Now Maybe Billy Graham Will Run

Those shrieks you hear this morning are coming from Michigan where in the burgs of Grand Rapids and Hillsdale, author and editors are bemoaning the news that Sarah Palin is not going to run for the presidency. One of the first reviews of From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin at Amazon asserts that the book does not even mention Sarah Palin, as if her insertion in the title were merely a ploy to increase sales. In point of fact, the introduction discusses at some length Palin’s performance as Vice-Presidential nominee during the 2008 elections. But a Palin bid for the GOP nomination in 2011-2012 would have perhaps given more visibility to books with Sarah’s name in the title.

Truth be told, the book devotes a lot more attention to evangelical reflection about the United States and its government than to electoral politics. In fact, one of my frustrations with the interviews I have been doing — most of them pleasant and welcome — is that I have yet to talk about any of the figures in the narrative, such as Richard Mouw, Carl Henry, Ralph Reed, Jim Skillen, or Michael Gerson. I understand the appeal of talking about a race. That’s why people go to the track and play the ponies. But the problem for evangelicals is not simply the possible thinness of the political candidates they produce, but the way that even the smartest evangelicals reflect on American politics, which is a combination of biblicism and moral idealism.

In which case, Sarah’s decision may actually help out the long term sales of the book since she will continue to be a voice that illustrates the weaknesses of the evangelical mind and From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin will be a guide to those defects.

20 thoughts on “Now Maybe Billy Graham Will Run

  1. We should followup to the forthcoming Christ the Center episode with another discussion at some point. I had Skillen in my notes, but we ran out of time! At least we touched on Schaeffer.


  2. “the way that even the smartest evangelicals reflect on American politics, which is a combination of biblicism and moral idealism.”
    I would add a third, because the evangelicals with whom I interact are all about worldview when they discuss politics. It breaks down pretty quickly, though, when you ask them to tell you what worldview tells us about concrete issues other than a few biggies.

    “Sarah’s decision may actually help out the long term sales of the book since she will continue to be a voice that illustrates the weaknesses of the evangelical mind”
    I briefly thought you were referring to me (as in “you talkin’ to ME?”) but then I remembered I’m not evangelical.


  3. I’m halfway through the book. What with the detailed description of how both those on the “Christian” Left and Right don’t get it, I may need Paxil myself before I complete reading. I need to make sure I don’t read this while I’m watching the Phillies play, else I may wind up suicidal for sure. There is a “happy” ending, right?


  4. Darryl,

    To be clear, I agree with your critique of evangelicals in general. Hopefully, my responses in previous posts have not led you to the conclusion that I am a sappy evangelical. If I was, Sarah Palin would have surely changed my thinking.

    I also decided to jump on this post because I need a break from Paxil.


  5. I thought those “shrieks” coming from Michigan were excitement over Detroit knocking off the Yankees last night.


  6. Now that Pastor Jeffreys has excoriated Mitt Romney for being in a “cult” (true but largely irrelevant to the office of President, imho) the “values voters” now seem to be ramping up a full-scale attack – with their theocratic mindset on their sleeves – while mixing important categories and distinctions. I wonder what some of the prominent theocrats in the Reformed community would say about that comment.


  7. Being 5/7ths through the book, I was wondering why theonomists or neo-Cals were not mentioned in FROM BILLY GRAHAM TO SARAH PALIN. Howard Phillips and the Senator or Legislator from Michigan (I forget his name- he was an alumni of Calvin College- not Paul Henry but the guy who ran and won during the late 80’s or early 90’s) could have been featured like Ralph Reed, Charles Colson, Jim Wallis and Mark Hatfield. I am assuming because they were not considered mainstream enough. I think a lot of neo-Cal economists from Calvin College were influential in policy making during the Clinton era. There is no mention of them either. Was there a reason for that?


  8. John Y., yes, I was looking at the mainstream evangelicals as much as possible. I’m going to devote an entire book to neo-cals and theonomists (kidding, mainly).


  9. The word evangelical is so broad and undefined these days that theonomists and neo-Cals could be considered evangelicals-that is why I asked. I hope you do write a book about neo-Cals and theonomists.


  10. Since this is on politics, I hve a question that has been on my mind about Mormons. I have no problem voting for unbelievers, but the Mormon issue is intriguing only because I am somewhat ignorant of some beliefs. I aso remember one or more Mormon’s calling a conservtive talk show and expressing what sounded like a belief in the divine inspiration of the US Contitution with some high ranking leader present; that sounds like problem to me.

    I also think this is a good conversation because maybe we can get around to talking about how pentecostals and charismatics are also bad choices for political office.


  11. Alberto, if you disqualify a Mormon or charismatic, why not a Reformed Protestant or Roman Catholic? It seems to me, no matter what a faith teaches, the holder of that faith may hold public office as long as they meet the qualifications and receive a majority of votes.


  12. I think you may misunderstand me. My thoughts on Mormons arise from I perceive to be a kind of religious connection to our gov’t documents and the possible meshing of religious ideas with the actions of the office holder.

    Same goes for charismatics. I grew with pentecostals, and completely see the possibility of a pentecostal making decisions based on private revelation.

    I am not saying that I would never vote for any of the aforementioned, nor that there should be specific laws which prohibit particular faiths or doctrines with candidates. I am expressing personal concern that I think others should consider on a personal level, if like me they are supporters of a secular gov’t and wish to see the least possible mixing of religion and gov’t. So if a Mormon or whoever is willing to keep their faith seperate from their governance and be willing to resign if a conflict between the two arises, I would one less obstacle for supporting someone. Is this unreasonable?


  13. Alberto, I wouldn’t suspect a Mormon of faulty views any more than a Bible-thumping evangelical. I’m not sure why Mormons, especially ones vetted through the electoral process and who have held other offices, should be more suspicious than any other candidate.


  14. Alberto, Bill Maher who suffers from a form of Constantinianism and over-worries about how Sarah Palin’s religious (Pentecostal-ish) views and practices bear on her ability to effectively govern. I wonder what your worry is about a Mormon and how it might be more warranted than a secularist who worries about a Pentecostal believer governing? And what would be the difference between a Pentecostal making a decision based on an alleged private revelation and a Dispensational showing favor to Israel because he thinks it’s still God’s nation? Both beliefs are incompatible with Reformed teaching, but it’s not clear to me why either would have to resign civil office.


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