hen Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, brought a crusade to Raleigh years ago, I went more from healthy curiosity about Graham The Younger — and because his father was going to be there that night — than from agreement with the fundamentalist, conservative Christianity the Grahams preach.
On that particular night, The Younger proved to be a good preacher, and had some of the same mannerisms his father had used when starting out decades ago. The evening was quite powerful. Some of the more prominent conservative Christians in town got to meet backstage with Billy Graham, which understandably thrilled them, as America’s Preacher — one moniker — possesses uncommon personal magnetism.
Nor is there any doubt he’s a good human being who’s brought a lot of hope to people around the world in his 98 years, a longevity well-earned.
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But one thing Billy Graham has always been cautious about has been politics. Oh, he says he doesn’t endorse candidates, and he hasn’t, though his preferences have gotten out a time or two, and his close relationship with Richard Nixon came back to bite him when White House tapes showed Graham seeming to go along with some anti-Semitism from Nixon. Give Graham this, though: He promptly and profusely apologized.
Franklin Graham, who’s raised his profile in recent years after focusing most of his life on the Samaritan’s Purse organization, is more outspoken, and after years of pointedly criticizing President Obama, Graham now has invoked The Almighty Himself in post-election analysis. We’ve defended Graham’s outspokenness in this space, as preachers on the other side of the philosophical fence make themselves heard all the time. (The Rev. William Barber II being a prominent example.)
The support of Trump from a good number of evangelicals has always been curious, give the president-elect’s shall-we-say colorful lifestyle and comments about political opponents and women, some of them caught on tape. But Graham stuck with him and now ventures the answer as to why Trump is president-elect. Recently, Graham was reported to have said: “Since the election, there’s been a lot of discussion as to how Donald Trump won the election. I believe it was God. God showed up. He answered the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people across this land that have been praying for this country.”
Gotta tell you, that while I haven’t gotten a direct Word from Up Yonder, it would surprise me if those comments didn’t prompt a response from a senior angel of, “Leave us out of this, man.” And then there’s the little matter of the 2.8 million-vote margin Hillary Clinton had over Trump in the popular vote. Do we now know that the Electoral College is divinely inspired? (Don’t get us wrong; we’re not whining. Trump won, fair and square.)
Graham’s welcome to speak up on whatever he chooses, of course, and his work supports some very good charitable organizations. But what if he now stayed away from the political fray for a while and focused on those good works — and for that matter, how about helping a country divided by a bitter election heal by using his gift or oratory? Liberal preachers also might do the same. Now that would be something — Graham sharing the national pulpit with Barber, for example.
Graham’s father recognized the importance of nonpartisan faith long ago, which is why he spent many a night in the White House praying with presidents — both Democratic and Republican.
Apparently, he believed God was a member of neither party, and was registered “affiliated” — with humankind.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org