Religion

Graham defends his tough talk, saying Jesus also ‘wasn’t real loving sometimes’

Franklin Graham, whose interview with Charlotte’s WBTV (channel 3) was broadcast Thursday.
Franklin Graham, whose interview with Charlotte’s WBTV (channel 3) was broadcast Thursday. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina-based evangelist Franklin Graham, who’s made headlines with his tough talk about Muslims, LGBTQ persons and former President Barack Obama, invoked Jesus’ harsh words about the Pharisees Thursday to defend his own judgmental tone.

Asked during an interview with WBTV (channel 3) about some of his comments that are perceived as less-than-loving, Graham said that “Jesus wasn’t real loving sometimes. He called the Pharisees vipers, snakes, whitewashed tombs. So, you have to understand the world in which we live is dangerous.”

Graham, who heads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, used some strong but familiar language during the rest of the 4-minute interview, telling the TV station’s Christine Sperow that House Bill 2 was needed to halt “weirdos that want to force themselves into girls’ locker rooms and to women’s bathrooms.” It was unclear whether he was using the term to include transgender persons.

He repeated a past charge that it was Democratic Mayor Jennifer Roberts of Charlotte, not the Republican-controlled legislature or then-GOP Gov. Pat McCrory who created the controversy surrounding House Bill 2 – a law that has caused some companies, sports leagues and entertainers to boycott North Carolina.

“I blame the mayor for that,” Graham said. “Everything was fine in Charlotte. There was no problem. ... If a transgender person wanted to use a bathroom, they could find a way to use a bathroom. But she is the one who passed this ridiculous (city) ordinance.”

Graham said the legislature and McCrory “had no choice” but to enact House Bill 2 to nullify Charlotte’s ordinance and “protect women and children from what I would call sexual predators.”

The evangelist also accused Obama of not standing behind police “the way he should have” during his administration – a charge popular with political conservatives, but disputed by the former president and his supporters.

Graham endorsed a tougher response to the kind of unrest in the streets that Charlotte experienced last September after the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

In words that appeared to echo President Donald Trump, Graham said standing squarely behind police actions may not solve everything, “but it sends a message that ‘I’m not going to stand by and let y’all do this. Y’all want to riot and burn your streets? Well guess what? We’re going to come in there with federal officers if need be and we’re going to put a stop to it.’ 

Asked about trust issues between police and some communities, Graham agreed that they exist “and that’s something we work on.” But he added that those trying to solve such crises needed to turn to Jesus. “I think the only one who can heal is the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Graham, who also heads Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief agency based in Boone.

Graham, who was asked by Trump to read a biblical passage during the Jan. 20 inauguration in Washington, said he would not advise the new president to tone down his own tough rhetoric in the name of trying to unify the country.

Rev. Franklin Graham closed out Friday’s inauguration of President Donald Trump by saying his prayer was that God would bless the new president, his family, his administration. It started raining as Trump began his inauguration speech.

“No, I’m not going to tell him to tone it down,” Graham said. “I mean, my goodness, he got to where he is by being who he is.”

Graham said the country needs to instead “look to God for healing.”

WBTV also asked the 64-year-old Graham about his famous father, retired evangelist Billy Graham, a Charlotte native and pastor to U.S. presidents who’s 98 and lives in a mountaintop home in Montreat.

The younger Graham, who says he sees his father every week, said Billy Graham eats well and still has a good heart and lungs. But he can’t hear or see well because of his age.

“Communication is very difficult with him,” Franklin Graham said. “He kind of shuts down. Maybe one or two word kind of sentences.”

His son added: “Of course, you’d like to see him like he was 20 years ago. But this is part of life.”

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