Franklin Graham Prefers That Institutionalized Children Remain Institutionalized, Which Is Weird

A few weeks ago, I wrote about this commercial:

Wells Fargo Commercial: Learning Sign Language

Two women learn sign language as they approach the day that they’ll adopt their deaf daughter. It gets me up every time I watch it – even this last time as I embedded the link – despite the fact that it is plainly designed to manipulate me into positive feelings about Wells Fargo. I know better but it doesn’t seem to matter; two parents plus happy child equals this author’s moist eyes.

At the time, I was remarking on how groundbreaking I found this commercial’s routine inclusion in professional basketball telecasts. I was going for a sort of, “Woah, times sure have changed. And that’s great!” sort of vibe.

Franklin Graham, the son of Christian Industry Billy Graham, has apparently been having the same reaction to it. Well, half the same reaction to it. Specifically, he’s really got the “Woah, times sure have changed!” part down pat, but rather than concluding, “And that’s great!” he’s taken a slightly different approach:

Have you ever asked yourself–how can we fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community? Every day it is something else! Tiffany’s started advertising wedding rings for gay couples. Wells Fargo bank is using a same-sex couple in their advertising. And there are more. But it has dawned on me that we don’t have to do business with them. At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we are moving our accounts from Wells Fargo to another bank. And guess what—we don’t have to shop at Tiffany & Co., there are plenty of other jewelry stores. This is one way we as Christians can speak out—we have the power of choice. Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards. Maybe if enough of us do this, it will get their attention. Share this if you agree.

Much merriment has been had about his chosen path of protest – he withdrew his money from gay-friendly Wells Fargo and put it into gay-friendly BB&T – and I would recommend continuing to revel in Graham’s apparent inability to find a bank that predicates its existence upon an objection to gay people. But there’s still the issue of Graham’s entirely voluntary decision to draw the societal line at a bank’s embrace of two married women adopting an child who is presumably institutionalized.

Are we really meant to conclude that Franklin Graham thinks it better for institutionalized children to remain institutionalized than for them to be raised by two women who appear to not only love another, but to have the resources necessary to share a very comfortable life with this child

Hold on answering that – let’s look at what Graham choose to write:

Have you ever asked yourself–how can we fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community?

Let’s ignore the “crammed down our throats” imagery – do the social conservatives who use this phrase understand all of the possible connotations, or are they intentionally using this imagery precisely because of one of its more obvious connotations? – and focus on the idea that “big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community” are doing anything to the people (we’ll call them Franklin Graham’s Christians) that Graham thinks are on his side.

The women in the commercial are married to one another – that doesn’t affect Franklin Graham’s Christians. The women in the commercial are learning sign language – that doesn’t affect Franklin Graham’s Christians. The women in the commercial are adopting a deaf child – that doesn’t affect Franklin Graham’s Christians. At literally no point does anything in this commercial involve Franklin Graham’s Christians. In this great big world of ours, these two women and their new daughter are over here *points to the right, toward an empty spot where the three of them can be* and Franklin Graham’s Christians are over there *points to the left, toward an empty spot where all of them can be* and at no point are they encroaching upon one another.

“Not good enough!” screams Graham.

Every day it is something else! Tiffany’s started advertising wedding rings for gay couples. Wells Fargo bank is using a same-sex couple in their advertising. And there are more.

Having already shown the Wells Fargo advertisement that’s so got Graham’s ire, let me know prepare for you emotionally for the Tiffany’s nightmare:

Tiffany Features Gay Couple in Engagement Ring Ad for First Time

And in case that wasn’t convincing enough, try looking at the image again, but then immediately clicking this link. See the problem?

See it now?

