Billy Graham, who died this week at the age of 99, was one of the last public pastors who attempted to remain politically neutral in our increasingly partisan age. Graham’s career embraced neither conservative nor progressive strains of post war Christianity, but attempted to reach as broad an audience as possible, preaching to an estimated hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Graham’s political beliefs were rooted in American protestant Christianity and definitely tilted towards the conservative, but Graham, unlike his son, tried to keep some line between his religious and political beliefs distinct. It was this attempt to separate his earthly and spiritual beliefs that distances him from his contemporary evangelical coreligionists. Evangelical support for Trump was near absolute in the 2016 election, a setback for the country as well as their religion as moral paradigm.
Contemporary evangelical Christianity, by embracing Trump, has embraced a will-to-power that is as ruthless and brutal as any Bolshevik revolutionary. Graham’s passing represents the loss of belief, perhaps justified perhaps not, of protestant Christianity as a neutral force for good in American politics. Progressives must, however, find common ground with evangelicals wherever possible. Perhaps its time for progressives to evangelize, to bring the good news, to red America that there is another, better, way. Georges Clemenceau said that war is too important to be left to the generals, but perhaps God is too important to be left to the evangelicals. Christianity is too large of a religion in America to be ignored by progressives, too much is at stake to cede it to contemporary evangelical Protestantism. Billy Graham may be dead, but the crusade is just beginning.
Former U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush, left, and Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, and former President Jimmy Carter stand together. Graham was a spiritual adviser to each of the men. (Reuters)