Billy Graham, politics, and promoting the Gospel

Two weeks ago, Reverend Billy Graham met with Governor Mitt Romney to say that he would do all he could to help him. For a minister who has been noticeably absent from politicking since his days endorsing Richard Nixon, this was noteworthy news.

Also noteworthy was that following this meeting, the organization’s website removed a page that answered the question “What is a cult?” and which included a section including Mormonism in the list of cults.

To address the concerns about this decision, Ken Barun, chief of staff for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said to CNN, “Our primary focus…has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Following the meeting and the comment that they wanted to avoid politicizing something personal like a candidate’s religious affiliations, the association ran a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal where Billy Graham urged Americans to vote for a candidate who would support “the biblical definition of marriage” and that the nation would “turn our hearts back toward God.”

The cognitive dissonance needed to hold these two opposing views is incredible to me.

BGEA states that its primary goal is to promote the gospel or what is often called the good news.

The “good news” that is being shared here seems to be that God is okay with one kind of deviance from the evangelical norm as long as it fits within the political realm that has been deemed “biblical.”

Regardless of what the website now says, it is clear that Billy Graham and his association, along with most mainstream evangelical Christianity, have long held that Mormonism is a cult. The general agreement among evangelical groups is that a cult would be outside of the Christian faith and as a result, the members would have hearts turned away from God.

Even with BGEA’s desire to avoid politicizing someone’s personal religious decisions, they have no problem politicizing someone’s personal relationship decisions. Being a part of what your own organization classified as a cult is something personal, but being a part of a loving, consenting same-sex relationship is something that requires political involvement. One signifies a theological discussion that should be put off for another day; the other signifies a turn from the morals that make America great.

This is not the good news.

From what I can tell, the good news says that God is love. The good news says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The good news is that we are all equal in the sight of God. The good news is that we cannot earn salvation, but that it is a gift given freely.

This gospel can be spread if our president is a Mormon. It will be true if marriage equality is embraced. The Giver of the good news has said that it is not achieved by might or by power, but by the Spirit.

We simply need to acknowledge that the good news is found not in a political agenda, but in the person of Jesus Christ.


photo credit

  • Vicki

    Good stuff Alise. I read somewhere that there was concern that, since Billy Graham was not necessarily behind this (as he is 93 and has advanced Parkinsonism) but that his son Franklin was. I tend to think that may be true, especially since Billy Graham’s history has been to not speak out in this type of way in an election season. If so, that makes the whole thing even more sad and discrediting of a lengthy and good organization.

    • Alise Wright

      Yeah, I’m not sure how much of this is Billy Graham & how much is the BGEA and Franklin, but to me, it’s just a symptom of a greater issue where “gospel” and “anti-gay” are synonymous.

      • Nikki Weatherford

        Exactly, Alise, totally a symptom of something deeper. Anytime our hearts are more AGAINST an issue, than they are FOR love and grace, we are missing it. Great post.

  • Margaret_at_FeliceMiFa

    The dissonance is what really gets to me. I have no problem with any political opinion as long as there is some logic and consistency to it. This stuff just gives me a headache.

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    Holy freaking bombshell… You just esploded two ridiculous things in one post Alise. I join the ranks of those who suspect Franklin of meddling, but either way, there’s no other word for it: “Compromise.”


    It does weird me out that the evangelical-protestant christian subculture, which has spent most of my life making tracts, videos, books and sermons about how deceived, wicked, evil, and wrong mormons are… would rather vote for the mormon over the black dude. My head hurts.

  • Jennifer Luitwieler

    I have been waiting for someone to say this. (cuz i don’t have the guts). Last year, evangelicals scoffed at the impossibility of a Mormon as President. Now? They’re in his pocket like sugarbears. All warm and cuddly and taking out ads in the newsies. I have a big problem with Christian leaders endorsing candidates, and a bigger problem with politicizing Christ. So. Leaves a very icky taste in my mouth.

    • Alise Wright

      I don’t even really care that they will vote for a Mormon. That’s truly not a big deal to me. I just find it disingenuous to say that we don’t want to politicize his religion, while at the same time totally politicizing someone’s sexuality. You don’t want to ACKNOWLEDGE his religion. Just say that. It’s okay.

