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  4. Billy Graham: The Hard Right has No Interest in Religion Except to Manipulate It

This is a valid quotation, and Dr. Graham offers it as he is recalling his interactions with Rev. Jerry Falwell, the leader of the Moral Majority Inc.

“I told him to preach the Gospel. That’s our calling. I want to preserve the purity of the Gospel and the freedom of religion in America. I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. Liberals organized in the ’60s, and conservatives certainly have a right to organize in the ’80s, but it would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.

This quote, which circulate online from time to time, is valid and can be sourced to an interview with Rev. Billy Graham that appeared in the February 1, 1981 edition of Parade Magazine. The article is entitled America is Not God’s Only Kingdom; in the interview, done when Graham was 62 years old, we see his self-confessed “mellowing” in positions that had previous been stridently proclaimed (his commitments as an evangelist, however, remained firm).

Elsewhere in the article, the author offers this:

The Billy Graham who preached that God was on our side during the Cold War of the ’50s wants no part of the Cold War in the ’80s. Thirty years and more than 50 countries later, Reverent Graham has decided that God doesn’t choose countries. God chooses people.

“It was a mistake to identify the Kingdom of God with the American way of life,” says Graham. “I’ve come to see that other cultures have their own way that may be of just as great a value. I think we consume too much, and I think we have become too materialistic. I spend half my time abroad now. I feel that God has called me to a world ministry. I don’t look upon myself as an ambassador of the United Status, as I did at one time. I look upon myself as a world ambassador.”

Early in the article, the author frames part of Graham’s position. It is helpful to know that Graham had previously defended President Nixon, describing him as a “‘close friend” and “‘a man of high moral principles and integrity’ who could not have been involved in any bugging or break-in ‘shenanigans.'” By the time of this article in Parade, Nixon’s involvement in Watergate was well-known.

Watergate was a watershed for Billy Graham. “I am out of politics,” he says now.

And Graham is frankly worried that Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority is not. Moral Majority, Inc., a conservative political action organization led by TV evangelist Falwell, is dedicated to the return of ” morality” in America. Its ” agenda for the ’80s” is pro-family, pro-life and against the ERA, gay rights, pornography, SALT 11 and defense cuts.

“It would be unfortunate if people got the impression all evangelists belong to that group,” says Graham. “The majority do not. I don’t wish to be identified with them.

“I’m for morality. But morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak out with such authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future.”

Citation: Michaels, Marguerite. “Billy Graham: America Is Not God’s Only Kingdom.” Parade Magazine, February 1, 1981.
Sourced from ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Detroit Free Press