Franklin Graham and Wells Fargo: Wrong battle, wrong people, wrong issue

Franklin Graham switched the bank account of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association because a Wells Fargo ad featured a gay couple.Reuters

Franklin Graham certainly knows how to generate a headline. The trouble is, it isn't always the right sort of headline.

He was widely ridiculed this week because he pulled the bank accounts of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association from Wells Fargo because it ran an ad featuring a lesbian couple with an adopted child. They were learning sign language because the child was deaf. Graham is opposed to gay people adopting children, once appearing to suggest that they did so to "recruit" them.

The irony was that the bank he moved to, BB&T, is just as 'gay-friendly' and indeed sponsored a Miami Beach Gay Pride fundraiser.

Graham did offer a partial defence, saying that Christians ought to be gay-friendly but that "Wells Fargo went beyond being gay-friendly to being a public advocate – through a national TV advertising campaign – for a lifestyle we, as a Christian organisation, believe to be biblically wrong."

Well, here's the thing, Franklin – or rather, five things.

1. Pick your battles. Most people believe that adopting a disabled child is a good thing. The fact that it's two people of the same gender doing it is a secondary issue, if it's an issue at all. For a major Christian organisation to react to the idea with such uncompromising hostility is a PR disaster that the gospel can frankly do without.

2. Think it through. BB&T hasn't featured a gay couple in its advertising yet, but it's only a matter of time. What then? America has plenty of banks, but the supply is not unlimited – and moving accounts every time one of them does something you don't like is not going to endear you to your finance department.

3. Lose the conspiracy theories. Banks are businesses. They make ads because the ads sell products. If they used a lesbian couple in an ad, it's because they think it will make people like them. The only thing Wells Fargo was advocating is "bank with us".

4. Get real. You cannot isolate yourself from society and live in a morally pure and preferably Christian bubble. All our interactions with people and institutions are both blessed and tainted. Yes, it can be right to pull out of institutions that are fundamentally at odds with our values, but this isn't one of them – see 1 and 3 above. .

5. Be gracious. If you treat homosexual people as the enemy, the enemy is what they will be. Or they will laugh at you, which is even worse.

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