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My Take: Billy Graham and Ralph Reed are putting politics before God
November 1st, 2012
01:43 PM ET

My Take: Billy Graham and Ralph Reed are putting politics before God

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Why are evangelicals like Billy Graham and Ralph Reed stumping for Mitt Romney? And why are roughly three-quarters of white evangelicals inclined to vote for him?

Because politics matters more to them than religion.

Last year, in a talk at a conference on Mormonism and Islam at Utah Valley University, I asked my Mormon listeners why they had not rushed to the defense of Muslims in controversies such as the one that raged over the Park51 project near ground zero. After all, they have been the victims of religious prejudice. Their founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob of vigilantes.

Given this history, I expected that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormons, would feel the sting of anti-Muslim prejudice and speak out against it. But neither Mitt Romney of the GOP nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of the Democratic Party did anything of the sort. In fact, Romney issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic center.

Why? Because they were thinking and acting as Republicans or Democrats first and Mormons second.

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I see a parallel story playing out this election season with the religious right.

Until quite recently, many evangelicals saw Mormonism as a dangerous cult spreading false theology and dooming its followers to hell. In fact, only after Romney showed up for a meet and greet with Billy Graham in North Carolina earlier this month did the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association erase a reference to Mormonism as a “cult."

Did Mormons all of a sudden change their theology? Did Graham change his definition of a “cult”? Of course not. It just became politically expedient for Graham to declassify Mormonism, given the fact that Romney, a Mormon, was the presidential nominee of his beloved GOP.

Ralph Reed, too, is forsaking his theology for his politics, mobilizing his Atlanta-based Faith and Freedom Coalition to place voter guides in Ohio churches in the run-up to election day.

I am old enough to remember when the main purpose of Reed’s Christian Coalition and other groups on the religious right was to put born-again Christians in the Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court. And for decades those who were running those groups saw Mormons as non-Christians.

And don't get me started on Mike Huckabee, who in a recent ad says that a vote for Obama is a vote for your own damnation.

Have LDS Church members repudiated the Book of Mormon as “another testament of Jesus Christ” or their view that the Bible is the word of God only “as far as it is correctly translated”? Have they accepted the Trinity? Rejected their teaching that there are many gods?

As Ben Witherington, Albert Mohler, and many other evangelical thinkers continue to insist: no, no, and no.

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I used to believe that the purpose of the religious right was to infuse American politics with Christian politicians and Christian politics. I no longer believe that. The purpose of the religious right is to use the Christian God for political purposes. Why any Christian, conservative or liberal, can say "Amen" to that is beyond me.

I am perfectly happy to see Reed stump for Romney in Ohio and Graham plump for Romney in an ad in The Wall Street Journal. Just don’t tell me they are doing so as Christians. They are doing so as shills for the GOP.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics • Uncategorized • United States

soundoff (2,430 Responses)
  1. Patricksday

    You cant be so full of Hate and Rage and call your self a Christian, that's like someone saying they worship Satan and are kind of Loving and of service to Humanity. Greed, Selfishness and Materialism are NOT WHAT Jesus was about. Love Love Love and Service to Humanity not Service to Self.

    November 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • truth be told

      Mormons are not Christians.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Stan

      Except when you sacrifice that goat. Then it helps to be pretty aggro and cut-throat.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • truth be told

      Mormons are not Christians ,

      November 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Faith and Country

      Christians are not Mormons. They believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one separate god. They are monotheists who do not believe in three separate gods. The do not believe that the Father, God, is an exalted man and has a physical body. They believe that the Bible is inerrant, and that salvation comes through faith alone.

      These are not just “minor” differences. Christianity is a separate religion to Mormonism. Back in the early days of the LDS Church, they would have been just another heretic sect.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  2. Steve

    Seems consistent to me, the purpose of the Christian Coalition is to support conservative candidates that are pro-life and in favor of marriage between one man and one woman. While they may not agree with Romney on the nature of God they are more comfortable with his political positions which are the ones that matter in an office such as the President anyway.

