The voice of evangelist Franklin Graham, son of Christian media pioneer Billy Graham, boomed across the Arkansas Capitol lawn Tuesday, calling on Christians to get involved in politics.
“Vote for candidates that stand for biblical truths and biblical principles and are willing to live them,” Graham told a crowd KUAR estimated to be over 4,500.
He said failing to do so in recent years has had grave consequences, with secularism trickling down to local governments and institutions.
“Its gone from Washington, it has got into our state capitols, It has gone into our local cities. It is coming to our schools and its taken over our universities,” said Graham.
The Southern Baptist minister and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is on a 50 state tour to promote Christians voting and running for office. In Little Rock, his 14th stop, he said that entering the public square is the way to reclaim the nation and that America “is being stripped of its heritage and its God-inspired foundations.”
“They don’t want the Christian voice. They want to shut our mouths. We are citizens of the United States of America. We have every right, every right to speak up. We have every right to take our faiths into the halls of government,” he said, prompting one of the more enthusiastic responses from the crowd.
Graham didn’t tell the audience who to vote for, or even which party, but he did have some principles in mind. In one of a series of opening prayers, he recited a litany of national sins including abortion, slavery, greed and same-sex marriage.
He didn’t mention President Barack Obama by name, but Graham invoked a criticism familiar to many conservatives who for years have spoken disparagingly about his organizing work in Chicago and the profession in general.
“Have you ever heard the term community organizer? “ Graham asked to some laughter. “We need Christian community organizers, organizing the communities for God.”
Speaking to reporters afterward, Graham said his message isn’t about what political party someone belongs to.
“There are many wonderful Democratic people in the party and there are many wonderful Republicans and there are some bad Democrats and there are some bad Republicans. I’m an independent, I don’t belong to any party,” said Graham. “We need to look for good people, whether they’re Democrat or Republicans. People that believe in God and his standards.”
Danny Duvall traveled from Malvern to watch Franklin Graham. He agreed that “faith and values” are what he considers in a presidential candidate. Duvall said he isn’t sure who he’ll vote for, but “it’ll definitely be Republican.”
For Duvall the rally was more about God than politics.
“The word of God” was also the key issue for Pope County native Trey Ingram, who made the trek with his mother and father. He also appreciated who it was coming from, saying “I got to see the son of the legend.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a number of state legislators were in attendance, as was Arkansas Family Council President Jerry Cox.