Sunday, September 5, 2010

God Has No Grandchildren

rd magazine, September 5, 2010

Franklin Graham Forgets that "God Has No Grandchildren"

When Franklin Graham got on the "Obama-is-a-Muslim" bandwagon last
week, he went against an oft- proclaimed tenet of evangelical


Franklin Graham's curious statement about Barack Obama's supposed
Muslim sympathies betrays the tenets of Graham's own faith.

In the wake of surveys showing that a growing number of Americans
believe that the president is a Muslim, Graham couldn't resist getting
into the act and advancing the deception. Asserting that Obama was
"born a Muslim," Graham declared: "The seed is passed through the
father. He was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim; the seed of
Muslim [sic] is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is
passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim. His father gave him
an Islamic name."

Father and son

But one of the mottos of evangelical Christianity (the faith that
Graham espouses) is that "God has no grandchildren." I heard that
refrain many, many times as I was growing up within evangelicalism in
the 1950s and 1960s. The purpose of that statement was to impress upon
young people in particular, but everyone in general, that a person's
religious identity derived from claiming the faith for himself and was
not ascribed by birth.

Preachers hammered this message home, even to the point of ridiculing
those who believed otherwise; those who believed that having been born
into a Christian household made you a Christian. "God has no
grandchildren," the preacher would thunder, hoping thereby to
encourage impressionable young people to make their own professions of
faith. Very often the preacher would add a corollary to this
rhetorical strategy, meant to underscore the ridiculousness of the
claim that religious faith was somehow hereditary. "Just because you
live in a garage," the preacher would taunt, "doesn't make you an

I suspect that even Franklin Graham has employed those rhetorical
devices in his own preaching. How curious, then, that he would suggest
that President Obama was "born a Muslim" because his father was

The president has written and spoken often about his own conversion to
Christianity—not from Islam, for his was not a religious upbringing,
but from a kind of secularism. And if he were, in fact, a closet
Muslim, as Graham and the voices blaring from the downstream media
continue to insinuate, why would he have his daughters baptized as

Paradoxically, Franklin Graham's family provides powerful evidence of
the importance of conversion, even within evangelicalism. Very early
in his career, Billy Graham (Franklin's more famous father) made a
decision to break with the starchy, separatist fundamentalism of his
own childhood in favor of a broader, more capacious evangelicalism.
The key to understanding Franklin Graham is to recognize that Billy
Graham's son made precisely the opposite conversion: Having been born
into an evangelical household, Franklin elected to become a

God has no grandchildren.