    November 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • truth be told

      To vote Mormon is to vote anti – Christ.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Greed is the motivator of these "Men of God", you cant have that kind of Fear and Hate for your brothers and sisters. If you cant call them your brothers and sisters YOUR NOT really a Christian, your a Hypocrit of Greed and Selfishness.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      See how perverted that is. You are more worried about keeping Gay people down than helping the poor. Your sick. And your church is sick.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Interesting – so they'd rather have a proclaimed cultist in charge rather than a Christian who separates church and state. False idols anyone?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Steve

      I suppose if I had to choose from between a murderer of infants and a cultist, I'd pick a cultist. I think due to their belief system it is consistent. I think they believe that government is not the best way to aid the poor but personal charity.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Its very arrogant for a mortal to proclaim they can create a Soul and also destroy a Soul by Abortion. Only God can do that, see how silly you Religious nuts are?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Steve

      Destroying a soul and murder are two completely different things.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Reasonably

      @Steve – their belief system is consistent? Mormons think Eden is here in the US and that black people were white people who were cursed until 1978. And caffeine was bad until the Mormon church bought stock in Coke and then it was only warm caffeine. Fun stuff!

      November 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Romnesia

      Romney used to be pro-choice, so, if elected, don't bank on any positions he may have given before the election.
      Also the law of the land has been in place since 1973, so nothing to do with the President, and in case you missed it, doctors not the President perform abortions. Of course if you get your way, abortions will be performed in back alleys using coat hangers and other improvised implements. If you were to succeed in changing the law, you won't remove the requirement. Have you noticed how the supply of drugs has dried up since Nixon set out to stop them 40 years ago? Did you hear how well prohibition worked out? Repealed very soon after.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      Steve, a legal elective procedure is not murder.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  3. Loyal Northern Democrats

    All Communists please join us in re-electing our leader!

    November 1, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Kim Jong Il is dead. Sorry – you're late to the party.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @reasonably

      The dearly departed dear leader! Exactly the come-back I was thinking of. You beat me to it!

      November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Everytime YOU buy Made in China YOU are supporting Communist China. Lets get real clear

      November 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      I always attempt to buy made in the USA products. It's impossible. I still do my best though.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  4. jamesnyc

    Tax Churches. If they want to have a voice heard in the election do what other citizens of this country do. Pay Taxes.

    November 1, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      How are they going to buy all that fancy audio and video equipment then. An spend money on political adds. Wait weren't they supposed to be helping the poor and needy?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  5. Richard

    Why would anyone be surprised that real world considerations would take precedence over imaginary friends and imaginary friend games?

    November 1, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Imagery kind Richard is the political scopes of abatements' leveraging in the tactile approaches regarding symmetries being lopsided for political resonances to outwit their prey.

      Imaginary are the political issues that bend and do sway with the tides of the masses who swing to and fro from the political imaginations of imaginary clues.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  6. Steven

    Would all my fellow Christians out there please help me with this. The Republican Party is recognized as a party that leans more for the affluent. An EVERYMAN FOR HIMSELF agenda. The Bible points out in many places that we are to care for those who have less. We are our brothers keeper? Isn't that correct? And for a Christian for vote for a Mormon is just inconcievable to me. And you act like President OBAMA started the whole abortion issue. If you check your history you will find that ROE vs Wade happened in 1973 and I do believe RIchard NIxon was president at that time, and he was a Republican. Just because we are Christians we have no right to impose our beliefs on the whole of America. We have a right to choose whether we believe in a God or not, and others have the right to believe otherwise, but if there is seperartion of Church and State, why would any person vote for a party who wishes to take that choice away. I don't believe in abortion, but I don't believe I have the right to tell someone else what to do with their life or their body. I also believe that this country still has some racial issues to deal with. Heaven forbid a black man come in here and safe this Country and get it back on track after what Gerge W did in his time in office. By the way, where is George? Haven't seen much of him lately. Republican Party must be real proud. Fellow Christians, I ask you, WWJD?

    November 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Jebus would lay some whoop*ss on all this crazy mixed up hypocritical crap. But then so would Apollo, since he's the son of god. Godzilla would simply lay waste. Anyway. Fun to think about.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Jackie

      Well said. It amazes me how people confuse religion and politics and think that they are one and the same. They really should have nothing to do with the other. If you force your religious views on others through the use of legislation, you are essentially taking away their rights. How is that "American"?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  7. God's Oldest Dreamer

    Legalize all drug use & tax it all would bring in billions if not trillions to the federal economy. Why continue on with a 'drug war' that is yet to work? Damn dumb politicians with their pockets full illicit drug money from drug crime lords. Damn them all!

