Friday, August 29, 2008

What Was So Bad About Franklin Graham's Statements?

I know, I know, this is an old issue. But it has been on my mind.

“American evangelist Franklin Graham came under fire this week [early June] for saying he opposed evangelism during the Beijing Olympic Games.

Graham had made the comment to Chinese reporters during his recent trip to mainland China, where he visited government officials, church leaders, and preached to 12,000 people at a Chinese megachurch.

The eldest son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham said he opposed missionary work during the Games because it is prohibited under Chinese law, and he does not encourage anything illegal.

In response, a respected religious freedom activist defended Chinese house church Christians as “law-abiding, patriotic citizens” who are not doing anything wrong except following their faith which teaches them to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“[Christians] cannot and will not [concede] to a ‘faith moratorium’ in order to please an atheistic government during the Olympic Games, even if that means enduring imprisonment and torture,” said Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association, in a statement on Wednesday.

Fu, who was recently honored by President Bush for his religious freedom advocacy in China, denounced the Chinese law as unjust because it asked Christians to go against the teachings of Jesus Christ.

He called Graham’s comment about submitting to the ban on Olympic evangelism “a deep offense” to the hundreds of house church prisoners and their family members.

In China, the Christian population is divided into two groups – those worshipping in the state-sanctioned churches under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and those attending unregistered house churches.

TSPM leaders have publicly stated that foreign evangelistic efforts during the Beijing Olympics are not welcome or tolerated, Fu said. But house churches feel differently.

“To the house church leaders, it’s an issue of the lordship of Christ to the church,” Fu explained to OneNewsNow. “And if the church ceases to do evangelism, is it the true church? It’s a big question.”

Religious freedom has improved in communist China in recent years, but the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) this year still recommended the State Department to keep China on its religious freedom blacklist because of its treatment of house churches and religious minorities not recognized by the Chinese government.

Recent persecution of unregistered churches include the arrest of 270 Protestant house church pastors in December, and the expulsion of more than 100 foreign missionaries last summer – the largest event of its kind since 1954 after the communist government took power in 1949.

Article from

The first time I heard Franklin Graham's statements about Christian tourists in China for the Beijing Olympics, I couldn't agree more--and I'm surprised that Fu is as offended as he is about this. I mean, what could be more harmful to the missionaries already in China than Christians ignorant of the Chinese culture coming in and thinking they know what they're doing?

This is what Graham said, and it's very honorable:

In my work with both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, I want to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of those that are suffering and hurting. This year we will work in more than 100 countries and in each one we are always open and honest about our ministry, that we are Christians and that we want to help their citizens in the name of Jesus Christ.

I support Christian groups that want to do ministry in China during the Olympics. However, I believe we must be sensitive to and respectful of the local church and the impact we as outsiders could have on them. We are guests in China and anything we do or say has a lasting effect on Chinese Christians that will be there long after the Olympics when we are gone. If we intentionally or inadvertently engage in any illegal activity we could jeopardize the well being of these Christians and the church in China. For anyone that wants to review the current laws of China regarding religious activity we have posted this information on

During my visit to China I have been very impressed and surprised by the incredible growth the church has experienced over the past 20 years. Personal evangelism and discipleship is alive and vibrant in China. The church is growing so fast that the greatest need right now is for more theologically trained faculty to prepare the next generation of pastors and clergy.
There is still progress that can be made in the area of religious expression in China, but I am encouraged by the current direction. My prayer is that the church in China will continue to be strengthened and grow. Let us do everything we can to encourage and help the church in China as the world’s eyes will be on their nation this summer.

I'm really surprised that Graham's statments has received as much criticism as they have. Well, maybe not. But I think it's definitely something to think about, especially coming from someone who's actually been to China.I really think that a majority of people criticizing his statements are people who have never been there. Maybe I should heed my own advice--I've never been there either.

I'm not sure what people did during the Olympics. A year or so ago it was said that Bibles would not be allowed, but in the recent months I have heard that they are now allowed. I don't know if people are going to be going over there with the intention of taking advantage of the situation or not. I just think that we should, unlike Putin, observe a cease fire and respect China's rules--not just for China, but for the people who are working so hard inside the country. Let's show China the love of Christ through our lives--and maybe lay off our cultural western-oriented evangelism.