ORLANDO, Fla. — Evangelist Franklin Graham warned Christian broadcasters of a “coming storm” of demonic criticism that could cancel their cloud data storage and bank accounts, key elements of business and ministry in the digital age.
In recent years, sudden closures of bank accounts and terminations of other critical services have plagued some conservative organizations, both secular and religious. For example, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, founded by a former Kansas senator and governor, Sam Brownback, had its Chase bank accounts shut down without explanation last year.
Mr. Graham, who heads the international relief charity Samaritan’s Purse, said he’s had to take steps to avoid being “canceled” on short notice, addressing the National Religious Broadcasters convention Monday evening.
A rising tide of “wokeness” could sweep over evangelical ministries that broadcast the Gospel message and call out sinful behaviors, said Mr. Graham, who also leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, founded by his late father.
“I believe there’s a coming storm that we’re all going to [have to] be ready for,” he told the audience of about 2,000 attendees. “It’s not going to be good. The world is deteriorating so quickly. It seems like every demon in Hell has been turned loose.”
Mr. Graham, 70, told his audience about the growth of Samaritan’s Purse, where he became president at age 28. He said donor records were kept on file cards in the early years of his tenure, then on a small computer system. Now ministry data resides in the cloud.
But large corporations such as Amazon “own the cloud” and can cancel service abruptly, he said. When he asked how many organizations at the convention use Amazon Web Services, hands shot up throughout the crowd.
“If you can’t store your data and you can’t retrieve your data, your organization is not going to last much longer,” he said.
Mr. Graham said cancellation could happen to any organization sharing the Christian message.
“Now, if you don’t preach the Gospel, you don’t have anything to worry about,” he said. “If you’re not going to talk about sin, you don’t have anything to worry about. But if you’re going to try to preach and proclaim the Gospel, they’re going to try to shut you up.”
That’s why Samaritan’s Purse built its own data center in Colorado, so it could keep operating without worrying about an external supplier, he said.
“We built it big enough so that we can help other organizations if they want to store their data there, too,” Mr. Graham said.
After the initial publication of this article, Amazon Web Services contacted a reporter to dispute Mr. Graham‘s characterization.
Via email, an AWS spokesperson said that “it’s not true to claim that AWS discriminates based on customer viewpoints. In fact, AWS provides services to millions of customers across the political, business, and ideological spectrum.”
Samaritan’s Purse also had to find new banking partners when the North Carolina-based bank it had used for years canceled accounts for the Family Research Council, Mr. Graham said. The bank’s president reversed the cancellation, blaming “junior staffers” for the move, he added.
“Guys, listen,” Mr. Graham told the audience, “those junior people — guess what — are gonna be in the next five or 10 years the senior people.”
The evangelist said those who are offended when Christians call the LGBTQ lifestyle a sin “are coming out about universities, and they’re going into businesses and now they’re getting into [corporate] leadership,” where they can cancel groups they oppose.
Mr. Graham told the audience to prepare their organizations to operate amid cancel culture. Samaritan’s Purse, he said, self-insures its cargo aircraft — including a 1969-vintage Douglas DC-8 with 98,000 flight hours — over concerns commercial insurance might be unobtainable.
“Just don’t sit there on your hands and let the storm hit. And then have this look on your face like I didn’t know that was coming. I didn’t see that coming. You’d better see it coming. The world hates us, and Jesus told us the world hated me first and they’re gonna hate you,” Mr. Graham said. “If you stand for Christ, the world hates you.”
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at email@example.com.
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