Sunday, January 30, 2011

COMMENTARY: Billy Graham's New Perspective on Religion and Politics Is Correct

American evangelist Billy Graham -- considered by many people to be the greatest evangelist of the 20th century -- last week acknowledged publicly for the first time that he now regrets he crossed the line between ministry and politics.

Graham, 92, has met and prayed with every American president -- from Harry Truman to Barack Obama -- during the past six decades.

Last week, Graham said, "Looking back, I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now. I would have steered clear of politics."

This change of venue in Graham's religious philosophy regarding politics brings to mind the presidency of Richard Nixon. In 1968, Graham said he was voting for Nixon for president.

Graham became a regular visitor at the White House after Nixon's victory in 1968, offering advice and leading services for the Nixon family. In fact, Nixon and Graham became so friendly that Nixon offered Graham the post of ambassador to Israel, but he turned it down. Graham, in turn, invited Nixon to become the first president to speak at one of his rallies.

But Watergate strained their ties, as Nixon was forced to resign in 1974. Moreover, Nixon tapes that were declassified in 2002 showed Graham referring to Jews in disparaging terms in conversations with Nixon -- a revelation that proved to be very embarrassing to Graham.

Today, Graham feels sorry for having been so involved in the political arena. The fact is that Graham really should have concentrated on his role as an evangelist -- not also a political expert -- over the years, and let the politicians deal with politics.

On the other hand, Graham was perhaps the most loved and listened-to evangelist of our time. Graham had an unsurpassed charisma that attracted many thousands of people whenever and wherever he spoke.

Graham says he is amazed and grateful at the global success of evangelical Christianity. But humble as he is, Graham credits God entirely for evangelical Christianity's incredible growth and success.

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