Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Did Franklin Graham Avert a Civil War?

Did your church, or a church in your neighborhood, observe a “special day of prayer” for President Trump this past Sunday? Mine didn’t, but some churches did--and Franklin Graham, who proposed the idea, thought that such a day was possibly necessary to avert a new civil war in the U.S.
Graham’s Proposal
On May 30, Graham posted the following on the website: “Along with 300+ Christian leaders, I am asking followers of Christ across our nation to set aside Sunday, June 2, as a special day of prayer for the President, Donald J. Trump” (bolding in original).  
Prior to that, on May 26 Graham posted this on his Facebook timeline:
President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency. In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has. I believe the only hope for him, and this nation, is God.
Many prominent conservative evangelicals soon signed on and indicated their full support for Graham’s proposal. Some of the most recognizable names of those supporters are James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Mike Huckabee, Robert Jeffress, Richard Land, Tony Perkins, and Ralph Reed--all noted leaders of the Christian Right in this country.
Graham’s Fear
According to a May 31 article in the Christian Post (see here), “Trump’s enemies will hurt America, could spark civil war if impeached.” Thus, prayer is necessary to protect the President from his enemies who seek his impeachment. Graham explains,
If the president was brought down for whatever reason, it could lead to a civil war. There are millions of people out there that voted for President Trump that are behind him that are angry and they are mad. We are just living in a very dangerous territory and we need God’s help [sic for entire paragraph, bolding added].
Graham went on to say that the President needs to be encouraged.
It is discouraging when you wake up every day and it doesn't matter if you do something good or not. They only report the bad. That gets discouraging. I pray that the president will be encouraged knowing that there are millions of people praying for him.”
So, is Graham saying maybe that if DJT gets enough encouragement he will say and do things that would squelch the talk about impeachment? Is that how prayer might keep the country from descending into a civil war?
Is Civil War Possible?
Franklin Graham is not the first public figure in recent years to post the threat of civil war. As I wrote about briefly in the second part of my May 25 blog posting, back in 2005 Charles Colson wrote about “The New Civil War” (in the Feb. issue of Christianity Today).
Colson was worried about the “deepening of hostilities between ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states” as witnessed in the 2004 presidential election. And, arguably, things got even worse after the election of Obama in 2008 and then after the election of Trump in 2016.
But a (literal) civil war? I can’t imagine how that would be even faintly possible at the present time. How would the two sides mobilize? Where would they fight, and how?
It seems to me that Graham was just using inflated rhetoric to drum up support for the President.
If anything, mobilizing churches to pray that the president be protected from his enemies--such as the Democratic members of Congress who want to impeach him--is exacerbating the polarization in the country rather than lessening the tensions.
Nevertheless, praying for the President is a good thing--and I thought David Platt did a good job of that on Sunday morning. (Check that out here.)


  1. For the many of you who may not know who David Platt is, he was president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board from 2014 to 2018. Platt (b. 1978) is now pastor of McLean Bible Church in Virginia.

  2. You're quite right that Graham is exacerbating the divisions in this country. However, it appears to me, if you read between the lines, he's not warning of a possible civil war. He's threatening it!

    1. Thanks, Anton, for your comments. I'm afraid you may be right in suggesting that Graham is threatening civil war if DJT's enemies don't "cease and desist."

      At the very end of our OCAC meeting this morning, Charlie said that he thinks the Religious Right wants a civil war. But I can't believe there are many people who really think that things are so bad that a literal civil war is the only feasible way forward.

  3. "Trump's enemies will hurt America, could spark civil war if impeached." This sounds like both a threat and a justification.

  4. Whether one likes Graham or not, it is a good reminder to pray for our country and leaders - from President, Congress, Justices, all the way down to our city council and school board.

    Platt's prayer is a little long for regular usage. I would recommend the liturgical prayer you noted elsewhere from the Book of Common Prayer. Or like that classic of Great Britain, "God Save the Queen", our daily prayer could be "God Save the President".

    1. Yes, Platt's prayer was a little long, but how many preachers have the opportunity to pray for the President with their hand on the President's shoulder?

  5. About 15 minutes after posting this blog article early this morning, I had the following response from local Thinking Friend Bruce Morgan:

    "Franklin Graham has no credibility as a spokesman for the Christian faith. We did not observe his day of prayer - an obvious political ploy to drum up support for Trump. That should have been obvious to any thinking person."

    1. Thanks for your early response to this morning's article, Bruce. While I fully agree with you, there are many who do, still, think that Franklin is a credible spokesman for the Christian faith and who, no doubt, believe him when he said that his proposed day of prayer for the President was not political.