Neither do I. But Graham is so incensed by what he considers to be an aggressive societal movement to cram things down his throat that he pivots toward his bonkers plan to bank at gay unfriendly institutions and to bejewel himself at gay unfriendly jewelers. And then he concludes with this:

This is one way we as Christians can speak out—we have the power of choice. Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards

I’m not religious, so I certainly wouldn’t know, but I find it practically impossible to believe that the religious are instructed to abandon children to institutions (even though it is something that my professional background suggests happens quite often). That runs counter to what I know of religious texts, even the ones favored by Franklin Graham’s Christians. Presumably, even for those that dislike gay marriage, a child growing up in a home with loving parents is preferable to an institutionalized alternative. But again, I’m not religious, and all I’ve got to go on is what Graham has chosen voluntarily to write, and in it he certainly seems to think that welcoming a child into your home runs counter to “Almighty God’s laws and His standards” which would certainly seem to suggest that he’s prefers that this girl remain institutionalized, potentially for the entirety of her childhood. He also thinks that companies celebrating such an adoption are guilty of promoting sin, and not only that, but those companies should be opposed for doing so.

So, in summation, we have a religious man taking the position that adoptions which do not in any way affect his life are in fact attacks against him, and that such adoptions are bad, and that children are better off being institutionalized than they are growing up in homes where they are loved.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s me. I’m the one getting misty-eyed at plainly manipulative commercials (damn you effective piano soundtrack!) after all. Maybe Franklin Graham doesn’t believe any of this. But it is what he chose to write and it is the message he chose to send and that’s a weird thing for him to have done.

Still, instead of focusing on our differences, perhaps it makes more sense for me to celebrate what Franklin Graham and I share: that we both get extremely choked up watching this beautiful commercial.

(Image borrowed from the Huffington Post.)

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39 thoughts on “Franklin Graham Prefers That Institutionalized Children Remain Institutionalized, Which Is Weird

  1. “a child growing up in a home with loving parents is preferable to an institutionalized alternative”
    … yes, particularly when they can beat the gay out of the kid.

    I dislike these people, in case you can’t tell.

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  2. Congratulations, Will, you’ve got exactly to my complaint in the HL decision.

    The presumption that your religious expression is in some way determined by other people’s (lawful) actions is preposterous.

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  3. At this point we just have to conclude that X percentage of the population will always be bigoted against some group and nothing in the world can change that.

    That being said, it is interesting to see populist demagogues on the right rail against big business. One wonders if he is a few steps away from blaming Jews for all of this.

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      • Well, X-percentage covers anywhere from 0% to 100%, so it’s hard to argue that he’s wrong…

        I do think you’re right that we’re not at the point “Everybody who can be convinced has been”, even though some people really want to be there even if it means more people are unconvinced than there need to be.

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        • is right. And per ‘s point, I’m curious how big X is in this situation. How many Christians does Franklin Graham have?

          While his comments are no doubt awful, I’m trying to do a better job of keeping my outrage proportional to the actual impact of the outrageous behavior. So if Graham banks on his father’s name to get noticed but otherwise has no followers, I see little reason to give him a pulpit. And if he does have followers — if his X is large — well, yea, let’s push back against his bullshit.

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          • I have no problem pushing back in any event. Where I get wary is using this as a springboard as an insight into everyone who isn’t sold on SSM or gay adoption or every element of either.

            There seems to kind of be a mentality that once we have a majority then f*ck the rest because they’ll never agree with us anyway because Franklin Graham and look at that odious hypocrite over there and scum all the way down.

            I genuinely don’t consider Saul the exemplar of this mentality, but I think it’s wrong. I think we can and will get a super-super majority. I think how long it takes (whether it’s minds changed or just people dying off) depends on how the conversation goes.

            And I think it matters because we want more than just laws here.

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  4. Everytime I watch my son gleefully run & hug his Great Aunts when he gets to see them, it warms my heart. Both because he has such a great relationship with his aunts, and because somewhere, some bigot disapproves and is utterly powerless to shove their faith down our throats.

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  5. Franklin Graham is the lowest sort of Christianist culture warrior hack. Most of what little command he has on our attention is because of whose son he is. In the current case, this is not a coherent argument about children and orphanages, but simply a knee-jerk reaction that those Bad People want something, so it must be Bad.

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  6. I mean, despise homophobes as much as anyone, but still, this criticism is illogical.

