Evangelist and right-wing political activist Franklin Graham announced Saturday that he will host a “prayer march” from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 26, the same day that End Times author Jonathan Cahn and a large group of religious-right leaders have organized an all-day political prayer rally on the National Mall that they are calling “The Return.” It is unclear if the two events are or will be coordinated.
“Our only hope for this country is God,” Graham said in a half-minute video posted to his Facebook page Saturday. On Sunday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association posted a one-minute video promoting the march. The announcements from Graham and BGEA made no mention of “The Return,” although Graham’s sister, Anne Graham Lotz, is on the advisory board for “The Return.” Graham’s march has been endorsed by Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd and former SBC President Jack Graham.
The BGEA webpage for the march asserts, “This is a dedicated prayer walk. Not a protest. Not a political rally supporting any candidate or political party.” That disclaimer seems quite disingenuous given that Franklin is an ardent backer of President Donald Trump and appears in a pro-Trump film that will be released in September to boost Trump’s reelection bid. Last year, when a journalist asked Graham to reconcile his recent op-ed on the importance of truth with his support for the relentlessly lying Trump, Graham repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Trump lies.
BGEA also noted that “COVID-19 put a halt to many of the evangelistic efforts Franklin Graham had planned for 2020, including the Decision America Heartland Tour, which was set for this month.”
During an earlier “Decision America Tour” held before the 2016 election, Graham urged people “to vote for those on the ballot who uphold biblical principles” and to “raise up an army of men and women who are willing to get into the political field and hold to biblical values” while running for office.
In announcing that tour, he made the politics behind it clear:
The only hope for this country is Almighty God and His Son. We can’t sit idly by any longer. LGBT activists, abortion rights advocates, aggressive atheist groups, and others who ignore God’s Word are trying to shove their agenda down our throats. We need to take every opportunity to speak up for biblical standards and let our lights shine.
Graham is one of the many U.S. religious-right activists who are fans of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and his anti-LGBTQ policies. At the Atlanta stop on his 2016 Decision America tour, Graham said that if every city in America had a Christian mayor, we wouldn’t have “evil” and “wicked” policies like LGBTQ nondiscrimination measures. In Tallahassee, he said, “we’ve got maybe one election left” to save America from secularism, which he said had “infiltrated” and “infected our government.” Right-wing pundit Todd Starnes gave Graham’s Decision America Tour some credit for what he saw as God’s intervention on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 election.
“The Return,” which is being described as a “national and global day of repentance and prayer,” is being organized by End Times author Jonathan Cahn and Kevin Jessip, who is associated with Frank Gaffney’s anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy. “The Return” is being heavily promoted by Trump-supporting dominionist “apostles” and “prophets” associated with the pro-Trump POTUS Shield network. Organizers of “The Return” have explicitly connected it to the 2020 elections and the need for God to once again intervene and conservative Christians to vote to put Trump back in the White House.
Others supporting “The Return” include Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, televangelists Pat and Gordon Robertson, Charisma publisher Steve Strang, Daystar Television President Marcus Lamb, the Family Research Council’s Pierre Bynum, former member of Congress and current FRC board chair Michele Bachmann, and preachers and activists Anne Graham Lotz, Mark Gonzales, Harry Jackson, Alveda King, Robert Morris, Carter Conlon, and John Kilpatrick. Gonzales, Jackson and King are all members of POTUS Shield.