Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham addressed questions from ABC's Christiane Amanpour about President Obama's birthplace and religious beliefs. The White House fought back yesterday, calling his remarks "preposterous." This morning, Graham spoke with CT about the administration's response, Obama's birth, his faith and who he likes among the candidates considering a run in the 2012 presidential race.
How would you respond to the White House spokesperson who said, "I would just say I think it's unfortunate that a religious leader would choose Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges"?
First of all, they made a point that I would choose Easter to make these statements. I didn't make these statements on Easter. I taped that a week prior, on Monday that week. It was ABC that [broadcast] this on Easter. I responded to a question. I'm not going out making speeches about where the President was born. I could care less. But when asked, I told Christiane Amanpour that the President has a problem that he could probably address by answering that. How come he doesn't come out at a news conference and hold up his birth certificate? I don't know. I'm only responding to what she asked me. She asked me about Donald Trump. When I first heard about him entering, I thought it was a joke. The more I listen to him, the more I say, "Maybe he's right." She asked, "Could you vote for him?" Vote for him as compared to what? Depends on who else is running. Certainly, America needs somebody like a Donald Trump who's got business experience to get us out of the mess that Republicans and Democrats alike have gotten us into.
Several fact checkers have agreed that Obama was born in the U.S. What would it take to convince you?
I don't care. I'm not the person raising these issues. You need to ask Donald Trump those questions. I'm just saying, for me it looks like it's a headache for the President. If I were the President, I would try to find a way to get rid of this headache. That's all. I'm just giving some advice to the President. Do yourself a favor. It'll shut Donald Trump up. I really don't care where he was born. That's not an issue. I've never made this an issue, never have.
Richard Land says that the idea that Obama is a Muslim or is not born in the U.S. is "flat nuts"? How would you respond to his comments?
There are two issues. I do not believe for an instant that Obama is a Muslim. He has said he's not a Muslim. I take him at his word. People say he's not born in the United States. I take it on the word that they properly vetted him before they swore him into office. I'm sure somebody had to look at his credentials. I'm not saying the President is a Muslim, never said he's a Muslim. He says he's a Christian.
There is the issue of his birth. Under Shari'ah law, Islamic law, which is not legal in the United States, he was born a Muslim because his father is a Muslim. That's why [Muammar al-Gaddafi] calls him "my son." The President has renounced Islam. He says he believes in Jesus Christ. To the Muslim world that's under Shari'ah law, which we're not, they see him as a lost son. They see him as a wayward child. Shari'ah law is not legal in the United States. You cannot beat your wife. If you think your daughter has been immoral, you cannot kill her. Shari'ah law is the law of Islam and it is not recognized in this country.
You're saying he was born a Muslim because his father is a Muslim?
All throughout the Muslim world, every person whose father is a Muslim is recognized under Islamic law as a Muslim.
Obama said his father was a confirmed atheist by the time he was born.
That has nothing to do with it. I'm just saying how the Islamic world sees it. I'm not talking about facts. That's how they interpret it. It's not how I interpret it. It goes by birth in the Islamic world. You're considered a Muslim if your father is a Muslim. If your father was a Christian and your mother was an Arab who was born a Muslim, her children would not be considered Islamic because the father was a Christian.
President Obama talks about his faith often. It sounds like you believe he's Christian.
I was with President Obama when he was Senator Obama. I asked him, "How did you come to faith in Christ? What is your testimony?" He said, "I was organizing a community in the South Side of Chicago. The community said, 'What church do you go to?' I told them I didn't go to church. If you're going to organize a community, you're going to have to join a church." So he joined Jeremiah Wright's church. That's the testimony he told me, word for word.
The point is, nobody knows. I don't know if you're a Christian. God knows your heart. I'm not your judge. I'm not President Obama's judge. He has to stand before God one day. I'm going to have to stand before God. Only God knows a person's heart. For millions of Americans, being a Christian is being a member of a church. When I read the Bible, Jesus says, "There will be many in the last day who say 'Lord, Lord,' but I will say, 'Away from me, I knew you not.'" A Christian is a person who identifies himself with Christ, has confessed sin and received Christ into his heart and is following him in obedience. Church membership cannot save you.
Is it ever proper to question someone's Christianity?
I'm not questioning President Obama's Christianity. He's told me he's a Christian. I have to accept that. I just go by what he tells me. He says he didn't go to church and now he goes to church.
On the question of his birthplace, it sounds like you're interested in the President's strategy for dispelling rumors.
I don't know. I've never brought that up. It was Christiane Amanpour who brought it up. It was Donald Trump who's bringing it up. I have never brought up his birth certificate as an issue. Like you asking me a question, I will give you a comment. The President could do himself a favor and put it to bed. I don't care. I don't care if he was born in Kansas, if he was born in Hawaii.
Before you go, I wanted to ask you about your comments about Donald Trump. You said, "The more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, 'You know? Maybe the guy's right.'"
Not on the birth issue. I'm talking about the economic issues, how to get our country out of the economic mess we're in.
