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Franklin Graham's Day of Prayer

Evangelist Franklin Graham has called for a national day of prayer for the president next Sunday. In a Facebook post, Graham insisted, "President Trump’s enemies continue to try everything to destroy him, his family, and the presidency. In the history of our country, no president has been attacked as he has." He gave no specifics about the alleged enemies, or what they had done to attack the president, but he was not hesitant to assert it has been the worst in the nation's history.

Graham is one of a set of religious leaders that historian John Fea calls "court evangelicals." Fea, himself an evangelical, coined the term shortly after Trump took office. Fea uses the term to describe

Trump’s inner circle of evangelicals who think it is a good idea for ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit, have bowed a knee to the political power of the presidency, think Trump is a “baby Christian,” believe evangelicals have found their “dream president” in Trump, and regularly show up at the White House whenever Trump wants to say something about religion.

Another court evangelical, Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, speaks of Trump with similar superlatives.

President Trump is the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, and pro-conservative judiciary president in history which is why evangelicals continue to support him enthusiastically.

In return, Trump has promised to protect the evangelicals' religious freedom, in particular, their freedom to support and donate to his election campaign. He has made repeated attempts to eliminate the Johnson Amendment, the section of the U.S. legal code that prevents tax-exempt organizations (including churches) from engaging in political partisan activity.

In addition, Trump has championed "conscience rights" legislation, which allows medical professionals to opt out of providing services if they have religious objections. Ostensibly, this law protects health care workers who object to abortion on demand. However, the vagueness of the language could result in reduced care for vulnerable patients, such as transgender people.

This zero-sum approach to religious freedom—centered around the freedom to push others to the margins—has been widely praised by court evangelicals. James Dobson says he has never been more optimistic about the nation's future. James Robison calls Trump supernatural answer to prayer. Graham says he appreciates Trump's defense of the Christian faith. Tony Perkins calls Trump a great champion of religious liberty.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. acknowledges that his support for Trump is purely a matter of political power.

Don’t look at a candidate on whether he has the same religious background as you do. Don’t look at whether he or she fit to be the pastor of your church. Look at who’s going to vote right on the issues.

Graham is nowhere near as honest as Falwell, but his support for Trump is also politically motivated. He just couches it in religious language. Asked by MSNBC’s Alex Witt to comment on hush money paid to cover up Trump's affair with Stormy Daniels, Graham answered:

President Trump I don’t think has admitted to having an affair with this person, and so this is just a news story, and I don’t even know if it’s accurate.

When Witt pointed out that a number of reputable news outlets had run the story, and asked what it would mean for Trump if the story were true, Graham hedged.

I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago.

Graham then reiterated that his support for Trump was grounded in "the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians whether it's here at home or around the world and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom."

And yet, as John Fea notes, Trumpfar from supporting Christian valueshas created a values crisis through his immigration policies.

James Dobson, the leader most responsible for the Christian right’s “family values” agenda, tweeted last week: “Dear God, no matter what our family circumstances, let us never waver from our charge as parents. Help us to be worthy of Your trust in us to lead and love our kids.” Fair enough, but how do you fulfill your parental responsibilities when the federal government is taking your kids away from you?

Trump has pushed ICE to increase the number of raids, resulting in deportations even of Christian ministers. How does Franklin Graham square that with his praise for Trump? We may never know.

Meanwhile, a growing number of churches have stepped up to support the cause of refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented immigrants.

Journalist David French, a conservative Christian who is not beholden to Trump, describes the magnitude of the problem.

There is a humanitarian crisis at the southern border. The number of people crossing is surging to numbers not seen in a decade. In February, 76,103 undocumented immigrants either presented themselves at ports of entry or were apprehended at the border. That was the largest number since February 2007 — until March, when border officials stopped 103,000 undocumented immigrants crossing the border.

Making matters far worse, huge numbers of those crossing are families, including children. Roughly half the immigrants detained in February and March were traveling as part of a family unit. Kids are being hauled on dangerous trips, they’re often subject to terrible abuse, and they face an uncertain future when they arrive in the U.S.

If ever an American president would show a concern for Christian values, protect Christians—and others—here and around the world, protect religious—and non-religious—liberty and freedom, this should be the time and the place. Instead, Trump has separated children from parents, sometimes by stealth, often without a plan for reunification, sometimes creating explicit obstacles toward that goal. So much for "family values".

French, like Graham, suggests praying for the president, but in a different way.

We should pray for presidents, critique them when they’re wrong, praise them when they’re right, and never, ever impose partisan double standards. We can’t ever forget the importance of character, the necessity of our own integrity, and the power of the prophetic witness.

As for Graham himself, French offers something less than a full endorsement.

Franklin Graham is under fire today. He should be. His double standards have cost the church. This mistake should not define him — he has done much good and preached the Gospel faithfully for many years — but it should grieve him. Through his blatant hypocrisy, he has earned his critics’ wrath.

Graham, for his part, has shown no inclination toward repentance. Perhaps we should pray for him, that he might see the error of his ways.

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