Why Franklin Graham’s Homophobic Rant is Comforting to This Gay Guy
Many proponents of LGBTQ+ rights are concerned when right-wing leaders make anti-gay remarks. Here’s why Franklin Graham’s recent example needn’t cause alarm, but contentment.
Capping off Pride Month, Franklin Graham posted on Facebook about how horrible such a celebration is. His comment included,
It’s like setting a month aside to celebrate lying, adultery, or murder (which includes abortion), or anything else that God says is sin.
Franklin is the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham. He’s the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, an organization providing international relief to the poor.
Most LGBTQ+ people and their allies would be offended by Graham equating two guys holding hands with homicide. To be fair to Franklin, arguments like, “all sin is sin” and “being gay is a sin” and “being proud of your sin doesn’t make sense to me” are older than he is. He is simply a faithful parrot of these relics of the 40’s that are unfortunately still alienating LGBTQ+ Christians today.
What Franklin doesn’t realize is in 2021 his comment could be a signal to abandon the evangelical ship by undermining its foundations in three important areas: truth, family values, and the Gospel.
Franklin was probably thinking of Romans 1:27–31 when he made his comment about Pride month. It has been traditionally interpreted to refer to gay people (although an increasing number of scholars now disagree). The passage tells Franklin and his followers that gays are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventor of evil, foolish, faithless, heartless and ruthless, deserving of death.
This passage has another meaning — and that’s been addressed in books such as Colby Martin’s Unclobber.
Franklin’s dad may have been able to get away with saying those things about gays in the 1950’s. In fact, Billy Graham made three anti-gay statements during his 58-year career and apologized for one of them. In his era, most people didn’t think they knew any gay people — they were all in the closet. People were easily duped by anti-gay propaganda.
The problem Franklin is causing for evangelicalism is he’s attempting to get people to believe something that’s demonstrably untrue. Turns out, most folks have met the gay people evangelicals think Romans 1 references. They’re nothing like the description from the passage!
Many of us look in the mirror with that passage in hand and ask ourselves, “do I really hate God?” The answer is a solid no, and we acknowledge the passage isn’t referring to us.
A queer friend and I discussed this passage. She told me, “the only thing I’ve ever seen a drag queen murder is a well-made Cosmopolitan.”
One thing is clear: if the writer meant those things about people like me, this part of the Bible is fiction. Graham’s view of me and my fellow LGBTQ+ people reminds me of the famous line by Groucho Marx:
“Who are you going to believe? Me, or your own eyes?”
The evangelical church has been a long-time proponent of family values. Political organizations such as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family are tightly woven into the fabric of American evangelicalism. The idea of the family unit being the foundation of a person’s spiritual health is easy to see in any evangelical church or organization.
My LGBTQ+ siblings and I number roughly one in 10 (many claim that number is much higher). That means statistically, every family has one of us — maybe 2 or 3. While evangelicals like Franklin want parents to choose their church over their kids, counterexamples like Liz Dyer and Sara Cunningham rally good parents to love accept their children as they are.
I know a woman who turned from anti-gay to becoming a fervent advocate for gay youth just from her son coming out. Her comment to me was, “how could I go to a church where my kids aren’t welcome?”
Preachers like Franklin may focus on the family, but they will soon need a telephoto lens — as families will continue moving away from the movement in favor of their kids.
Replacing the Gospel of Believe with the Law of Behave
“God… Loves… YOU!”
That’s what I remember from watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. He repeated those words over and over.
His message was just as simple as what I read in the Bible and embrace today. No ifs, ands or buts: God loves me. No amount of complaining about that will change it.
Billy Graham’s other famous lines included “your busses will wait” as the throngs of new believers made their way to the front of the stadium in order to receive their blessings. They were answering Billy Graham’s call to believe in a God who accepted them just as they were — salvation with no change necessary to receive the blessing of God’s love.
Somewhere along the way, the message changed. Those believers would need to become behavers. While Billy’s legacy was rooted in the Gospel of believe, Franklin touts the law of behave.
Modern evangelical preachers following Graham’s example are becoming complainers rather than proclaimers. They condemn people for making choices for things they have as little control over as the color of their eyes. These preachers rally people who enjoy looking down their noses at the other who stands out as different.
Rather than standing for Jesus, churches sharing Franklin’s views stand against sin. Evangelicals are waking up to this error and leaving. The message of behaving one’s way into God’s love and acceptance is losing momentum.
What Encourages Me
When I think of the harm caused by messages like Franklin Graham’s recent complaint I get discouraged. I’m discouraged because for something I really didn’t choose, I get blamed for the larger problems of society — as if the person I went on a date with last night is responsible for the breakdown of society. I’m disheartened to find I lose my place
What encourages me is that as a result of these outlandish statements, people are discovering true Christianity.
True Christianity is based in love. We know that love is kind. It doesn’t dishonor others. It keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices in the truth. It protects us. (1 Corinthians 13:1–13, NIV)
That’s true Christianity — and it’s out there for me to find, experience, and enjoy. It’s a wonderful journey full of communities of people truly excited to welcome me in. It’s a God I can be friends with as I struggle to be my truest self while knowing all the while I’m already just fine.
My LGBTQ+ siblings and I experience a lot of pain from the words and actions of people holding Franklin Graham’s views about sexuality. The good news for us is those views undermine the very foundation Graham claims to stand on.
If you’re a Christian wondering what options an LGBTQ+ believer may have, you’re invited to check out Andy’s website, www.triedtobestraight.com.
Andy’s book, Tried to be Straight: Options for Gay Christians, is available on Amazon and through independent booksellers!
Andy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org