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Guest commentary by author Debbie Thurman

In defense of Franklin Graham    Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 19, 2005]  Jesus Christ chose to preach to the people of his day through parables, many recorded in the New Testament. Some listeners in the crowds were confused, even though he spoke in everyday metaphors to illustrate his teachings. Sometimes he gave crystal-clear admonitions, however. The Pharisees and other Jewish sects that opposed Jesus chose to take his words out of context and tried to trip him up. They never succeeded.

Therefore, I am not surprised by the recent moronic twisting of several simple sentences that the Rev. Franklin Graham spoke at Super Conference in Liberty University's Vines Center on Oct. 3. Having read a few laughable media accounts and some even more laughable letters to the editor, I think someone needs to set the record straight.

Here, once again, are the "offensive" words the Rev. Graham actually spoke in reference to New Orleans and how he envisioned God working in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: "There's been satanic worship. There's been sexual perversion. God IS GOING TO USE that storm to bring revival. God has a plan. God has a purpose." The emphasis is mine.

Simple, direct words whose meaning has been totally perverted by modern Pharisees. Two statements of fact, whether or not we like them, followed by simple statements of vision from a godly man who believes he has been called to fulfill the Great Commission by taking a "cup of cold water" in Jesus' name to the suffering. And we should condemn him for that?

In their haste to judge Graham, while at the same time vilifying him for what they perceived as his own judging, the rabble failed to note the tense of the verb "is going to use." Graham did not say or even imply that Katrina was God's judgment for New Orleans' Sodom and Gomorrah sinfulness. He said he believed God could and would bring something good out of the disaster. But he's not the popular and cool Rick Warren, so we don't give him a pass for seeing divine purpose in tragic events.

It's too bad Franklin Graham has to bear the burden of being Billy Graham's son. Billy had the good fortune to have been placed in God's work during a time when the world was much more biblically literate -- a time prior to the moral free-fall of today. However, Billy is not the demigod that posterity has made him. He, too, is just an imperfect man who heeded God's call to evangelism. God has blessed that work mightily.

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Some think Billy Graham might have been a little mealy-mouthed about condemning the sin he observed in his day. Does Franklin feel called to kick that message up a notch? Perhaps one has been more of a Peter while the other is more of a Paul. Sadly, biblical illiteracy will cause many to fail to understand that statement.

Regardless of how one views the differences or similarities between father and son, we have no business condemning Franklin Graham or his Samaritan's Purse ministry because it offers Gospel tracts or stuffed lambs that play "Jesus Loves Me" to hurricane-displaced children, along with other basic assistance. That such gifts are viewed as offensive is beyond the pale. The love of Jesus offensive? Has anyone bothered to ask the children?

If that has become the case, then perhaps it is time for Christ to return to gather his true church and leave the offended heathen behind. Jesus said, "Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me" (Matt. 18:5). It would be instructive to read Jesus' warning two verses later to whomever "causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble."

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 14:35).

[Debbie Thurman]

Debbie Thurman owns Cedar House Publishers in Monroe, Va. She is a freelance journalist, editor and author of seven books. As a commentator, she wrote extensively in past years for The North County Times, San Diego, and The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.

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