In the past few weeks, we’ve seen two high-profile Christian evangelists announce they’re no longer believers. There was Joshua Harris, the purity-promoting author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, who said in quick succession that he was separating from his wife, apologizing to LGBTQ people, and admitting he was “not a Christian.” Then, earlier this week, Australian songwriter Marty Sampson, well-known in the Christian music scene, said “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me.”
During a conversation with right-wing evangelist Franklin Graham yesterday, FOX Nation host Todd Starnes asked him why he thought those two guys had walked away from Christianity.
They weren’t real Christians. They were young. Their faith wasn’t very strong. They might have been atheists. They hate God. And they just wanted publicity.
… Well, first of all… Somebody has called them “leaders.” I don’t. I don’t recognize them as leaders. These are very young people, and I doubt whether they even have a very strong faith, or if they even had a faith at all to begin with.
And so, for whatever reason, they have decided they’re going to turn their back on God, and God’s standards. And I feel sorry for them. They’re in a very dangerous place to be out from under God’s protection. And, for me, I’m going to keep going doing what I do.
I believe the Bible. I believe the Bible to be the Word of God. I believe every word of the Bible. I do not understand it all, but I believe it all.
And, Todd, we know how God warns in Revelation, He warns churches that turn their back on him, and these young men who have renounced their faith have made it so public. Why are they making it so public? I think they just want publicity. And that’s the only reason they’ve done it. Otherwise, why [didn’t] they just leave their faith and just be quiet about it?
But, no, they had to make a big thing about it, trying to get others to follow them, to do the same. And I’d just say, “shame on them,” and you’ll stand before God one day and give an account to Him.
It’s just a dismissive and ignorant thing for Graham to say. (In other words, it was a typical thing for Graham to say.)
The men were Christian leaders whether they wanted to be or not because they were in positions of power. Harris wrote a bestselling book, and Sampson’s songs spoke to the hearts of millions of Christians.
They’re not all that young. Harris is in his mid-40s. Sampson is 40.
Their faith was strong… until it wasn’t. That’s how coming to your senses about religion works. You can be fully devout and still realize it’s all a lie. Plenty of atheists have taken that journey. But let’s not pretend the men were atheists to begin with; to say that, without evidence, suggests this was a decades-long con that they revealed long after they hit their peak celebrity.
As for publicity, Harris has mostly gone into hiding. He was seen at a Pride rally, yes, but it’s not like he’s writing a book about his de-conversion (at least not yet) and there’s no indication that he’s capitalizing on this sudden atheism. (Good luck with that. The world of atheism is not a particularly lucrative one.) Sampson didn’t even keep his Instagram post up! He deleted it and hasn’t talked about the issue since. It’s not like he released a new song denouncing God.
So Graham, as usual, answered a simple question with a series of lies. It’s what he does best. He could have just said he’s not sure what those guys are going through, but he wishes them well in their intellectual journey and hopes they return to Christ soon. He didn’t do that. He just trashed their life-long contributions to Christianity because he’s not happy with something they said recently. It’s just a nasty thing to do.
But anyone who’s followed Graham’s career can tell you that’s just who he is. He only has compassion for those who think exactly as he does. Everyone else is the Enemy, even if they’ve spent decades pushing the Gospel on others.
(Thanks to Kyle for the link)