It just fascinated me that [this is] a nation whose foundations are built by people who came to this country seeking freedom to worship The Name-not the name of Muhammad or Buddha or some other faith system. They came to worship the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That was the whole premise of this country to exist. The ideal that we aspire to so much in this country and we hold as maybe the greatest virtue that we offer as a free democratic society is this notion of tolerance.
Jesus Christ is the author of the tolerance that we hold to in this nation. Jesus Christ never belittled another faith system. He never preached against the idolatry that was all around him in different faiths. He showed great tolerance toward sinners--he loved them as a matter of fact. He went to their homes to where it shocked the religious leaders of the day that this man Jesus Christ showed such tolerance.
Yet Christians do not get the same level of treatment. It's not a level playing field. You mention the name of Jesus Christ and you have all types of groups who come after you. Since World War II, there's been a deliberate attack against the name of Jesus Christ.
Why World War II?
Well, I think our nation began to change quite a bit after World War II. I don't know if it's because of the television--that certainly has been one of the great changes in this nation in my life since the 1950s. And there has been an underlying current. Every time you see a minister of the Gospel on television--is he portrayed in a nice way, or does he come off as some kind of fanatical person or a manipulator, a guy who's grabbing money, these types of things, or an adulterer. So there's an attack against the name of Jesus Christ. If you take Christ out of Christmas you call it Xmas. Or if it's a government agency you can't even use the word Christmas, you have to use Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays. And this is the greatest name in all of history. It's the most controversial name in all of history. There isn't another name that sparks such emotin as the name of Jesus Christ.
But 85% of us are at least nominally Christian in America. So the other side of the argument goes that it can never be a level playing field because Christians are so dominant.
We are 85%, but there's a small minority who are very vocal. When U Thant, the Secretary General of the United Nations, when he stood up before the General Assembly and talked about how much Buddha meant to him--you know, I don't fault the man for that. He believes in Buddha. I don't agree with him, and I certainly would argue with him. I wouldn't write a letter to the paper, I wouldn't demand an apology, I wouldn't sue the United Nations because he'd mentioned the name of Buddha publicly.
What do you make of the dust-up over your comments about Islam in October?
I think every time there's another suicide bomber who detonates himself on a bus, I think there may be more people inclined to understand my comments. People say, "Well this is just a fringe element of Islam." There is this whole notion that it's a peaceful religion. Let me give you an example. If a Roman Catholic strapped dynamite on himself, walked into a mosque in Saudi Arabia and said, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and Catholics around the world, I do this," then detonates himself and blows the mosque and himself up--the pope would be on television within minutes denouncing this man denouncing this act and having a fund-raising appeal, not for the family of the man who did this but for the families of the victims who got blown up in the mosque. Every cardinal, every bishop, every priest the next Sunday would denounce this man from the pulpit. Every Protestant minister would join the Catholics and denounce this.
But there has been silence from the Muslim clerics. There has not been denouncing of what happened here in New York City at the World Trade Center or what happened in Israel. And I link all of this together. There has not been condemnation by the clerics. Saudi Arabia has had fundraising appeals for the families of the suicide bombers, but not for the families of the victims. This is more evidence that something is wrong here.
Are you saying the faith itself is flawed? Is it the people or the faith, or both?
I believe the Qur'an teaches violence. It doesn't teach peace, it teaches violence. But nowhere in Scripture do you ever hear the Lord Jesus Christ instructing violence, and when they came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter pulls his sword and says he's going to defend Jesus-Jesus tells Peter to put it away. Jesus would never have a part in that sort of activity.
This is the greatest name in all of history and has stirred up more controversy, more division. You get into a group of people and mention Muhammad, you'll have some nice discussion. But you mention the name of Jesus Christ, now you're gonna have a very lively discussion and maybe heated arguments and it will divide. Because it's the name of God's son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do you think people respond to the notion that the name of Jesus is under attack? I think a lot of Christians might agree, but what does the general public think?
A lot of people didn't think about it--but since 9/11, people were so caught off guard and had never thought much about Islam. And then here were men cutting the throats of pilots and stewardesses with box cutters, grabbing hold of controls [of airplanes], yelling Allahu Akbar, "God is great," and in the name of Islam took the lives of thousands of Americans. I don't think the American people knew how to react. And all of a sudden there's all of this hoo-rah around Islam being a peaceful religion, and then you start having suicide bombers and people started thinking, "Well, wait a second, something doesn't add up here."
