No one likes to suffer persecution. Yet, the Bible makes it clear that those who commit themselves to Jesus will be persecuted. The Apostle Paul declared this truth very bluntly in one of his letters to Timothy: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus Himself also warned that His followers would be despised by the world: “You will be hated by all because of My name…” (Mark 13:13). In fulfillment of these prophecies, Christians have been persecuted throughout history. Even when the Catholic Church dominated Europe, true Bible-believing Christians were tortured by the apostate Church and were burned at the stake.
Today, Christians are being persecuted throughout the world as never before. They are being harassed, tortured and even slaughtered pell-mell by Muslims, Hindus, Communists and Humanists. It is currently estimated that more than 100,000 Christians are being martyred yearly for their faith. Christians in the United States have lived charmed lives for 350 years, from the establishment of the Jamestown colony in 1607 to the beginning of the decade of the 1960s. During those years, our nation’s Christian heritage was recognized and respected. But Christianity went on the defensive with the cultural revolution of the 1960s. And since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, true Bible-believing Christians have become a persecuted sub-culture within American society.
Hatred toward Christianity in America today is blatant, crude and loud. Just type the word, Christian, into an Internet search engine and see the nature of the critical articles that appear. They are horrific in nature. Christianity is vilified as “what is wrong with America,” and Christians are denounced as “intolerant bigots.” I was jolted by the anti-Christian vehemence that exists in our nation today when I started doing research on Franklin Graham for the featured article in this issue of our magazine. For every positive article I found about Franklin, there were a dozen that were hyper-critical, meanspirited and hate-filled. A classic example is an article that appeared in the Huffington Post that was titled, “Franklin Graham is Still the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While.” Newsweek wrote him off as a “theological bully.”
The extreme hatred expressed toward Franklin, particularly among homosexuals, makes me fear for his life. He will certainly need heavy security next year when he launches his campaign to hold a prayer rally in every state of our nation. Increasingly, in our nation, it is going to be difficult to live a Christian life without experiencing some form of extreme persecution. Jobs will be lost. Businesses will be destroyed. In fact, the current anti-Christian wave of opinion is so strong, I would not be surprised to see “hate speech” criminalized so that those speaking out against sins like sexual perversion can be put in prison.
The good news in the midst of the paganization of our culture is that the resulting Christian persecution is a definite sign that we are living in the season of the Lord’s return. Satan knows Bible prophecy (Revelation 12:12), and he knows from the signs of the times that his time is short — and thus he is intensifying his attacks on Christians worldwide. As we face increasing persecution in the days ahead, let us keep in mind the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:11-12 — “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…”
Franklin Graham: A Modern Day Daniel In the Lion’s Den
In 1991 an outstanding academic biography of Billy Graham was published. It was titled, A Prophet With Honour. The author, Dr. William Martin, was at that time a professor at Rice University where he specialized in the sociology of religion. I knew Dr. Martin personally since we had been students together at Harvard University in the early 1960s. As soon as the book was published, I called him and asked, “Why in the world did you title the book, A Prophet With Honor? You know as well as I do that Billy Graham was anything but a prophet!” Dr. Martin laughed and responded, “Yes, Dave, I realize that, but in like manner, you know as well as I do that publishers demand absolute control over a book’s cover and its title.” He went on to explain that he had engaged in a wrestling match with the publisher over the title, but had lost.
A Difference in Styles and Callings
Billy Graham was a very gifted and effective evangelist, but he certainly was no prophet. He sought the favor of politicians, he feared offending anyone, and he had “an obsessive need for approval.” His son, Franklin, has summed it up this way: “Daddy hates to say no. I can say no.” In stark contrast, Franklin could care less about currying the favor of politicians, he refuses to tip-toe through the tulips with regard to controversial issues, and he seeks no one’s approval except the Lord’s. “I’ve never really been one to try to be politically correct,” Franklin has stated. “I just feel truth is truth, and sometimes I probably offend some people.”
Well, as we shall see, there is no “probably” about it. Franklin drives his critics crazy with his refusal to compromise on the issues, and as a result, he is the focus of unrelenting attacks. Take, for example the headline of a Huffington Post article dated March 6, 2015: “Franklin Graham is Still the Worst Thing to Happen to God in a While.” The author of the article proclaimed, “God has a tough time living down Franklin Graham’s narrow bigotry.”
Franklin is not a chip off the old block. His focus and style are radically different from his father’s. Franklin has commented about their differences several times in public. He has pointed out that he has received criticism from both Christian leaders and staff members that could be summed up with the words, “Your father would never have said that or taken that position in public.”
Franklin normally responds to such observations by pointing out that his father ministered in a Christian nation whereas he is ministering in the midst of a nation that is jettisoning its Christian heritage.