Some Christians are uncomfortable with supporting Newt Gingrich or Donald Trump because they have been married three times.
No question, the guy's got a lot of baggage. He owns casinos. He's had multiple marriages. He's got a lot of issues. No question he is a very smart guy. I did not endorse him. Christiane Amanpour asked me if he could be the right candidate. He could, under the right circumstances, but we're still not there yet.
Should Christians not vote for candidates like these, whose personal lives might violate what they see as traditional family values?
When I vote for a president, I look for someone who's best to lead our country. I would like to see one elected who is a true follower of Jesus Christ and not just by name. Donald Trump says he's a Christian. He goes to church when he can. The President goes to church when he can. He's not a faithful churchgoer. He'll go at Easter or Christmas. Trump and the President have a lot in common. I like the fact that the President is a family man. We have to look at the policies, are they consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ? The President's support of gay and lesbian rights in this country—is that consistent with the teachings of the Word of God? Those kinds of things have to be looked at. Do the positions match what they say they believe? If someone says they follow Jesus Christ, then why don't they obey him?
Is there a point where you feel like a candidate's personal life or views might not be in direct line with what you believe?
If a person says that they're a Christian and then they have policies that are against what Christ teaches, that's a problem. There are candidates out there other than who we have talked about who are very good people who I could support. Mike Huckabee is a great man. He is a preacher. No question this man is saved. I like Mike Huckabee a lot. You have Sarah Palin, who is a fine lady, who has great experience as governor, as a mayor, a very successful author, good family. Her husband is a man's man. He is one tough guy. Her kids are nice. When they talk to you they look you in the eye. Sarah has some very good ideas that could help this nation. You do have Mitt Romney. I have been with Mitt Romney. I like the guy a lot. He's a Mormon, but he is a smart business guy, a good man. Mormons have very strong families, and I appreciate that about him.
I'm not going to get involved in the political process. There will be people who I like and dislike. It's obvious the policies that are governing our country right now are not working. The President and the Democrats are doing nothing to get us out of the debt we've got ourselves into. We've got to have some new leadership, new Republicans, more Tea Party people. Maybe God is giving us what we deserve because we as a nation have turned our backs on God.
You say we've got to have more Tea Party people? Do you see the concerns they have as more pragmatic, or are they Christian concerns?
I think it's pragmatic. What I like about the Tea Party movement is that it's a grassroots movement made up of Democrats and Republicans. They're tired of higher taxes. Economic issues are issues that affect the church because if the country is not strong, we're not going to be able to support the mission work that we do. We're not going to be able to get involved in social concerns in the community. If we have more and more people out of work, it's going to affect the churches in a big way.
Do you see yourself as a controversialist, as someone who makes provocative statements?
I try to tell the truth. [Sometimes] the truth is provocative. I try to answer people's questions. I'm not going out speaking against Barack Obama. I'm not going around telling people he wasn't born in the USA. Donald Trump, I kind of like the guy. I like the things he says he'll do to get our country back on good economic footing. He says he's a Christian. God knows his heart. I don't.
When you talk to the media, does it concern you that what they're taking away is more political?
What concerns me is that they don't report me correctly. They take something out of context. I've never said that Obama was born a Muslim. I'm not going around saying Barack Obama was born a Muslim. I'm saying what the Islamic world [thinks about him].
Are there times when a reporter asks you a question and you decide not to weigh in on it?
Again, if someone asks me a question, I try to answer it. I was on MSNBC and they came after me. I decided that I'm going to see how many times I can get the gospel in. I think I got it in three times. Of course, they were attacking me. The most important message is that there's no one politician that's going to save America. The only hope that we have as a nation is if we repent of our sins. When we look at the abortions we commit, the murdering of children, accepting gay lifestyle, open homosexuality, all of this is sin against God. We've taken God out of our schools, out of our government. The country is sinking into a pit and it's going into a tighter spiral downward. If we had some good solid Christian leadership, it might make a difference.
Earlier this year, your father did an interview with us where he said if he could go back and do something differently, he would have steered clear of politics. Do you agree with him? How do you engage with politics as you do your ministry?
I don't get involved in speaking for candidates. But I do think I have a moral obligation to speak for truth. I do want to find out what politicians believe, what they stand for. So many politicians are liars. They'll say one thing one day and they'll say something else the next. I think it's important that Christians make a concerted effort to find out the truth, to find out what a politician stands for.
In terms of the interview we've been talking about, is there anything in the interview that you wish you hadn't said?
No. I'm going to try as best as I can to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all audiences. Christiane Amanpour said she wanted to talk about Easter. I think she asked me one question about Easter. The rest of it was about other things. I want to make every effort I can to reach out to the world and let the world know about a God that loves them, who sent his son Jesus Christ. There is no other way to God. I'm going on Hannity tonight, and I'll be with Greta next week [on Fox News]. I'll continue to answer reporters' questions.
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Christianity Today also posted a news story about Franklin Graham's comments.