Inside The Nationwide Tour To Support 'Godly Leaders'
Inside The Nationwide Tour To Support 'Godly Leaders'
The Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelical Christian leader, speaks with NPR's Michel Martin about his 50-state tour to rally conservative evangelical voters.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to take a few minutes to look at the 2016 race for the presidency through a different lens. It's secret that evangelical Christians are critical players in Republican primaries. And one of the key leaders among evangelicals is the Reverend Franklin Graham. Reverend Graham is the son of Billy Graham. He runs the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as well as the international relief organization Samaritan's Purse. Now you might think with his travel schedule that Reverend Graham himself is running for office, but he is not. He is, however, embarking on a 50-state tour to call on evangelicals to, quote, "support godly leaders." So we thought this was a good time to check in with Reverend Graham, so we've called him at his offices in Boone, N.C. Reverend Graham, thanks so much for speaking with us.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM: Well, thank you. It's great to be with you.
MARTIN: I just wanted to clarify again that you will not be endorsing a candidate. That's correct?
MARTIN: And in fact, you're saying you aren't even inviting them to speak at your rallies.
GRAHAM: No. Certainly, we're going to be polite to all of them, but not going to endorse a candidate. And if a candidate came to one of our rallies, they would not be invited to speak.
MARTIN: And why is that?
GRAHAM: Well, because I don't want this to be a political event in a sense that I don't want people to think that I'm standing on the steps of the capitals. And that's where we're going. We're going to the capital cities. I don't want them to think that I'm there politicking for this person or that person. We're not doing that. This is a campaign for God. We need to get godly men and women to run for office, and we need to get the godly men and women out to vote.
MARTIN: How does this work, then? How do you hope that people will express themselves politically because in this country, generally, politics is expressed through two major political parties? What do you suggest that people do?
GRAHAM: I want Christians to consider who they vote for. We look a lot at the presidential elections. And that's where so much of our focus is, especially from the media, but some of the most important elections are the local elections - the mayors, city council members, county commissioners, school boards. How important school boards are - and we need to get Christian men and women running for office. We need Christian men and women not only running for office, but voting and getting behind other Christians that are running for office.
MARTIN: And I take it that your desire for people to vote is motivated by your deep concern. And just - could you identify the specific reasons that you feel so deeply concerned? Is it the question of same-sex marriage and the whole question of legalized abortion?
GRAHAM: Same-sex marriage - no question - is an issue. Abortion continues to be a scourge against this country. It's not just one issue. You can't just say this is the one issue. It's a long list of issues. The sins of this nation are great.
MARTIN: Can I ask you a question, though, about - particularly about the issue of same-sex marriage? And I just find myself asking whether - many people disagree with this, but many people draw the analogy to the attitudes that people had about race in an earlier time.
GRAHAM: No, this is...
MARTIN: And some say that...
GRAHAM: This is totally - listen...
MARTIN: ...This is another issue in which, you know - that those attitudes have changed.
GRAHAM: It's totally - this is totally different. This is - this is God's standards. And just because public opinion may have changed or somebody takes a poll - this is just one of the issues. And it doesn't matter what people say or what people think. It doesn't matter about the opinion polls. It's what God says, and God says this is a sin. And it's a sin against him, and he's going to judge sin.
MARTIN: I - no, Reverend, forgive me. I just have to - you do understand, I have to ask because it's one of those issues where, you know, for example, Reverend Falwell, who is a contemporary of your dad's - Reverend Jerry Falwell, who's a contemporary of your father's, at one point...
GRAHAM: And a friend of mine.
MARTIN: Yes, sir - but also, at one point, called Martin Luther King, Jr. a communist, who felt that. And so there were people who would say that this is an issue in which he was on the wrong side of history. And there are others who say now that this is an issue in which many people who share your views are on the wrong side of history.
GRAHAM: No, but...
MARTIN: And I'd have to ask because they draw the analogy.
GRAHAM: The Bible - the Bible does not say anything about communism, OK? The Bible has a whole lot to say about sex. It has a whole lot to say about homosexuality. And so you can't compare the two and say these are - these are the same. That's just ludicrous. It's just - it's not the same.
MARTIN: What are you hoping to happen? What are you hoping will happen as a result of this tour?
GRAHAM: I don't believe our country will last the way we know it much longer unless there's a change. And we just continue this moral decline going down, and the only hope, I believe, is God. We just hope and pray that maybe he'll hear our prayers and give us some godly leadership.
MARTIN: That was the Reverend Franklin Graham joining us from his offices in North Carolina. Reverend Graham, thanks so much for speaking with us.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.