      • Jennifer Luitwieler

        I don’t care either, except the principle. The issue is the same, in terms of flipflopping and character. They could not abide him a year ago, now they’re willing to change their website to support him. In order to make a pretty little box that lines up with what they say they believe, they’re willing to ignore something that was formerly abhorrent to them. Because they have decided he’s representing “biblical” values. I understand your point is that in the same breath they are reducing someone. I’m simply saying, it’s bigger than one issue; it points to a character that prefers to ala carte things.

        • Miles O’Neal

          Maybe it’s sort of like the Dire Straits song, “Industrial Disease”.
          “Two men say they’re Jesus; one of them must be wrong.”
          “Two men we say’re Antichrist; on of them we must be wrong.”
          I wish they had simply rethought their whole approach to dealing with Mormonism. Instead, it just looks very shady and sad.

      • Jennifer Luitwieler

        I find it odd that they’re willing to suddenly suppress someone’s religion when it seems to be central to their message. Anyway. All that to say, I see what you’re saying, and I’m all in.

      • Renee Ronika

        Narrow-mindedness leaves little room for an acknowledgement of anything.

  • Preston Yancey

    Yes, yes, yes!

  • kalimsaki

    From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi
    Man is such an antique work of art of Almighty God. He is a most subtle and graceful miracle of His power whom He created to manifest all his Names and their inscriptions, in the form of a miniature specimen of the universe. If the light of belief enters his being, all the meaningful inscriptions on him may be read. As one who believes, he reads them consciously, and through that relation, causes others to read them. That is to say, the dominical art in man becomes apparent through meanings like, “I am the creature and artefact of the All-Glorious Maker. I manifest His mercy and munificence.” That is, belief, which consists of being connected to the Maker, makes apparent all the works of art in man. Man’s value is in accordance with that dominical art and by virtue of being a mirror to the Eternally Besought One. In this respect insignificant man becomes God’s addressee and a guest of the Sustainer worthy of Paradise superior to all other creatures.However, should unbelief, which consists of the severance of the relation, enter man’s being, then all those meaningful inscriptions of the Divine Names are plunged into darkness and become illegible. For if the Maker is forgotten, the spiritual aspects which look to Him will not be comprehended, they will be as though reversed. The majority of those meaningful sublime arts and elevated inscriptions will be hidden. The remainder, those that may be seen with the eye, will be attributed to lowly causes, nature, and chance, and will become utterly devoid of value. While they are all brilliant diamonds, they become dull pieces of glass. His importance looks only to his animal, physical being. And as we said, the aim and fruit of his physical being is only to pass a brief and partial life as the most impotent, needy, and grieving of animals. Then it decays and departs. See how unbelief destroys human nature, and transforms it from diamonds into coal.

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  • Miles O’Neal

    Perhaps someone’s grading of President Obama’s version of Pure Evyl[tm] forced them to downgrade Mormonism from “100% Pure Evyl[tm]” to something like “72.7%” Pure Evyl[tm]“, allowing them to endorse the lesser of two evils.

    Who grades these things, anyway? There ought be a seal or stamp or something.
    “This campaign is Grade A Pure Evil[tm] grade provided by the MGTWTNG[1].

    “[1] Ministry for Grading Things We Think Need Grading”

  • Renee Ronika

    “This gospel can be spread if our president is a Mormon. It will be true if marriage equality is embraced. The Giver of the good news has said that it is not achieved by might or by power, but by the Spirit.” Agreed.

  • Charity Jill Denmark

    Yes this whole thing with the Billy Graham Foundation and Romney is so fascinating for me. It’s creepy, almost, that a group of people who are attempting to be hyper-vigilant about orthodoxy are willing to compromise on a central tenet of their orthodoxy (traditional understanding of the Trinity) in order to enforce a much lesser tenet of their orthodoxy amongst those who might not even be in the church. For a group’s priorities to be that strange…it seems to my charismatic side to reek of supernatural blinders, complete deception.

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  • Karla Porter Archer

    I was so bothered when I read this news. You’ve outlined it very well. Thank you.