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.