Billy Graham and the Last Crusade

At 93, the Rev. Billy Graham knows that his winter has come. He has been widowed for five years, having lost his wife of six decades. He has lost much of his vision and hearing. He can barely move his limbs. Over the past decade, his ailments have included bronchitis, hydrocephalus, pneumonia, pelvic fractures, prostate cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. His once-powerful voice now speaks in whispers.

Yet, with his health failing and death on the horizon, why did Billy Graham intervene in the muddy world of politics?

Billy Graham had nothing to gain, because his legacy was already set in stone long before this election. History will remember Billy Graham as registered Democrat who fought apartheid, fought segregation, and stood publicly with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s. Billy Graham had conducted over 400 evangelical crusades in 185 countries and six continents. He has written dozens of bestselling books. He had dined with hundreds of world leaders and enjoyed personal audiences with every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Billy Graham could easily have spent his final years coasting on his many achievements, and enjoying a well-deserved break.

But rather than bask in his hard-earned popularity, he chose to risk it all by releasing election ads that implicitly criticized the policies of President Obama, easily the most powerful man on the planet. One of the statements, distributed among thousands of churches, read:

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.

Surely Billy Graham knew that he would be criticized as a reactionary by tens of millions of liberal Democrats, Obama supporters, and left-wing Christians. Surely Billy Graham knew that the backlash might lead to multi-million dollar donor boycotts of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. And surely he knew that in the event of a Democratic victory, he might never shake another president’s hand again.

Billy Graham probably knew that President Obama is favored to win the election. Obama is on track to win young voters, college graduates, and minorities by double-digit margins. And looking at the Electoral College, Obama will probably win D.C. (3), the West Coast states (74), and perhaps the entire Northeast (105). Moreover, Obama is likely to win blue states like New Mexico (5), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), and Michigan (16). That adds up to a “blue wall” of 247 electoral votes, which means that President Obama would probably get re-elected if he wins either (i) the coin-toss in Florida (29) or (ii) Ohio (18) plus an extra state or two.

Yet, in the winter of his life, the frail pastor from North Carolina has taken a lonely stand against the President of the United States. Win or lose, Billy Graham will not go gently into that good night.

Whatever one might think of his politics, the old man certainly has courage. Despite suffering from an encyclopedia of ailments, Billy Graham will do until his dying breath whatever his faith requires of him.

He’s not just a Crusader. He’s a Lionheart.

Chris Seck is a 3L. His column runs on Wednesdays

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record. 

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