amazing!

        PRAISE GOD FOR THE HUNGER AND FOR HOLY SPIRIT STIRRING HIS PEOPLE!!!! And pray for the continual growth and discipleship of all involved. We are One in Him as Jesus prayed. Now we are seeing it happen before our eyes as we all grow together, One in Christ, worshipping God together

  14. Michael, I recall the MCG Billy Graham rally vividly, it was magnificent and the greatest evangelical gospel event that I have ever experienced. What troubled me at the time was the journalists constant immature interviews regarding how much was Mrs Graham being paid etc, etc- Your article has a similar tone of negativity- One can only hope that we can all see the positives with this gospel tour , and as the real public decided with their feet at the MCG , ignore the largely ignorant press. Only good can come from FranklIn Graham’s spreading of the gospel.

    1. I’m not implying the MCG rally wasn’t magnificent. Neither am I saying anything about what Billy Graham or Franklin Graham earn. I’m raising concerns about how divisive Franklin Graham has become. It’s strange that he can be so negative about those he disagrees with, and can stir up unease among significant sections of the population, but if I raise these concerns you think I’m being too negative?!

    2. Wisdom from the late, Fred Craddock

      “He preached there on the bank of the Tigris, 200 miles north of Baghdad. He preached, not expecting anybody to listen, but they did and there was a national repenting. The city was in sack cloth and ashes and praying to God and even the beasts of the field and the cattle, the cattle repented. And there was a great reformation and God repented and said, “I will not destroy the city.”

      Jonah was mad as a boiled owl. He did not plan it that way and he said to God, “Now do you see why I didn’t want to come here in the first place? I knew you were a God of tremendous mercy, abounding love, steadfast grace, and willing to repent from punishment. I knew you would do this.”

      What’s the matter with Jonah? Jonah has whistling through his soul now two theologies. Some of us don’t have one; he had two. Most of us have more than one; that’s our problem. He had two. He had the theology that we can surmise from the story and that was that he was a Hebrew. And he had the theology that said, “Of all the nations of the world, Israel alone have I chosen. We are Abraham’s children.”

      Here was a prophet who knew who was in and who was out, who was for God and against God, who was under grace and who was under judgment. There was a God of we and a God of they, and we know the difference. And Jonah could preach those sermons; sometimes I’m sure to standing ovations.

      Preach a sermon in favor of Israel and a sermon that includes a curse of Assyria; standing ovation. There is nothing more powerful if you love applause than to play upon the hatreds and the prejudices of people. Draw them out, say their hatreds for them and then receive the accolades. In fact, in some quarters it is called conviction. And it generates enthusiasm to be clear about who’s wrong, who’s under judgment, who is outside.

      Thomas Hardy said once that just as the color of our skin is determined not by the rays of the sun that our bodies receive, but by the rays of the sun that the body rejects, so it is among us that we are most often known by those things we oppose than the things we embrace. Easy to preach that sermon.”

      from ‘Who Am I To Hinder God?”

  15. I’m shocked to read comments against Franklin’s tour. If he is preaching the Gospel of Christ crucified for us, sins forgiven and new life in Jesus…then he’s not against us, he’s with us. God bless this tour and pour out His Holy Spirit on Australia…forget stone throwing, pray for it.

    1. Did you read my article? Or the one by Michael Bird? We’re not trying to stop the gospel being preached. We’re anxious that Franklin Graham’s reputation as a Trump supporter will badly effect the reputation of evangelicals in Australia.

      1. Hello Mike. Just wanted to make sure that you aware of how much Franklin Graham is paid. As can be seen from: His salary JUST from Samaritan’s Purse alone is $612K + $57 ‘other compensation’. However he also earns over $250K from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This is absolutely absurd for a not for profit CEO. Australians should know how much he gets paid because a portion of donations to BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse Australia is given to the USA office:

      2. It is a terrible shame to see people who should know better trying to gag anyone who is preaching the good news of salvation in Christ. They are limiting the power of God to use any means whatever to reconcile lost sinners to Jesus. May God forgive them.

