A Seismic Shift in the Right Direction?

Vote Biblical Values on Nov. 6 reads the main page of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association mobile site.    A banner on the BGEA website leads the person to this page: http://www.billygraham.org/vote-biblical-values/index.asp where the individual or church can choose bulletin inserts or posters with this message or display it via Facebook or Twitter.  The first story of note on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association page is "Billy Graham Welcomes Mitt Romney."  I did a search entitled "Obama" and found a meeting with Billy Graham in April 2010 that was requested by the president. In fact, Billy Graham has met with every post-World War II president right up to the present occupant. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association can trace its roots to 1950.  Its ministry is mostly concerned with spreading the Gospel.  Controversy surrounding Billy Graham has always centered around his broad appeal due to methodology rather than based on politics, denominational differences or other considerations.  In fact, the Billy Graham organization made history when they were ready to pull up stakes at an event in the South because of the local organizer’s desire to separate black attendees from their white counterparts.  Because of his desire to avoid unnecessary controversy and his fame derived from the many worldwide evangelistic crusades, Graham has had the unique privilege of ministering to many presidents from both parties. 

With a new generation often comes a change in direction or emphasis.  Franklin Graham has shown a little less hesitancy to wade into political and religious differences.  Despite his work leading Samaritan’s Purse which ministered even in the Muslim world, Franklin called Islam a wicked and evil religion.  Rev. Franklin Graham was also seen on MSNBC being unable to say that President Obama is a Christian but not having the same hesitancy in regard to Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.  While his father may have felt the same way about President Obama, I do not believe he would have, if history were a guide, allowed himself to be seen as judging among politicians who is a Christian and who isn't one.  In fact, Billy Graham has had conversations in person with both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as noted above.

The most recent mailing from The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association came the closest I have ever seen the organization to endorsing political candidates.  You can read for yourself what the mailing says as the picture above represents that quite accurately as well as what is found on the website of the ministry.  As a matter of law, they have done nothing wrong.  The IRS regulations for tax-exempt charitable organizations are that they not endorse candidates though they are free to speak on the issues.  The American Center for Law and Justice has some guidance on the issue as well.  My concern with the above is not that what they are advocating is wrong but that by doing so they may unnecessarily dilute the organization’s influence as to the Gospel.  Does this become a hindrance for churches and church leaders that lean Democratic to associate with and to participate in future crusades?  Is it possible that this advocacy may lead people who may have been open to a crusade, television or radio broadcast, or a web appeal to receive Christ to instead block it out due to political reasons? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have a Facebook page.  My Facebook page is very political.  It is one of my favorite hobbies in which to engage.  However, I also have this blog and a church Facebook page, neither of which is political in nature.  I think if Billy Graham or Franklin Graham had done something similarly, they could argue, “Look, I have the right to express my opinion as a private citizen.  I don’t lose that right because I am quote, ‘a man of the cloth.’  Individual Americans can express themselves freely and openly as I do and they should.  However, our ministry is open to all who will allow us to come. We do and will minister to both Democrats and Republicans, presidents and the common citizenry, alongside Roman Catholics and Protestants.  That has been our stand and it will continue to be.  The Gospel is ‘whomsoever will may come.’” 

An update on this story in Franklin Graham's reaction to the election results:  http://www.christianpost.com/news/franklin-graham-u-s-on-path-of-destruction-84559/

Again, I think that this is the wrong direction for the Grahams and their ministries and it will hurt their ministries (The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse) profoundly.  It's not necessarily that they are wrong but that their ministries transcend politics and denominations.  I think the damage that they are doing outweighs the potential good of one presidential election cycle. If their ministries were more prophetic in nature, then this would be a natural recourse for them.  However, one is primarily evangelistic and the other emergency relief in the name of Jesus.  Suffice it to say that I hope that I am very wrong on the negative impact to come.  

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