There was an interesting Q&A the other day down in the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., with that the Rev. Franklin Graham, the public-square heir of Billy Graham. Graham the younger does not do "crusades," of course, since that is now a very dangerous word. Instead he does "festivals" that focus on evangelistic messages that are even more brass-tacks in approach than his father's sermons, or, at least, those from the second half of Billy's globetrotting career.
Anyway, the interview by reporter Adam Parker touches on at least two topics that are sure to interest reporters covering the intersection of faith and public life. It also helps to keep in mind that interesting discussion of heaven, hell and salvation between Franklin Graham and Sen. Barack Obama.
Thus, we read this interesting connection between salvation and, of course, politics:
Q: While we're on the subject of comparisons ... What about your approach to Christian outreach, service and evangelism is different from your father's? What do YOU want people to focus on?
A: My style is different from that of my father, but the message is exactly the same. It's the gospel -- the Good News that God loves sinners and that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and that he rose again from the dead. He is alive, and he is coming back someday; many people believe it will be soon. To come to God, we have to confess our sins, repent -- turn from our sins -- and by faith receive Christ into our hearts. If we are willing to do that, God will forgive us and cleanse us, and we can have a new beginning and the assurance of being with him in heaven one day.
Q: And, along these lines ... Your father was often seen within the political sphere, by the side of presidents and other world leaders, yet he mostly managed to remain politically neutral. It seems you've chosen to be more outspoken concerning political issues. How come?
A: I will speak out on moral issues. I do not publicly support a candidate, even though I know both the presidential and vice presidential candidates. If a candidate takes a position that I believe is not in keeping with God's standards and laws, I think as a minister I have the right to speak out on those issues -- not to speak against a candidate but the issues. Over the years, my father spoke out on similar issues. In his early years, he spoke out against communism. I don't think I am more outspoken than my father. It's just that the issues have changed over the years.
Graham also stands firm on whether salvation can be found through other faiths, with the specific challenge from the reporter focusing on Islam.
However, the hot story right now -- post Saddleback Forum -- is that "wider agenda" that is now supposed to be driving scores of evangelical voters. This is, of course, all about wing evangelical votes in places like Ohio, Missouri and Florida.
Graham gives precisely the answer you would expect him to give. The key words in all of this? It's "sin."
That's a fighting word in the press. The key to all of this, again, is that the evangelical list of social priorities is not "changing," it's "growing" and "widening."
Q: These days, evangelical Christians are becoming increasingly concerned about social issues other than so-called "wedge issues" (such as abortion and gay marriage). For example, many evangelicals are beginning to advocate good stewardship of the Earth and faith-based programs that address poverty and economic inequities. What is your view on the changing list of priorities?
A: The gospel is our priority. As a Christian, I am concerned about the Earth that God gave us. I want to do all I can to preserve and protect the resources that belong to each of us and to be good stewards of the things God has given. However, the No. 1 message is always the gospel. I believe Christians are making a great mistake by getting pulled off message. Should we be concerned about the environment, energy and other social issues? Absolutely, but the gospel is our No. 1 message because the gospel has the power to save. The Apostle Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Moral issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, are outlined very clearly in the Scriptures. These areas are not even for debate. However, I preach against all sin -- not just some -- and that Christ died for sinners and rose again so that we can have new life through him.
It's a good Q&A. This is a format that works, on these types of issues, if the questions are solid. Ask Charlie Gibson.