Deliver me from your cold phlegmatic preachers. . . .
—Abigail Adams, Letter to John Adams (1776)
At first one might conclude that he’s an evangelist who, seeing himself as a representative of the Lord, tries to find good in the unlikeliest of people. That would explain why in 2014 he showed that he could find good in someone like Vladimir Putin. His other actions, however, suggest he is bigotry’s, rather than the Lord’s, representative.
In June 2013 the national parliament in Russia enacted a law designed to protect its citizens from homosexuality. The law bans, among other things, public displays of affection by two people of the same sex holding hands in public. (Parents and children are not included in the ban.) Symbols, such as the rainbow flag, may not be displayed. It is unlawful to discuss homosexuality in front of minors. Penalties for running afoul of the law range from 5000 rubles to 1 million rubles depending on the offenders.
When discussing the new law, Mr. Putin said Russia must “clean up” or “cleanse” itself of gay people in order to protect its people. Evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Billy, was enthusiastic about Mr. Putin’s actions. Commenting on the Russian law, Franklin said: “In my opinion Putin is right on these issues.” Giving a nod to those who think there is little good to be said for Putin these days, he went on saying: “Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.” The charity Franklin showed Putin was not reflected in either his comments about a comic book character or his actions towards a bank.
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Comic books are fictional creations that have been popular among the young for generations. A popular comic series today involves a character called the “Iceman.” At the end of April 2015 it was disclosed that in the new issue appearing at the end of the month the Iceman would disclose to his readers that he is gay. This, according to Franklin is an attempt to convince young readers that a destructive lifestyle “full of sin” and as he noted in an entry on his face book page, “another attempt to indoctrinate our young people to accept this destructive lifestyle.” More recently it has been disclosed that Franklin is not only caused distress by a comic book but by a bank. Wells Fargo is the offender.
In early June it was reported that Franklin is moving all bank accounts associated with his Christian organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, away from Wells Fargo bank. The move is not related to the bank’s banking practices. It has to do with the bank’s advertising. The bank has run ads featuring same sex couples who use the services of Wells Fargo. For the bank to publicly announce” the fact that it has customers who are same sex couples outrages Franklin. Franklin believes that same sex couples should do their banking in the closet and should not have access to the same banks used by heterosexual couples. As he explained when commenting on his displeasure, he wants his followers to “speak out as Christians” about the bank’s advertising. In a face book posting Franklin says: “Have you ever asked yourself-how can we fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community?. . . But it has dawned on me that we don’t have to do business with them.”
Franklin is as good as his word. Announcing the move from Wells Fargo he said: “This is one way we as Christians can speak out. . . . Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards. Maybe if enough of us do this, it will get their attention.” He did not say where he thought members of the gay community should bank. Probably not where he does.
Franklin has moved the organization’s bank business away from Wells Fargo and given it BB&T. BB&T is a bank that, he says is: “a good solid bank that’s very good at banking.” He forgot to mention that it sponsored a Gay Pride festival fundraising event in early 2015 that took place in Miami Beach at one of the BB&T’s branches. The event celebrated the marriage of a male couple who had been together for 55 years. The bank’s regional multicultural markets officer issued a news release in which he said the bank was proud to “be a part of this day of pride and celebration of the 2015 Legacy Couples.” The event is organized by the Miami Beach Gay Pride Committee to recognize gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender couples who have been in committed relationships of 10 or more years. The bank has been involved in the Legacy Couples program since its founding in 2009.
Franklin may not want to continue banking at BB&T. Perhaps he can take advantage of the fact that since members of the gay community have begun emerging from closets there is lots of closet space available in this country and one is surely big enough to accommodate him and the $284 million that belongs to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association-especially if he refuses to do business with gay customers.