Graham’s Apology to Obama

It appears the Rev. Franklin Graham finally remembered his father’s palpable regret at his own tendency to confuse faith and politics, and had second thoughts about his dismissive remarks on the president’s faith in a recent TV appearance. He issued a formal apology, as reported by the Religious News Service:

Evangelist Franklin Graham apologized Tuesday (Feb. 28) to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said religion has “nothing to do” with Graham’s decision not to support Obama’s re-election.

Graham’s apology came after a group of prominent black religious leaders criticized the evangelist for saying he did not know whether Obama is a Christian and suggesting that Islamic law considers him to be a Muslim

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Graham, president of the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he now accepts Obama’s declarations that he is a Christian.

“I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama,” he said in a statement.

“I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election — for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate.”

That was indeed a useful clarification. Graham went on to say he opposed Obama’s re-election because of positions on abortion and same-sex marriage that he considered in “direct conflict” with Scripture. It would have been better if he had explicitly acknowledged that many, many millions of sincere Christians don’t accept Scripture as the sole source of Christian moral teaching, and many, many millions more don’t interpret Scripture literally or as inerrant. Better yet, he could have acknowledged there is virtually nothing in Scripture dealing directly with abortion, and that the occasional condemnations of homosexuality are a lot rarer than the many condemnations of, say, greed, or for that matter, self-righteousness, which doesn’t seem to trouble Graham’s kind of politicians.

But it’s a start, and sad to say, an unusual gesture among today’s politically active clergy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.