Is Billy Graham getting political? That’s what some are wondering with the release of a statement from the man who is arguably the best known evangelist in the world:
I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who support the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
The statement is notable because the 93-year-old preacher has steered clear of politics during his long and illustrious career.
Graham is informally called the “Pastor to Presidents,” because he has met with every sitting president since Harry S. Truman. Many, including Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton sought his counsel, and he has enjoyed a close relationship with the Bush family.
Some even speculate that Graham has been a resource for both parties because he avoids, and maybe even transcends, politics. It’s undoubtedly true Graham has tried to stay out of the political arena.
For example, on his website, in response to a question about why he does not speak out more on political issues, Graham offered the following answer:
Over the years, I have tried to avoid getting involved in partisan politics -- and on those few occasions when I may have stepped over the line (at least in some people's view), I regretted it later. As an evangelist, my calling has been to preach the Gospel to as many people as possible, and I have always wanted to avoid putting up any unnecessary barriers…
Graham cultivated this philosophy over nearly 70 years of ministry, which makes his recent words even more startling.
So is Billy Graham getting political? The answer is “no.” Rather, he is getting biblical.
The Bible identified these as moral issues long before the political experiment we call “America” even came into existence. It is politics that has expanded into the realm of morality, and not vice-versa.
People who have followed Graham’s career should not be surprised by this. When an issue is about morality and doing what is right before God, Graham has not shied away.
For example, his Christian beliefs catapulted him into the civil rights movement in America. When he noticed his crusades were often segregated, Graham took steps to combat what he saw as clearly wrong. On one occasion, in 1953, he tore down ropes that organizers had used to segregate the audience, and increasingly spoke against the practice. In 1957, he invited the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join him in the pulpit during a 16-week revival in New York City. And when King was arrested in Birmingham in 1963, Graham posted bail for him.
As he did back then, Graham is speaking on moral issues of the day—except this time around, the issues are the sanctity of life and the preservation of the true definition of marriage.
He is not poking his finger in anyone’s eye or calling names; that has never been his style. But Graham understands that these are moral issues, about which the Bible speaks clearly, and also sees how radical efforts to redefine marriage harm religious freedom. And he has undoubtedly seen the cases brought against people of faith for not embracing the new and surprisingly intolerant message of “tolerance.”
Traditional religious faith, with its notions that certain behaviors separate us from God (dare we say “sin”?), are now the wrong answer and no longer a view to be tolerated.
Graham’s religious beliefs, shared by many, have not moved. Instead, the radicalized politics of moral issues have become a battering ram against his beliefs.
So take heart; Billy Graham is not getting political. He is speaking with clarity on the profound moral issues at stake in this election, and the voice that has counseled presidents, world leaders, and so many millions, is now happily speaking to our nation again.