      In a statement made in Christian Post, Graham said, "I am not asking people to endorse him. That is not that point of this prayer. This is not an election year. So I don’t see how it could be political. He is the president. People have voted for him. He is in office and he is carrying out the duties of the presidency. He needs our prayers.”

      True, maybe they are not thinking people, but, unfortunately, I'm afraid that many of the people in the Religious Right will accept Franklin's statement at face value and think it was a legitimate request.

  6. A local Thinking Friend sent the following comments by email before 6:30 this morning, and while she probably would not object to my giving her name here, because it is a bit belligerent I am just sharing her comments and not her name.

    "The current War of Words between people like Graham and more sound minds--he being totally deranged like others in the current president’s (small “p”—for pathetic) pack of evil thinkers and doers--COULD erupt into something that looks like a Civil War. Small “p” is already setting the stage for his followers to revolt if he doesn’t get the votes for reelection. I am buoyed by the good people I know, followers of Christ, who are keeping watch and leading by example--steadfast in their faith the JESUS WAY. Determined, open, loving, brave. Yes, as long as “p” and Graham have a voice, we who have heart must speak out for what is right. With our hearts, our heads, and with muscle!!!!!!"

    1. I almost always begin "President" with a capital P, but I agree with you, local TF, that DJT has greatly ensmalled the dignity of the presidency.

      In your last sentence, I hope you were writing about mental muscles. I certainly don't want to be on the side of encouraging violent physical conflict--as in a real civil war.

  7. Thinking Friend Andrew Bolton, currently residing in England, shares the following important comments:

    "Very thoughtful piece. Thank you.

    "My fear is that Trump and some of his supporters are being tempted to stay in power through threatening violence. When running against Hilary Clinton in 2016 in one of the debates I seem to remember Trump saying that he might not accept the result if he lost. His disdain for fair democratic processes, for constitutionality that includes impeachment, is so very worrying. States hindering fair elections, for example for Black voters, are the beginning of the end of democracy in the USA. Trump’s behavior continues down the same corrupt, autocratic road. He would be king but is not the Messiah.

    "Michael Gerson’s article yesterday is excellent. Thanks for referencing it.

    "Is Graham’s action reminiscent of the marriage of Church and Ruler beginning with the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Edict of Milan 313 A.D. American Christendom is perhaps something to write on. Stuart Murray’s book 'The End of Christendom' is excellent in a British context.

    "We have not enjoyed Mr Trump’s presence in the United Kingdom for the last 3 days. Yesterday he said that any trade agreement has to include our free National Health Service. That could be really evil in consequences. Here everyone is covered--real grace. There is not even a single payer system. We are all covered through general taxation. Anglican Archbishop Temple in the 1940s when the National Health Service was being considered said it would be the most Christian thing the nation has ever done.

    1. Thanks, Andrew, for your important comments.

      Yes, it is troubling that Graham may, in fact, be threatening civil war, as Anton suggested above. The 2020 election may turn out to be a disaster--if DJT wins or maybe even especially if he loses.

      Thanks for the reference to Archbishop Temple. I have been an admirer of his since I first heard about him in the early 1960s--but I don't remember hearing before about his statement regarding the NHS.

  8. Then there are these pertinent comments from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for bringing this to our attention. I was unaware of it.

    J"udy and I were away last Sunday, but I am quite sure that Wicker Park Lutheran Church did not follow Graham's lead; prayers said there are more in line with the Book of Common Prayer.

    "I completely agree with your comments and those of Gerson. I would prefer that Trump do the right thing, but prayers to that effect have largely gone unanswered (or the answer has been "'No.')

    "Trump and his supporters promote 'America First' and while I am proud of my American citizenship, at least until recently, there is something more important than America and that is a commitment to equal justice, compassion for the poor and the weak, the full dignity of every human being, and the rule of law. If America promotes white supremacy, cruelty to immigrants and to those who are different, and unrestrained presidential powers, then what value is America? We are no better than Putin's Russia. Is that what 'American First' is supposed to signify? Or is it 'White America First.?"

    1. Thanks for your pertinent comments, Eric.

      Three years ago in June, five months before the election, the title of my blog article was "Can Trump Make America White Again." (See the link below.) In many ways I think that he, and many of his supporters, are correctly accused of being on the side of white supremacy.

  9. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky shares these comments:

    "I agree that we need to pray for the President, but my prayer is that he become a leader of the whole nation and not just his supporters—people like Franklin Graham. Remember how Billy Graham did much the same thing for Richard Nixon?"