    November 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  8. lance corporal

    great insight and well put

    these supposed christians are breaking a commandment and committing sin

    it has been obvious that these groups are committing the sin of USING the lords name in vain.
    the commandment does not mean don't scream christ when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
    it actually means don't use god to serve your desires. don't USE god or the name of god or your ostentatious
    "worship" of god to your own benefit.
    yes I know this is common as dirt lately, people using the lords name for their business or to enrich themselves,
    BUT it IS a sin and is clearly in the 10 commandments.
    these groups are using the lords name in vain.. to serve their political purposes.
    they are supposed to serve the lord...... NOT the other way around.

    if you call your plumbing co; jesus christ plumbing (I actually saw that) or using the lords name to advance your political carreer or otherwise taking the name of the lord in vain (meaning without valid purpose or for YOUR aggrandizement) you are a sinner.

    these people in these goups (and huckabee in particular will burn for sure as he is a serial abuser of this)
    will be judged for these action and their false piety

    November 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  9. Moses

    I would bet 90% of you posters wouldn't have the sack to say this &h!t to someone'a face

    November 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      Are you angry because it makes you question your faith?

      November 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Moses

      my faith is in human beings and science not mysticism and primitave stick worshiping

      November 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      Sorry. me too.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Its very easy to stand in your Truth and in the Light, and have the Courage to stand up to these Snake Oil salesman who control their flock with Fear, not the Love of Christ. To me that says they serve Evil not Goodness. Greed, Hate, Fear and Selfishness are the hallmarks of this "Satan" they keep talking about.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  10. Be Ready

    @hawaiiguest

    You of all people, living in the paradise of Hawaii, the play ground of the Humpback whale, the Green Sea Turtle, the fine fish and the lovely songs of the birds. Surely you can see that God in these things.

    God us sung us all into existence with his song of life. His lovely aria lasts and eternity, and none can rival the imagination of the Almighty.

    Even here on our small blue marble, He cares and comforts us. He touches each of us and moves us to be one with him. To share his celestial resting place and bathe in the mist and son of His paradise. On Heaven and on Earth.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Reasonably

      This small blue marble is not alone in the universe. Not to mention your god is one among many. To say yours is the one true god is to belittle the gods of your neighbors. Isn't exclusionary religion fun?

      November 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @Reasonably

      I feel certain that there are countless habitable planets in this, and perhaps many other universes. But one God. How do I know? I visit with Him every day. I visit with you too, but you do not pay attention.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Be Ready

      None of that demonstrates anything about a god supposedly existing. Try again.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Answer

      "I visit with Him every day"

      LOL. You should go visit the insane asylums more. It would help you far more than that delusion you currently have.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @hawaiiguest

      God can not be seen with a microscope or a telescope. Science may find him! But I care not, I feel Him. He feels me. He feels you too, and wants you to knock on the door. We just tapped the keg so why not grab a red cup?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Be Ready

      I'm wondering if you even realize how irrelevant your posts are to the question of whether god exists. You're providing absolutely nothing except for blind assertions. I do not accept your assertions, and stating that you feel him no more applies to me than Greek Mythology does.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @Answer

      Some people must walk alone. Some people must sleep alone. The Lord comforts me when I am awake or sleeping and when I seek Him, he listens. There is a level of spiritual understand one can not achieve without effort. Are you willing to look? If not, then there is nothing I can say. If you are actually interested, seek Him. There are many paths.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Answer

      You touch yourself way too much there buddy.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Be Ready

      @hawaiiguest

      Some would say that those who have found Him are more advanced. The brain is somehow different. I don't agree.

      I think smart folks like you and many (not all) of the atheists on this blog have the ability to seek and find. I think this culture has made you cynical and de-sensitized to the point that you just won't try.

      Try.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Answer

      Try to find Zeus.

      Try not to deny Zeus.

      Try not to reject Zeus.

      Try to accept Zeus.

      Useless religious trolls are just that.. useless at reason and at life.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • cristopher hitchens

      @answer
      Who will you be voting for?