The God of Islam is not a father. But the God of the Christian faith gave his son Jesus Christ to come to this earth, to die for our sins on Calvary's cross. He shed his blood, he was buried, and then God raised him. He's alive in heaven and some day the Bible says he's coming back. The God we worship is completely different than the God we see in the Qur'an.
What about the god of the Hebrew Bible? What about Judaism?
Yes. Same God.
What do you believe about Judaism as a faith?
I worship the Jews. In the Old Testament, they're looking for a Messiah. We believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah. They're still looking. But I believe the Jew to be God's people, his chosen people. When we talk about the land of Israel, God gave that land to the Jew. People say, "Well that's not fair." Listen, I didn't give it to them. It wasn't my land, it was God's land. He gave it to the Jews.
We think we can settle this problem in the Middle East. We'll never be able to settle this problem. It is beyond the presidential office to solve this problem. It is beyond the United Nations. It is only going to be solved by God himself.
How will he solve it?
I don't know. It's beyond us. It's too complex, it's too deep. Every time a bomb goes off, every time the Israelis retaliate with another assassination or another invasion into their territory, the rift gets deeper and deeper and wider and wider. And it is not going to be solved.
How would you like to see it solved?
You would like to see peace, where the Jew and their cousins, the Palestinians, could live side-by-side in peace and harmony. You would love to see that. But this notion that the Palestinians have to have their own state-never in history have the Palestinians ever had their own state. Why should they have it now?
I have many Palestinian friends, and I love them and my heart breaks for them, and I see what has happened to their homes and businesses and the difficulty. The Israelis have been very difficult and have made it very hard on many Palestinians. It breaks your heart. There's enough finger-pointing to go both ways. But I have to look at Scripture as a minister of the Gospel. Whose land is it? God created this earth, and he can give this to whomever he chooses.
I want to talk about another name-your own name. How hard has it been to have that famous name?
The expectations sometimes people have for me because of my father-well, I'm not my father, I can't be. I love him, admire him, appreciate him, but I'm not Billy Graham. And I think when I was younger I felt it much more. I'm 50 years old. You get to be 50 years old and you don't care. You just kind of get a thick skin.
I'm probably a little quicker to say what I think. It's always good to think before you speak, but even after I hold back and think, I probably...(pause)
I think it's because of my work with Samaritan's Purse, where I've been working in war areas and famine areas--you just have to call it the way you see it. And when our hospital got bombed in Sudan seven times and people were killed, it's the Muslim government that's trying to kill us, and you just can't say it any other way.
This seems to be your theme lately--you call it the way you see it with Islam.
I think so. I see what Islam has done. I see what it's doing today to Christians. I see what it's doing around the world, the persecution, the slaughter, 2 million people in the Sudan--and they've done this in the name of Islam. Afghanistan-Taliban-students of Islam, that's what Taliban means. And we've seen Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry, those two girls held [in Afghanistan]. They had a CD-Rom and they were showing the Jesus film to a family. And the Taliban were discussing whether they should execute the girls or not. They came very close to losing their lives.
What do you pray for?
I pray for our nation, I pray for my family, and I pray for myself that I would be faithful to God in everything I do and everything I say.
When and how do you pray?
I pray throughout the day. I just talk to him, just like I talk to you now. I say, "God, I need your help right now." And many times in my life I have sensed God speaking to me, giving me an impression to do something or not to do something.
In what way do you think you would like to distinguish yourself most?
That has never been an issue of me trying to distinguish myself from my father or from you or from anybody else. The only thing I try to do in this life is what is pleasing to my Father in heaven and honoring him with my life.
I'm 50 years old.I've lived more than half my life already. When you think of your productive life-it's the next 20 years. And when you think of your life, it's just a vapor, it fades away. There's got to be something after this life. I believe there is eternity, and I believe God is on the throne of heaven. He has got a plan and he's got a purpose for me. Not just for this life but for eternity and for each one of us. So I'm not worried about what people think about me 100 years from now--I'm worried about what God is going to think about me for eternity. Is God going to say, "Good job, Franklin." What is a good job? If I'm faithful and obedient to his word. And try to live a life where you don't compromise. We live in a world where everyone is compromising themselves right into the grave. I think we should hold true to our faith and to our belief.