Has Billy Graham Suddenly Turned Political?
The increasing acceptance of homosexuality as a normal variant rather than a deviant choice is obviously troubling to many people, but it is difficult to understand why they appear to be even more threatened by the specter of homosexuals wanting to form stable, legal families. And given the relative weight assigned to themes in the Bible, how did economic injustice and concern for the poor lose out to homosexuality as the causes for which "values voters" should be most concerned?
Because of Billy Graham's reentering the political arena "out of due season" and focusing on a topic that was never central to his ministry when he was active, some have suspected that Franklin Graham has steered his father in this direction, perhaps against his will or at least without full enthusiasm. Skeptics, notably including former BGEA employee and Billy Graham admirer Steve Knight, wonder if Billy Graham actually even made the pro-Romney statements attributed to him or had much to do with the advertising campaign.
Franklin Graham is said to have turned away reporters seeking direct confirmation or clarification from Billy Graham himself, on the grounds that his father's infirmities make that impossible. They do not, however, make half-hour visits with presidential candidates impossible. Louisville Courier-Journal veteran religion writer Peter Smith has suggested that Billy Graham's legacy will be best served, or at least the record set straight on the matter, if a small group of trustworthy reporterswere permitted to spend a few minutes with the revered evangelist, "conducted with whatever reasonable accommodations are needed for his deteriorated health and hearing." Without posing any threat or burden on Billy Graham, they should be able to determine the extent of his participation in and commitment to the efforts to make same-sex marriage a determining issue and Governor Romney the only presidential candidate a Christian can support in this election.
As a biographer who has closely tracked Billy Graham's career for more than 30 years, this strikes me as an excellent idea. If requests for direct communication with Billy Graham continue to be declined, then perhaps we can decide, as one person who has followed his ministry even longer than I has put it, "to remember him as he was for most of his ministry."
The Statements Certainly Reflect the BGEA
Michael S. Hamilton is chair of the history department at Seattle Pacific University.
Billy Graham has long been a registered Democrat and has supported politicians on both sides of the aisle. In the 1980s and 1990s, he declined to embrace the Religious Right. The exposure of Richard Nixon's corruption made Graham wary of future involvement in political partisanship, and he privately warned leaders of the Religious Right to stay away from politics.
His son Franklin, however, has had close relations with leaders of the Religious Right, and has been much more willing than his father to openly identify with their agenda. In the 1990s, Franklin and his father began working together more closely, with Franklin becoming CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in 2000. That same year, Franklin shepherded his father into a meeting with George W. Bush where the elder Graham all but endorsed the Republican candidate.