    1. Yes, Billy's support for Nixon was one of the biggest smirches on his long ministry.

  10. Again I am grateful for the lucid comments from Thinking Friend Tom Nowlin in Arkansas:

    "I agree with your conclusions about possible motivations. Graham’s attempt to support Trump. War. Really? Such hyperbole is guaranteed to garner the attention of the weak minded. Where and with whom is this war? People’s understanding of truth is so perspectival, as Graham’s efforts betray. The slate of Evangelicals who signed on with Graham further betray how they and minions have identified Trump with their version of Christianity. Both identify as 'underdogs' and they know Americans love the mythology surrounding 'underdogs,' the 'overcomers,' etc.

    "So, while there is a Fundamentalist arrogance here – we possess the truth, no one else does – subliminally, there is also a victimology – we poor Christians are under attack, etc. – a way to hook vulnerable people’s emotions and get them on board supporting the 'underdogs.' Woe are we! Poor lil’ ol’ us!

    "Considering that Christianity is still the de facto civil religion in America – for example, those of minority religions are forced to 'work around' the Christian patterns in work schedules, holidays, etc. and never say a word, etc., taking vacation days to observe their own religious traditions, etc. – Christians are hardly the purported 'victims,' 'underdogs,' etc. Operating from a position of humility and cooperation with the rest of the world, secular and religious, does not serve the purpose or agenda of Evangelicals/Fundamentalists, who must always be right, always aloof and above question, etc. Evangelicals/Fundamentalists cannot exist or survive unless they sow the seeds of division, exclusiveness, and singularity, a narcissistic theology.

    "At the end of the day, Evangelical Fundamentalists have so much in common with President Trump. The operative word here is 'narcissistic.' Why should Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians and President Trump not be united as one?

    "Thank you for making us think!"

    1. Thank you for your lucid comments, Tom.

      I agree that "Fundamentalists cannot exist or survive unless they sow the seeds of division, exclusiveness, and singularity, a narcissistic theology" -- and that's the reason I am fed up with fundamentalism. (Hey, that would be a good title for a book!)

  11. Here are powerful comments from a local Thinking Friend, whose opinion I much appreciate even though I have decided not to post his name:

    "I will pray for the president. I will pray that he finds a new birth leading him to repent of his pussy grabbing, emolument- avoiding, narcissistic, child and parent abusing, God-ignoring, saber-rattling, power-tripping, wicked ways and that he publicly humbles himself and apologizes to all Americans and the world before he gets term limits cancelled and tries to be our king...hmmm.

    "Maybe We do have a potential civil war (or even a church war) brewing. Would I be as guilty as he? I’m angry. Is it righteous anger? What are my options? Is name calling the solution? I will vote, write to Congress people, donate to election campaigns, beg middle ground Republicans to help me, pray this helps the country turn to God, speak up when I think a Facebook comment is a disguised Russian or other intruder, I will not be blind to the erosion of justice but I will try harder to find my own humility. Any other suggestions?????"

    1. About half an hour later, this TF, who is now visiting in England, sent these additional comments:

      "I just read the prayer by Platt and found that it lessened some my anger.
      Thanks for sharing this. It was helpful.

      "I am in England and seeing public response to present Trump’s visit here. One taxi driver loved him. Protests were huge. Personally, I find myself apologizing to those I meet in England who bring him up.

      "Peace would be good but justice will be better."

    2. Thanks, Thinking Friend, for your comments. I am glad you found Platt's prayer to be helpful.

      Your last sentence reminded me of Pope Paul VI's words on January 1, 1972: "If you want peace, work for justice."

  12. And then these significant comments were received from local friend Temp Sparkman about 15 minutes ago:

    "Already read more on Franklin Graham than my soul can absorb.

    "Wish I could believe Trump was listening to David Pratt’s prayer. Looks to me like praying for this president is irrelevant to anything going on in his mind or his policies. Although, at an Episcopal church service last week, they prayed for 'our president Donald.'

    "You are thinking straight on the ridiculous talk of a civil war. I think Trump’s evangelicals are gearing up to encourage Trump to refuse to leave the White House when he is defeated. Gershwin
    labeled Graham’s words as a “code.” So they refer to something not yet apparent."

  13. I read the article in the Christian Post and was impressed with David Platt's explanation and about being feeling conflicted:

    "The decision to pray for the president was something that he wrestled with briefly because he had only been given “minutes” notice of the visit shortly after the end of the church’s 1 p.m. worship gathering.

