Our Pennsylvania correspondent sent an email with the poster (the image used here) attached. The text, which appears with a close-up of Billy Graham, old but still looking good, runs as follows:
The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren, and this great nation is crucial. As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
Graham, who has always been vulnerable for consorting with Republican presidents and presidential candidates, threatens to go out of this mortal life with another questionable. This advertisement comes in various formats and can be downloaded and printed for bulletin inserts, bulletin boards, and is even filling up billboards. It also follows on the heels of news that Graham met with Mitt Romney and that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has removed Mormonism from its list of cults, which would appear to make safe the way of Graham’s endorsement.
Since Graham has a complicated (at best) relationship with presidents and has exhibited (in all about my estimation) a remarkable naivete about U.S. politics, I am not inclined to conclude, as some have, that Graham may be ruining his legacy. As a preacher of fairly crass decisionism, Graham has not impressed this “vinegary Old School Presbyterian” (how one colleague puts it) as having made the greatest contribution to Protestantism. I have admired his ability to avoid the kind of personal failings that seem to go with the baggage of itinerancy. It is also hard not to be impressed by the longevity and strength of his organization. At the same time, since Graham has a history of sidling up to political candidates — without apparently considering whether he is actually the one being used — I am not going to throw a flag or raise a card. Billy is what he is.
But the language used in this poster does deserve some comment. First, support for the nation of Israel may be a responsible foreign policy for U.S. presidents, but it hardly follows from the teaching of Scripture since the church, which transcends national borders, is the new Israel. But old habits of dispensational premillennialism die hard. Second, biblical teaching on marriage is hardly a uniform call to the God vote since Protestants and Roman Catholics have pretty different understandings of the relations between man and wife, at least whether marriage is a sacrament, not to mention the kind of instruments spouses may use to enhance or restrict the fruit of their womb. And that leads to the third problem in Graham’s message — how would he or his supporters feel if Muslims sponsored billboards that called upon Americans to vote for candidates who upheld marriage as defined by Sharia Law?
Rather than clarifying dilemmas confronting voters, the introduction of religion only makes matters more confusing. That’s not to say that deciding on a candidate in this election should be all that hard. Looking at the political philosophies of both parties, instead of their religious affirmations, should provide a clear choice. Then again, those FroPo Cons have a habit of making even a simple political decision difficult.
On the bright side, at least one of the figures identified in my book is making a splash this electoral season. Thanks for nothing Sarah.