The Fall of the House of Graham? Not So Fast July 22, 2014

The Fall of the House of Graham? Not So Fast

The faith heritage in the descendants of Billy Graham is starkly divided, most noticeably between his son Franklin Graham and his daughter’s son Rev. Tullian Tchividjian.

Fred Clark at Slacktivist is calling feud in part by pointing out how the elder Graham’s legacy has taken a very hard rightward turn under the leadership of Franklin, who leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

The BGEA’s flagship magazine has changed a bit since Franklin took over…

Ever since he was a child, Tchividjian has been steeped in his grandfather’s outlook — in Billy Graham’s long career as a “good news specialist” and in his deep remorse over his many missteps when, Billy Graham has often said, he became too “closely aligned with political ideologies.” Tchividjian’s language in his comments in The Blaze are as identical to the language of his grandfather Billy as they are antithetical to the language of his uncle Franklin.

My guess is that this is a warning shot. This time, Tchividjian is keeping his comments general and generic. And I’m sure he means what he says in a general, generic way — I’m sure he’s not solely thinking of his uncle Franklin. But it’s inconceivable that Franklin Graham and his misappropriation of the BGEA wasn’t among the foremost examples Tchividjian had in mind in this critique of the “big-time damage” being done to evangelical Christianity by partisan politics and culture warriors.

And I think that if Franklin Graham continues full-steam ahead in the [direction] he’s going — “Cowards Destined for the Lake of Fire” — then we may soon hear his nephew voicing this critique more specifically, naming names.

I personally doubt that we’ll have a live-streamed Sunday morning Jerry Springer-style showdown, or even a private burning of the heritage a la We Were Liars, but I do think they’ll gradually distance themselves quietly unless someone has a dramatic public meltdown and a renunciation of affiliation is required.

Here’s the rundown. You had Billy Graham, faith crusader and comrade of kings. His son Franklin (world-class bigot) then inherited the franchise and is closely aligned with the conservative sects in the far evangelical right of American Christianity. His grandson Tullian is a pastor in Florida and a visiting professor of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando; he’s also an outspoken advocate of what we used to know as traditional evangelicalism. But his uncle Franklin has devoted his life (so it seems) to shifting his father’s heritage to push the mainstream church further to the right (see Slacktivist’s piece for more details on how he’s doing this).

But here’s why I doubt that the Grahams will devolve into a feud: When Tullian got kicked out of The Gospel Coalition (unless you believe the official statements which say he left voluntarily), he recanted his initial ire at TCG and urged for unity. His statements went from this (quoted in the Christianity Today article)…

I have long admired the original mission of [TGC] to be a hallway where Christians from all denominational backgrounds who may disagree on non-essentials could gather and rally around the Good News (hence, the name “Gospel Coalition”). But, in my opinion, the messaging of [TGC] has morphed over the last seven years and I find myself much more aligned with the very specific message of Liberate. So, now is the right time to pull the trigger. In fact, it’s probably over due.

… to this:

I said some things in haste, both publicly and privately, that I regret. I never want anything I say to be a distraction from the mind-blowing good news of the gospel and last week I did. I got in the way. When you feel the need to respond to criticism, it reveals how much you’ve built your identity on being right. I’m an idolater and that came out last week. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose… and last week I fought to win. I’m sorry you had to see that. Lord have mercy…

Given this attitude, I doubt that Tullian is interested in feuding with Uncle Franklin and will probably just focus on his own career. However, chances are that if there is sexual abuse coverup going on anywhere in the BGEA, Tullian’s brother Boz will be on it — he’s the founder of G.R.A.C.E., the organization investigating Christian universities for mishandling sexual assault and church groups for their protection of sexual predators.

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