    “I immediately thought about my longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in our church. As I said in the sermon today, Christ alone unites us. I love that we have over 100 nations represented in our church family, including all kinds of people with varied personal histories and political opinions from varied socioeconomic situations. It’s clear in our church that the only reason we’re together is because we have the same King we adore, worship, fear, and follow with supreme love and absolute loyalty, and His name is Jesus,” he wrote.

    "Platt said he decided to explain his decision to pray for the president because he is aware that some in his diverse congregation may have been hurt by his decision to pray for president Trump.

    “I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision. This weighs heavy on my heart. I love every member of this church, and I only want to lead us with God’s Word in a way that transcends political party and position, heals the hurts of racial division and injustice, and honors every man and woman made in the image of God. So while I am thankful that we had an opportunity to obey 1 Timothy 2 in a unique way today, I don’t want to purposely ever do anything that undermines the unity we have in Christ,” he said."

    1. And this: "Kedron Bardwell, professor and chair of the political science department at Simpson College, south of Des Moines, Iowa, noted that even though Platt is not known to be a strong supporter President Trump, he did not politicize his meeting with the president.

      “In 2016 Platt thanked [Russell] Moore for criticizing evangelicals who ‘defame the gospel’ by supporting/excusing Trump's ‘profanities, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, debauching public morality...through the casino and pornography industries,’” Bardwell wrote.

      “Platt prays directly for the President but doesn't politicize it, as Franklin Graham did in calling the U.S. to pray today for a POTUS who's ‘[under] attack’ from ‘enemies,’” he said. “This is very well done by @PlattDavid, under likely stressful circumstances of an impromptu visit from a President….”

      And then there are these important comments:

      "Cliff Sims, former White House staffer and author of Team of Vipers said in an interview with Ed Stetzer for The Exchange earlier this year that popular televangelist and President Trump's spiritual adviser, Paula White, blocked extending an invitation to Platt to attend Trump’s first prayer breakfast, alleging “he believes the American dream is evil.”

      “There’s a story that I tell in the book that really stuck out to me very early on in the White House and made me realize that proximity to power does strange things even to pastors and ministers. When we were trying to plan the first prayer breakfast, Sarah Sanders and I were working together to organize speakers, and I wanted David Platt to come and speak at it.

      “I talked to David about it, and I don't think he would mind me saying that he was conflicted about that decision. I think one of the reasons for this hesitation was because when pastors get involved in the political space in a public way, there are drawbacks and it can put pastors in a position where people suddenly view them through a political lens. There's just a lot of baggage that comes along with such a decision,” Sims said.

      "Nevertheless, Sims said he continued exploring the idea until White nixed it after trashing Platt.

      “I was talking to people inside the White House about him coming to speak and someone who interfaces with the faith advisory council inside the White House happened to mention this to Paula White. Paula came to the White House and had a meeting with them and basically trashed David and said something to the effect of, ‘He believes that the American dream is evil. The President's going to be really mad when he finds out that you're bringing in someone to speak at the prayer breakfast who believes that the American dream is evil,’” he wrote. “She was basically just undermining him and trying to stop him from being the one who was chosen to speak.”

      "Matt G. Metcalf, an M.Div. student at Southern Baptist Theological seminary and web developer for Christianity Today Magazine, defended Platt as a “good man of God” because he would not have been able to deliver such a gracious prayer.

      “Is this where I admit that I am really glad David Platt's prayer was faithful but that I couldn't watch the video of him praying over Trump because the thought of it turned my stomach? Platt is a good man of God who handled the situation far better than I ever could,” he wrote."

  14. Here are comments received about 11 hours ago from Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona:

    "I am just amazed by the support for President Donald Trump. Where in the world is our critical thinking? No president has ever gotten away with the moral perversity, rudeness, incivility, and poor judgement as has this president. Yes, we need to pray for him but not the Franklin Graham style. Great prayer by David Platt."

  15. Some years ago I saw a production of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in a church, and they kept a running tally of violations for each of the Ten Commandments during the play. The list was impressive by the end, although much short of the Washington Post's recent conclusion that Trump had reached 10,000 violations of "Thou shalt not bear false witness." We are used to movies coming with heroes and anti-heroes. Trump is not a bad President (compare Dubya), but rather an anti-President. He is beyond just rabidly anti-Obama. Franklin Graham is evidence that Trump may even be more than an anti-President, he may be the Orange Anti-Christ. He has lead conservative evangelical Christianity astray, the very people who think they are the Elect. I fear God's message today to conservative Evangelicals is "You have made my name stink among the Gentiles!" (Compare Romans 2:24.) Graham hopes all that happens is a civil war. The right wing has most of the guns and would probably win it. Listen carefully and you can hear the mills of God grinding. They sound a lot like Robert Mueller.