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Franklin Graham Says Tucson Memorial Service 'Scoffed' at Jesus

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President Obama garnered praise from across the political spectrum for his moving speech last week at the memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims, including from his usual critics on the right. But don't count the Rev. Franklin Graham as a fan of the event.

In a speech on Tuesday at John Brown University, a private Christian college in Siloam Springs, Ark., the son of the revered evangelist Billy Graham voiced "dismay" at the way the Tucson memorial service was conducted, arguing that it was not as explicitly religious -- mainly "Christian" -- as those following the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks.

Graham was particularly upset that the Tucson memorial featured a Native American who called upon "father sky and mother earth."

Franklin Graham"There was no call for the name of God to put his loving arms around the people who were hurting, the people that were suffering," Graham said. "Why? Why did they take God out of it? Why did they leave him out?

"Because the world scoffs at the name of Jesus Christ," Graham said, his voice rising in anger. "They scoff when you say he's the son of God."

Graham went on to say that the scoffing and persecution against Christians is only going to get worse.

Initial reports of Graham's speech indicated that he may have been including Obama in his critique, though a review of the video shows that Graham says he "felt sorry" for the president "because I knew he was uncomfortable in that situation."

Graham was referring to the pep rally atmosphere and the prayers by the Native American, an associate professor of medicine at the University, Carlos Gonzales, who is a Pascua Yaqui Indian and fifth generation Arizonan. (Graham called him a native of "the Yuppie tribe or something, I didn't quite get it.")

Graham also stressed his empathy for the president in an op-ed in The Washington Times on Tuesday, saying he was "proud of Mr. Obama" in Tucson in contrast with how he viewed the rest of the event.

"The president read from the Scriptures, and a couple of others," Graham noted in his speech at John Brown University. But also said that no one mentioned God at the Tuscon event, and he said that is the way things seem to be going in America.

"And I believe the memorial service that we saw in Tucson is the template for what you are going to see in a secularized world."

The White House declined to comment on Graham's remarks about the service.

As USA Today's "Faith & Reason" blogger, Cathy Grossman, noted, Graham's critique seems "odd" given that Obama's speech -- which many agreed sounded more like a sermon -- cited the consolations of Psalm 46 plus the laments of Job.

Moreover, Department of Homeland Security head (and former Arizona governor) Janet Napolitano preceded Obama and read from Isaiah 40 and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder read from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

A strong majority of Americans also liked Obama's response to the Tucson shootings, with an ABC News-Washington Post poll this week showing 78 percent approval overall, and 71 percent approval from Republicans and conservatives.

The Tucson speech was actually fairly typical of Obama's Scripture-based rhetoric, and The Los Angeles Times explored how the president consulted his Christian spiritual advisers in composing it.

"Yet," as Grossman writes, "Graham believes the victims of the Tucson shooting, those who knew and loved them and all who wanted to show solidarity with them -- Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and beliefs unknown -- were scoffing at God as they wept and cheered the speakers."

Franklin Graham, who has become something of a shepherd to Sarah Palin (she accompanied him to Haiti last month), is becoming known for rhetoric that is far edgier than anything his father ever said, even in Billy Graham's haler days.

He has regularly disparaged Islam, calling it an "evil" religion, a blast that got him booted from official National Day of Prayer celebrations last year. And he once made fun of Hinduism's deities, saying that "No elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me. None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation."

Franklin Graham took up some of those themes again on Tuesday at John Brown.

"Even in our government today, you can't pray to Jesus in many public meetings. You can pray to God or a god. You can mention Buddha or the name of Muhammad, but you can't pray to Jesus Christ," Graham told the students.

"We know that we are going to be persecuted for standing up for the name of Christ."

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Franklin Graham is a disgrace as a son of Billy Graham. He will never be the kind of man his father is. Attaching himself to people like Sarah Palin is doing him more harm than good. He critizes the world for not speaking the name of Jesus Christ, but at the same time he is not following the teachings of Jesus when he makes fun of other religions, and sets judgment upon other religions. Jesus taught us not to cast stones on others and to be tolerate of others while setting a Christian example. Franklin may be the son of Billy Graham but he certainly is not able to carry on his fathers teachings, and he proves that each time he opens his mouth.

