The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, now led by Billy Graham’s right-wing-activist son Franklin Graham, has turned the October issue of its “Decision” magazine into a virtual 38-page campaign brochure for President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Franklin Graham hosted a “prayer march” on the National Mall on Sept. 26, the same day a group of End Times “prophets” hosted a rally calling for national repentance and revival.
The over-the-top propagandistic tone is set on the cover, which features a heroic image of Trump and a photo of Democratic presidential Joe Biden caught with a lost puppy look on his face.
Franklin Graham introduces the issue with a column under the headline, “Blessed in the nation whose God is the Lord,” a scriptural quote used often by Christian nationalists who insist the U.S. must “return” to God. Graham describes the Trump presidency as a “wonderful season of progress for the cause of religious freedom and the moral and Biblical values we hold dear,” and he warns that if Trump loses, all that “wonderful” progress could be quickly and permanently reversed.
The magazine warns that religious freedom is on the ballot, asking, “Will Christians remain free, or will the government impose a godless, immoral social agenda upon them?”
Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, contributes a “What’s at Stake” column. “In 2020, America’s Christians must realize that our two political parties represent two radically different visions of the nation and its future, two different understandings of the role of government, two very different ways of reading the U.S. Constitution and even two different moralities,” Mohler writes.
For the record, millions of Christians don’t share Graham and Mohler’s outlook. More than 1,600 faith leaders have endorsed Biden. Among groups active in Biden’s campaign are Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden and Catholics for Biden.
Mohler’s catalogue of issues is predictable. He rails against legal abortion and claims that the nation is “confronting the reality of legal infanticide.” He claims government has a responsibility to respect marriage only as the union between a man and a woman. He calls the movement for LGBTQ equality “a revolt against human nature.” He claims that the Democratic Party’s support from secular Americans means that “America’s cherished First Freedom is at stake in this election.” And he says the future of the federal courts is at stake, warning that progressives have tried to “transform the courts into engines of moral and cultural revolution.”
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association turns to legal giant Alliance Defending Freedom for a column on religious liberty. ADF is a leader of the religious right’s effort to redefine religious liberty into a culture-war weapon to resist legal equality for LGBTQ people. In their column, ADF’s Kristen Waggoner and Jessica Prol Smith praise the Trump administration for aligning with ADF on religious liberty issues and judicial nominations.
Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, devotes a column to the court. Written before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the column said the 2020 election is a chance for conservatives “to solidify the high court for decades to come” and ensure “a judiciary returning to the original language of the Constitution.”
Anti-choice activist and POTUS Shield member Alveda King contributes a column on abortion. She lavishes praise on Trump administration actions to restrict access to legal abortion and dramatically expand the scope of the “global gag rule” to ban any U.S. foreign aid funds from going to groups that support access to abortion. She, too, weighs in on the courts, praising Trump for placing “pro-life” justices on the Supreme Court and appointing more than 200 federal judges, adding,[[.]] “Most of these jurists are young people whose lifetime appointments will offer protection from the Democrat-appointed activist judges who have perverted our Constitution for decades.”
Trump adviser Johnnie Moore devotes a column to praising the Trump administration’s support for international religious freedom; he acknowledges that the Obama-Biden administration appointed an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, but he claims the Obama administration was too “cautious” in advancing those values.
Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, contributes a column that says the American family is under attack and calls for “restoring God’s Biblical blueprint for the family.” Rodriguez told Latino evangelicals in 2016 that getting an anti-abortion court was more important than immigration or other issues. He portrays himself as a supporter of “the Lamb’s agenda”—the ”Lamb” referring to Jesus—and has helped the Koch brothers’ Libre Initiative promote the idea that the Bible supports right-wing economic policies. In his “Decision” column, he wrote, “The Lamb’s agenda leads us to reject socialistic and communistic ideals that threaten personal freedoms and to speak Biblical truth to our culture and our leaders.“
The magazine includes an article on the “Biblical foundation for proper political engagement,” which is excerpted from The Family Research Council’s “Biblical Worldview Series” by FRC’s David Closson. When American Christians vote, Closson writes, “they are delegating their ruling authority to others” and therefore, “failure to vote is a failure to exercise God-given authority.” Closson writes that Christians “must engage Biblically,” adding, “This requires that we be prepared to grapple with the moral issues of our day, the reality of our two-party system, and follow our Christian convictions to their logical end by voting for candidates and parties that support clear Biblical values.”
Anti-LGBTQ activist and author Michael Brown contributes a column claiming that LGBTQ activists and others on the “radical left” seek to marginalize and intimidate Christians, by violence if necessary. Brown praises Trump administration judicial nominees and Attorney General William Barr’s support for churches resisting state public health restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The magazine ends with “America at the Crossroads,” an article bylined by the late Billy Graham. While the magazine doesn’t explain its origin, a tiny indication at the end of the article says it was copyrighted by BGEA in 1958. In that 1958 article, Graham drew a parallel between the decline of the Roman Empire and the situation of the U.S. In railing about the decline of “a nation once dedicated to the worship of God and the pursuit of the Christian life,” he wrote, “We cannot believe that a person can be happy without a refrigerator or a television. We cannot believe that there are moral and spiritual principles more important than even a plate of food.” (These comments call to mind historian Kevin Kruse’s reporting that Billy Graham was among corporate titans who recruited religious leaders to evangelize on behalf of unrestricted capitalism. Kruse noted that Graham told revival attendees that the Garden of Eden was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.”)
The magazine includes a staff-produced side-by-side guide to the Republican Party and Democratic Party platforms and positions on the same issues addressed in its columns, along with national defense, economic empowerment, sexual orientation and gender identity laws, and Israel. It also includes a brief report on congressional and state races, noting House Democrats’ resistance to religious-right legislation, state legislatures’ role in congressional redistricting, and the Republican Senate’s role in confirming Trump’s judicial nominees.