    Graham has in no way objected to the adoption of institutionalized children. Instead, he objected to the fictional portrayal of such, in a video that draws an association with something good (adoption) with something in his view evil (gays).

    Graham’s point seems easy enough to understand. Let’s flip it. For example, if someone showed a film of white power nazis meandering through city streets being all white-powery and intimidating, but the video showed them as happy and good looking and powerful, and halfway through one of them helped rescue a kitten — well I would be correct to object to this video as advocating a white power agenda. If someone said, “But veronica! Do you hate strong happy people who rescue kittens?”

    Well, I mean, that misses the point.

    Anyway, this Graham person is a shitty homophobe and I hate him, but let us criticize him in ways that make sense.

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    • You’re correct that he hasn’t objected to the adoption of institutionalized children specifically, but rather, in this particular case, but this particular case is what I’m referencing. Graham appears to take great issue with the adoption of institutionalized children by gay parents. He describes this as “promoting sin” and “standing against Almighty God and His standards.” What’s else could be possibly be referencing here? It isn’t just the marriage itself, surely, as that isn’t the thrust of the commercial. It’s about adoption. And in this case, Graham is opposed.

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    • This is a good point,

      But it also avoids how advertising work; it’s nearly always meant to be an appeal to emotions, not to inform. So I’d weigh Graham’s response through that lens; his emotional reaction was disgust at the marriage of two women, that these women were portrayed as responsible, good people, preparing to adopt a deaf child. It was so big an emotion that he moved accounts from Wells Fargo to Bank of America; again probably based on the Emotional Appeal™ of “of America,” without bothering to research their corporate position on the issues that so emotionally offend him.

      He’s not concerned with the fiction of the commercial, he’s concerned with Wells Fargo not exercising its corporate RFRA rights to discriminate, and doing so publicly; and this is most particularly true of advertising, where fictions are nearly always the tool used to generate emotional connections and goodwill toward the advertiser’s business and products.

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      • — Well, yeah. I’m not accusing him of having a well thought out position. Indeed this is raw bigotry, a simple base response to seeing gays portrayed positively. The fact that this was associated with a manifest good, adopting children, only makes it worse. My point is this: saying, “Oh, well I guess he hates adoption” misses the point.

        He hates gays adopting. Obviously.

        And he’s wrong and a shitty homophobe, but that doesn’t mean he hates adoption. It means he hates gays a lot.

        But the thing is, he would hate this advert if it showed a lovely lesbian couple doing many things: being kind to the elderly, petting dogs, cultivating a lovely garden, attending a worship service, on and on. It does not mean he hates those things. It means he hates gays.

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        • I think that given that we know that Graham opposes gay adoption it’s not really that far off-base for Sam to address this screed based on the merits of that view (given Graham’s focus on the portrayal of gay adoption as an example of the changes he is concerned about), rather than taking the acceptance of gay adoption as a signal of broader changing mores, as here Graham is doing.

          But ultimately is correct that Graham’s point here is broader: his problem in this particular instance is the broad change in mores that allows gay adoption to be an artifact that is of value to corporate marketers, not the practice of gay adoption per se (though again, he has that problem, so it seems to me Sam can address it).

          But Sam does go on to address Graham’s larger point, so what’s really the problem? Sam makes the point that all of the particulars (not just gay aftion) of these changing mores ultimately “don’t affect” “Graham’s people” for lack of a better term. Graham can chill out because everyone just wants to be allowed to do their own thing, including an enclave of Christianist dead-Enders.

          And I think that is a correct response. But we should keep in mind that it is a response that has to bear a lot of weight. Graham can run from the particulars, but ultimately he can’t run from the fact that his worldview is going from dominant to retiring minority. At the same time that Sam is right on the particulars, in some basic way that does affect him. It’s a loss of power. It is the loss of a power no one deserves gotten by oppression, but it is still a loss of power. When that happens through a societal change, we should expect people losing such power (the power of being a leading exponent of a dominant worldview, transitioning to occupying a minority viewpoint) to react as if this change is affecting them, because it is.

