Billy Graham has always been one of my heroes. Not because he was perfect; he certainly crossed the line from pastor to politician, but he also owned those failings. A few years ago Graham told Christianity Today that:
I also would have steered clear of politics. I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.
I was somewhat shocked last Friday when on a flight from San Antonio to Denver, I came across a full-page ad from Billy Graham in USA Today:
On November 6, the day before my 94 birthday, our nation will hold one of the most critical elections in my lifetime. We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake. I strongly urge you to vote for the candidates who support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman, protect the sanctity of life, and defend our religious freedoms. The Bible speaks clearly on these crucial issues. Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back towards God. (USA Today, October 19, 2012)
This ad does not sound like the Billy Graham who was regretful of crossing the line. What bothers me even more is that one of the most influential evangelical Christian leaders of the modern era has managed to reduce the Christian faith to a few political sound bites.
What about poverty, health care, violence, sexual abuse and education? Why isn’t anyone talking about a prison system that incarcerates men of color at substantially higher rates then Anglos? Is anyone questioning the military budget? Aren’t these Christian issues as well? Aren’t these concerns that should influence how we vote?
A former slogan of the Mennonite Church was “the Whole Gospel for the Whole World,” I like what this communicates. If Christians are going to spend money trying to influence this election it would be nice if they took the whole of Scripture seriously.