      November 1, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Answer

      Why would you care? A.s.s.wipe.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Be Ready

      Don't automatically assume I've never been a believer. I have. I was very devout until about 7 years ago, when I began actually studying and reading the bible, it's history, and the evidence for god (which there was none). You are not giving me anything I haven't heard already, multiple time. You assume that because I don't believe, I never tried or I never did believe. You are wrong. Do not automatically think things about people, as it merely shows your own preconceptions and generalizations about people.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  11. C

    your history is a little off – the "mob of vigilantes" that killed Joseph Smith were former members of his congregation that he kicked out and destroyed their news paper because it spoke out against him.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Kind of like how Fox News wants to destroy CNN.

      November 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • HeavenSense

      Hi prayer-bot...

      November 1, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Casandra

      Atheist don't fly planes into Buildings. Atheist don't tell other adults what to do in the bedroom. Atheist respect people because they exist and don't have some 2000 year old myth standing in the way of their moral judgement.

      Religion teaches children to be close minded and thoughtless.

      "The Lord is my shepherd" - Tha makes you a SHEEP. dumb and brainless.

      November 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • truth be told

      Atheists have murdered more people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries and muslims follow demons not true religion. muslims are closer to atheists than they are to God. Atheists murder, atheists fly planes into buildings.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      If you walk down the street talking loudly to god, you're crazy, but if you do it in church you're saintly. Delusional is delusional wherever it happens.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Bullsh!t, you lying sack. Have you figured out what a "pun" is yet? How about "gall" and "gaul?"

      Stupid git.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      tbt. You should change your handle, as all I've seen you post is untruth.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • truth be told

      @Itsalla...etc etc
      You wouldn't know Truth if it bit you on the ass.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      When something bites YOU in the azz, Turdy, people will just think you have a cold sore.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • and as always

      Tom tom shows up in left field, lost, without a glove and useless

      November 1, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  13. Professor Jazz

    forget religion. It's just getting old. Don't believe any of those "fairty tales."

    November 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Speaking of forgetting fairies wait and see what becomes of fairies under President Romney. (hint they won't be getting married any time soon) Romney / Ryan 2012

      November 1, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • The Mighty Paw of Dog

      You just haven't felt the warmth of his noodley appendages.

      November 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  14. The Mighty Paw of Dog

    How can Billy call Mormonism a cult all his life and change it at 93 when a Republican running for president is Mormon?
    Billy is a sellout and if hell exists that's where he's going.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  15. Moses

    You are comparing one fantasy to another? Someone's primative belief in a mystical being that controls weather and human fate, to a pandering politician that manipulates that delusional belief for his own political gain? You are all Cave Men.
    And you have the rediciulous audacity to argue about it on an anonomous web posting.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  16. clarke

    Well Mitt's got the money, so that is where these men go, where the money is. IMHO

    November 1, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  17. travis

    keep religion out of politics.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      That boat has already sailed. Moral dignity and righteousness will be found under President Romney. Romney / Ryan 2012

      November 1, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  18. NoTags

    Ralph Reed has only one God and his God's name is $$$$$$$$$.

    If you want to see how rotten Ralph Reed actually is, and the ties between Ralph Reed, Jack Abrahamoff and Grover Norquist watch this Bill Moyers video.

    Google Bill Moyers ralph reed from purgatory to power. The video is 33 minutes and 23 seconds long but is well worth watching.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  19. God's Oldest Dreamer

    Can it be said and also inferred that all of Life here upon these celestial shorelines of life forms resonate from a single celled life form all the ways to massive life forms? Is it 'not' written within the Gospels that mankind is but buildings that are husbanded by the Godly? Do we not labour together with God in our tasks? Who among us can deny our being as God-Heads?

    Nothing is a Foreverness and Matter, in its' infinitesimally established finiteness, is a materialized foreverness unobtainable by us, human-like megaliths called mankind. We are all giants too huge and too vast for us to ever re-enter in wholeness back into the Kingdoms of God which are inside or within our bodies. So many damningly dumb buildings of evolution's ascension into the spatial voids of outward motions sanctioned by the Godly!

    1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

    Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  20. WOT

    These men words should be about the Word of God, only! They missed their chance to win soul for Christ not votes for a man's election.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.