        1. Who’s being gagged??

    2. And he doesn’t charge to go and listen to him , he is a good man but another getti g negative media due to his support of President Trump ..

  16. The only good thing about the USA Evangelical support for Trump is that it will cause significant damage to their cult. Young people, especially who look for reason and evidence will clearly see the prejudices and hyprocisy behind the Evangelicals and ultimately question the ridiculous narrative underpinning all the Abrahamic religions.

  17. “I’m afraid the Franklin Graham crusades of 2019 are already dividing evangelicals and could send very mixed messages to the community at large.”
    I simply do not get it Mike. You are afraid that the Franklin Graham crusades will widen the divide amongst evangelicals & send mixed messages to the community. HOWEVER just in case the media does not live up to your concerned expectations, you yourself will shout it out (or blog it) none the less, just in case your readers miss it.
    Can I encourage you to put your fears & concerns in the Lord’s hands instead, understanding that He & His plans are far bigger than those of men. You might even pray that our heavenly Father will use Franklin Graham to draw many lost souls into an understanding of the Saviour’s magnificent grace. Wouldn’t that be wonderful??

    1. You’re misdirecting your advice. I’m not creating the division. FG creates the division when he sides with Mr Trump, disparages Mr Obama, supports Muslim travel bans, makes homophobic statements, dismisses allegations of sexual assault as irrelevant, and on and on. Pointing this out doesn’t make me the divisive one. When I wrote this last year, I feared FG would be invited on Q&A or The Project or 60 Minutes and that the average Aussie who has no idea what an evangelical is would imagine FG speaks for all of us. You can’t compare my blog or my social media posts with the potential exposure FG could have garnered. As it turns out, that hasn’t happened. The media interest in these crusades has been pretty muted. Likewise, the protests we’ve seen in places like Canada haven’t eventuated here in Australia.

      1. Michael, your concern around FG and his turning blind eyes to the hypocrisy and blatant abuse of power currently residing in the US presidency is altogether fair. Philip Yancey soundsthe alarm with this observation – and written I might add two years before the last presidential election lest anybshould disparage him for partisanship. “The State will often use religion for its own purposes, but when it does so, the gospel itself changes. Civil religion invites us to share in a nation’s military glory; the gospel calls us to take up a cross. Civil religion offers prestige and influence ( something I might add the Evangelical movement in the US seems drunkened by ) the gospel calls us to serve. Civil religion rewards success; the gospel redefines success and forgives failure. Civil religion values reputation; the gospel calls us to be “fools for Christ.”
        from Vanishing Grace

    2. Well said…He is!

    3. P Chatty, A really large number of Aboriginal people came forward at the recent Graham Tour event in Darwin. Over 3000 attended and around 700 of them were indigenous. Of the 370+ that responded a high percentage were of darker skin. The impact of this is going to be amazing!
      PRAISE GOD FOR THE HUNGER AND FOR HOLY SPIRIT STIRRING HIS PEOPLE!!!! And pray for the continual growth and discipleship of all involved. We are One in Him as Jesus prayed. Now we are seeing it happen before our eyes as we all grow together, One in Christ, worshipping God together

      1. Thanks Colin for that report. That is great news. Far better to emphasize the positives & look for that which unites over that which divides.

        1. It’s astonishing that you give Franklin Graham a free pass for all the division he has stirred up, but I’M the divisive one if I dare to raise it. {shakes head in dismay}

  18. Liked the article Mike. Really does seem to be bringing division within churches, even within my own family we’ve had discussions about it. Mainly generational gaps which just remember Billy Graham. So far ive seen it bring division within Christians and a non response from non-Christians. I don’t think rally’s are an effective method in these times, especially in Sydney.

    Good luck with some of the comments 😉

  19. The opposite effect? I would say the opporsite effect to Billy Graham would be sending thousands of souls to Hell.

    Disappointing headline. Shows your left bias.

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