Billy Graham led a national evangelical ministry through the era of the Religious Right without ever becoming a part of it. Like his contemporary Chuck Colson, Graham’s ministry was never primarily political, focusing instead on spiritual and cultural teaching and boots-on-the-ground service to those in need. Of course, the strength of Graham’s conviction coupled with his widespread influence inevitably resulted in political fallout, yet his priorities were clear: Jesus first.
Now in his nineties, Graham’s influence takes on a different nature. Limited by age and health and the need for rest, he speaks rarely. So, on those infrequent occasions when Graham is compelled to teach, his students strain to listen.
Recently, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took out the following ad in the Wall Street Journal. In just a few words, Graham reorients the Christian moral compass, with true north pointing towards life, marriage, and religious freedom.
Graham will be criticized for this ad. Critics will say he has sacrificed his witness to the Gospel by making a blatantly political statement in the weeks prior to a presidential election. They will wonder why he hasn’t made similar statements about their issue. These detractors are wrong. Sometimes the Truth has political ramifications and a Christian social ethic prioritizes some issues over others. As Election Day draws near, Graham has provided a reminder of what is at stake and how Christians should act.
*Note: To date, Billy Graham has not signed the Manhattan Declaration. I don’t know the backstory or even if he was invited. Given the outreach that was made to Christian leaders, I assume he was and declined. (Many express agreement with the Declaration but choose not to sign, for a variety of reasons.)
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