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Franklin Graham Is Being Radicalized by McDonald’s Before Our Very Eyes

Franklin Graham loves fast food. Maybe a little too much. Just a few weeks ago, the Samaritan’s Purse president and son of famed evangelist Billy Graham was praising Panda Express for serving “some of the best Chinese food in America” which is a just a lot to unpack. But hey, people like what they like. Graham’s on the road a lot, which makes fast food an obvious convenience. We don’t begrudge anyone for their dining choices at RELEVANT.

But there is something strange afoot with Graham’s fast food choices — something he has been documenting on Twitter for the last week that bears a closer investigation. It appears that Graham is being rapidly radicalized into hyper McDonald’s fandom, with a particular zeal for their fried apple pies. Even stranger, it seems at least possible that this new energy for McDonald’s and their fried apple pies was motivated in part by fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The story begins with a brief prologue. On May 12, Graham went to Liverpool as part of his God Loves You Tour, and posted an Instagram photo from McDonald’s. He is holding a drink cup with the Golden Arches on it and smiling the smile of a man content in his environment. “In Liverpool I found one of my favorite places and felt right at home!” This appears to be the first time Graham has mentioned McDonald’s on any social media platform, although the official Billy Graham Association website notes that McDonalds’ burgers were Billy Graham’s favorite food.

But our story begins in earnest on May 18, when Graham shared a story with his nearly 2.5 million Twitter followers about the Golden Arches’ decision to leave Russia, citing the “humanitarian crisis” and “unpredictable operating environment” caused by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “After 30 yrs, @McDonalds has announced they’re pulling out of Russia — that’s 850 restaurants & 62,000 jobs,” he tweeted. “I hope the company’s decision will cause leaders in Russia to reconsider, & I pray there will be an end to the fighting in Ukraine.”

This appears to be the first time Graham has mentioned McDonald’s on Twitter but given the impact of the news, his interest in this story makes sense. Samaritan’s Purse, the humanitarian organization run by Graham, has been active in providing emergency medical care, supplies and food for Ukrainians displaced by the invasion. (You can donate to their work here.) So it’s not a surprise that Graham would be supportive of McDonald’s move.

He was, in fact, so supportive that he went to McDonald’s the very next day. On May 19, Graham tweeted from a McDonalds in London. “They have the best friend apple pies!” he declared, proudly displaying not one but two such apple pies in his mitts. “#QuarterPounder,” he continued. “HappyPlace.”

Nothing especially amiss here. This is a man clearly enjoying his life, and taking time to appreciate the simple pleasures. At this point, we could all learn a little lesson about slowing down and sharing our love of little things with our friends, loved ones and/or two and a half million followers. Maybe it’s a nice cup of coffee, cuddling a pet, turning on your favorite song or, yes, a fried apple pie from Micky D’s.

But Graham’s journey isn’t over yet.

On May 23, Graham was back at McDonalds again, this time in a very different state of mind. He fired up an ALL-CAPS rant, “CALLING ON MCDONALD’S TO BRING BACK THE FRIED APPLE PIE IN AMERICA!” He notes that his first stop in Sheffield, UK was “you can guess where” and detailed his full order, from the Quarter Pounder to the fried apple pie (just one this time, apparently). He is still smiling, but there is clearly a different energy this photo — a dive, a fire, perhaps even an obsession. This is a man prepared to fight for what he believes in, and what he believes in is fried apple pies.

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McDonald’s fried apple pie was introduced to the menu in 1968, along with the company’s iconic Big Mac. It stayed on the menu until 1992, when American locations replaced it with the sliiiightly healthier baked apple pie. McDonalds’ fans in countries like Australia, Sweden and, yes, the U.K. can still get the fried apple pie, but Americans in the lower 48 are out of luck (although it is available in Hawaii locations).

And that just won’t sit with Franklin Graham! He is starting the movement to return the fried apple pie back home to the U.S., and he’s asking for help. “I’ve decided there’s got to be something we can do in the good ole USA to get these fried apple pies back,” he later tweeted. “I appeal to @McDonalds corporate management—bring back the FRIED apple pies! We don’t want the baked ones. We’ll call it the great fried apple pie comeback! Are you in?”

In eleven days, Graham has gone from savoring his “happy place” to calling for open revolution. And who knows where this descent will take him next?

Fandoms are tricky. They offer the fan a sense of ownership and, perhaps, entitlement. We can see it in how quickly Graham got here, and who among us has not felt a similar pull? Graham how now embarked on a journey that may lead to the reintroduction of McDonald’s fried apple pies to America’s shores, or perhaps to bitter disappointment. And it seems as if we will get to watch it all happen together.

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