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  7. FSM help me, but I’m actually going to (kind of) defend Graham here.

    He wasn’t reacting to a news story. There is no actual institutionalized child to think of here. The objection is to the fact that our culture has changed to the point where large profit driven entities feel like it’s a net win to use gay and lesbian couples in feel good ads. Clearly what Graham would prefer is for that ad to have been created but with a hetero couple filling the roles, and to pretend that his reaction speaks to whether he finds it a lesser of two evils that the hypothetical child is adopted by two women vs remaining institutionalized is dishonest.

    It’s actually pretty easy to come up with the gedanken experiment for the liberal/conservative reversed case here. Imagine if things were different and the ad featured a young couple active in the Aryan Nation making ready to adopt a child, getting the future bedroom all decked out with racial pride posters, etc etc.. If you posted a negative response, talking about how f’ed up our culture was that white supremacists were taking over, and that we should take a stand, and boycott businesses that advertise like that…

    Doesn’t it seem like me coming back with “ah HA, you would rather let that poor waif languish in an institution then?” would be kind of a non-sequitur? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t, but it just isn’t what you were talking about.

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    • I’m sorry, but I find nothing dishonest about noting quite loudly that the scenario which gets his goat involves two married women adopting a child. He clearly thinks that this is a bad outcome – he claims it promotes sin, etc – and stands opposed to it.

      To put that another way, I’m not doing his work for him. If he has no objection to the scenario within the advertisement, he should say so, but I’m guessing that he very much does take umbrage to it.

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      • So, to get clear on it, your point is that Graham would rather institutionalized kids remain institutionalized than that they get adopted by a gay couple? (Is that right?)

        If so, I think you have a very good point here. But so do Emile and VD. Seems like you’re taking his views to their logical conclusion (as you, and probably me) see it. But Graham would surely object to that phrasing, yes? His attention was focused (sincerely, more than likely) somewhere else.

        Or you know, maybe I’m wrong about that.

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        • Actually, focusing on this point has awakened my inner cynic/paranoid. How likely is it that Wells Fargo chose this scenario exactly to make the lesbian couple adoption more generally sympathetic? Relying on some subset of the public to have a “well, better adopted by gay parents than living in an institution” reaction.

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          • Emile,

            You might be right about that. I just wonder what Well’s motivation would be to engage in such a subtle form of propaganda. They’re a bank, yeah? Why would they care about (oh, say) foster kids more than (oh, say) gay marriage?

            Or are you saying that they’re using foster kids as leverage to promote gay marriage? Hmmmm…..

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  8. I see Graham’s objections more as an attempt to leverage the feelings of discomfort that some people have with media portrayals of same-sex marriages into increased visibility and fundraising.

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  9. Let’s just stop doing business with those who promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards.

    and then Graham said, ‘Rabbi, tell us your opinion, is it right to do business with these people?’ And Jesus said ‘You hypocrite, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the TV ads for these businesses!’ Graham showed him Youtube clips. He asked Graham, ‘Who’s logo is this? And who’s slogan?’ ‘Well, Tiffany’s and Well-Fargo’s.’ ‘So render onto Tiffany’s and Wells Fargo what is Tiffany’s and Wells Fargo’s, and – wait a sec – how much money do you have? How in the Serpent’s name can you afford Tiffany? Skip the rest of this section and head over to Mark. My Name, man, you’re not exactly a n00b, this is pretty basic stuff.’

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  10. I love (like I would buy expensive gifts and write soppy poetry for) the fact that even a miscreant like Franklin Graham, even in mid-rant, can’t bring out the f and d and q words. He actually feels that he has to say “the gay & lesbian community”.

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  11. See I didn’t read this as most of you all did. Oh, he’s cheesed off about “the gays” and having images of “the gays” on tv and that they are portrayed as “normal” and oh so american apple pie, yadda, so he wants to boycott those advertisers. Nothing wrong with that. As the leader of some about of religious folks who believe like him, he’s recommending that they do the same and boycott. Nothing wrong with that. That people find his views reprehensible, nothing wrong with that either.

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