How Franklin Graham betrayed his father’s legacyRoundup
tags: sexuality, religious history, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, reproductive rights
Nancy Beck Young is professor of history at the University of Houston and author of multiple books including "Why We Fight: Congress and the Politics of World War II" and the forthcoming "Two Suns of the Southwest: Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater, and the 1964 Battle between Liberalism and Conservatism."
Religion. Politics. Sex. Separately, the three subjects can provoke controversy, but when mixed, the combination can be toxic.
The most recent example comes with tweets written by Franklin Graham, son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham and a staunch supporter of President Trump, about Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Graham’s messages merged conservative politics and religion in ways that are unfortunately familiar in the early 21st century. Graham avowed, “As a Christian, I believe the Bible, which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized.”
Graham’s jarring commentary stands in stark relief to how his father handled a similar intersection of sex and politics during the 1964 presidential election. The difference between their approaches reveals a toxicity in our politics that, ironically, has arisen even as our broader culture has become far more tolerant and welcoming.
By 1964, Billy Graham had established himself as a spiritual adviser to American presidents. He would go on to counsel every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. But his closest relationship was with Lyndon B. Johnson.
That fall, Johnson was cruising toward an easy victory over his far-right Republican challenger, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Goldwater had courted Graham, suggesting that their shared concern about moral decay offered the preacher a reason to support his campaign. But Graham rebuffed him, dismissing any interest in politics.
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