January 20 2011 at 3:21 PM

All Christians are NOT Republican..My mom was a devout Presybterian and VERY liberal. I had problems with that memorial though. It seemed like a pep rally. All that applause after every speaker was very inappropriate. I expected to see leaders of many faiths there, SINCE it was a memorial. So in a way Graham IS right. Maybe he was angry he wasn't invited I don't know.

January 20 2011 at 3:19 PM

Jesus Christ said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Does this make Jesus unchristian? Of course not. Jesus defines Christianity, not people. The Devil wants people to believe the lie that there are many paths so they may burn in the lake of fire with him.

Not very politically correct; but correct all the same.

January 20 2011 at 3:18 PM
nama holston

I agree with Franklin Graham! This should have been a somber, moving, prayerful moment, but it was a photo-op for Obama. I am sorry this Nation has turned so quickly away from Jesus Christ (GOD) and to the secular, ie., money, fame and fortune. I would rather know God than to risk eternity in torment. I didn't write it, but I believe it and so have many others in history. We are not wrong; we are right!

January 20 2011 at 3:18 PM

I was like you once. Respectfully, I didn't have any real idea just what I was talking about, when I was a skeptic. You don't appear to have any idea just what Christians believe. We are to preach the gospel while here on Earth. By all means, you have the free will to accept it or reject it. Real Christianity doesn't force Belief to anyone.
If Franklin Graham was only out for personal publicity, isn't safe to assume that he would have spoke up sooner than this ???
Give that some thought. God Bless You, and go your way in Peace.

January 20 2011 at 3:17 PM

I would wish that people Google the Founding Fathers of our Country and see their beliefs, Religion and how our Constitution was framed.They would be shocked!

January 20 2011 at 3:14 PM

It is the Franklin Grahams of this country who are giving Christianity a bad name. He is utterly senseless in his critical opinion of the Tucson service. He must realize that Christianity is not the only religion practiced in the U.S. and that his abnormal sensitivity to not being NUMERO UNO is disgusting. Just because he has been unsuccessful in his bid to mimic his father's success in evangelism, he should not project himself on the stage of every function that would bring him attention and respect just because he is Billy Graham's son. That service in Tucson reflects the Christ of Christianity, and not necessarily those who think that they, and only they, are the Voice of God. He sounds more like the Scribes and Pharisees than the humble servant of the most high God. His attention to, and palsy walsyness with the Palin woman, shows just how far he has slipped over the edge. Even I am disgusted with him. He should stick to what he does best, and let other Christians do the same, so that we all may be a force for goodness in our country, and not the voice of 'poor me-ism' about which the right wingers harp, constantly. 'Dear God, Let him come out of the Right Wing Closet and be an American Christian, for a change.' His constant whining is very ungodly, and shows a lack of gentleness, which Christ practiced. It also shows a lack of true love of our Lord for others. We, as Christians must do better, and stop the negativism. It has no place in Christianity.

January 20 2011 at 3:13 PM
Dale Harvill

As a Christian, I am always saddened when Politicians and Ministers of the Gospel try to politicize the strong name of Jesus Christ. When it comes to practical application of the Holy Bible he could be more like Jesus Christ if he did all he could for the poor, widows and orphans referred to in the Book of Isiah rather than "pal around with or promoting a politician"

January 20 2011 at 3:12 PM

I thought the memorial service was very appropriate.There are many different faiths in this country,and I being part Cherokee,was very proud to see Dr. Carlos Gonzales speaking a Native American preayer of healing.

January 20 2011 at 3:10 PM

When are Christians going to stop whining about being persecuted? Graham's comments are an example of the self pity which religious people seem to wallow in at the moment. In no possible sense was Christ "scoffed" at in the Gifford service. One is tempted to dismiss these remarks as the attempts of man desperate to emerge from the shadow of his much more respected father but I think there is a sinister and worrying subtext underneath these incessant whines and complaints about Christians being persecuted. I believe there is movement amongst religious conservatives to return our society to a kind of vicious medieval theocracy where it will be impossible for anyone to question the Christian church. These constant howls of outrage about the secularisation of society reflect that desire to establish the absolute authority of the church

January 20 2011 at 3:10 PM

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