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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. tucsand

    Maybe if I saw an actual autographed bible :)

    November 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Jimbob of Nazareth

      I'll autograph your Bible.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  2. Michael

    Reading all the anti-Christian/Anti-Reiigion comments to this article is proof postive that Ralph Read and Billy Graham have not been serving the Lord with their very partisan support of Mitt Romney. It's not that a preacher cannot support a candidate, its that they are on very thin ice when they claim, directly or indirectly, that their candidate is the Lord's candidate.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  3. tongue tied

    Look further.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  4. Moses

    And GOD said: Treat your women like animals, rationalize every bad decision, stick your dick wherever you want, blame it on brown people

    November 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Moses

      Thou shalt not kill...unless it's cool with Charlton Heston
      Thou shalt not steal unless it's OK with the majority
      Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods ...unless you can get 20% off at Target
      Thou shalt not vote for a socialist...unless CNN gives your state a blue color
      Thou shalt not put any above my latest poll of polls
      Thou shalt not
      Thou shalt not
      Thou shalt not

      November 1, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  5. annieL

    If it had been God's will that his people change the government, He would have sent his son to do that. But he didn't. There was not a single Christian in the Roman government at the time of Christ but 2000 years later, Christianity is a world religion and the Roman Empire is long gone. You'd think today's Republican Christians would get the message. It's not about the government. It's about Jesus.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Mark 12_31

      Amen. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10-11

      November 1, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  6. Brian from DC

    Oh come on. Religion is all about power over the masses. End of story.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • MCR

      Even small tribes typically develop a religion. It serves many purposes in society, both scial and psychological. It may no longer be necessary, but to demonize something that naturally evolved in all cultures is to do a disservice to human history.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I can think of at least 5 things that happen in all cultures that are rightfully demonized. If you give it a second, I bet you can as well.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Jimbob of Nazareth

      Uh, let's see . . .

      1. Putting ketchup on filet mignon

      2. Leisure suits

      3. The musical albums William Shatner put out

      4. "Battlefield Earth," starring John Travolta

      5. That stupid lesser god squirrel shithead

      November 1, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  7. Matt

    What do you expect them to do, support Obama, whose policies are anything BUT Christian? Abortion, the morning-after pill required to be provided in health care plans by employers no matter their religious beliefs? Anti-Israel? I don't LIKE Mitt Romney, but what choice do I have?

    November 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Anonymous

      What are you talking about? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of examples of God murdering unborn children. Usually it was with almost no provocation whatsoever.

      Similarly, laws of the time (as explained in the bible) give little to no value to unborn children. In fact, most parts of the bible count a person as "one month or older".

      Read your bible. You clearly haven't yet.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Zed

      Pro-Isreal, anti Abortion are biblical. Helping the poor and recognizing ALL individuals as imperfect beings prone to sin is. JESUS was clear that judgement by individuals or goverments was not what he was promoting in his teachings.

      A few pages of leviticus have allowed the republicans to capture power at the expense of most of the main teaching in the gospel. Of course this itself is biblical that many will be fooled in the end times...

      November 1, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Zed

      TYPO! Pro-Isreal, anti Abortion are NOT biblical

      November 1, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Mark 12_31

      How can you feel confident that Romney would oppose or support Roe v Wade? He's taken positions for both multiple times. As Kennedy coined, "Romney isn't pro-choice, he's multiple choice." You are only seeing what you want to believe if you think a vote for him will re-enforce Christian values in this country. What about love thy neighbor being a Christian principle to support in an administration? I'm pretty sure that was in Jesus' top two greatest commands. "and so my job is not to worry about those people (the 47% who don't pay Federal income tax)" How very Christian of Romney!

      November 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
    • Mark 12_31

      "I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past." ~Ehud Barak, Israel Defense Minister July 30, 2012

      November 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  8. ThunderDome

    The Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson would NEVER put politics before God.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 1, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • It's The "Does Prayer Work" Test!

      And we will see next Tuesday!

      It's safe to say that there is FAR more prayer for the Republican candidates, so let's see if it works!

      If Obama wins and/or the Democrats keep the Senate, then prayer FAILS!

      See you Tuesday night, buddy!

      November 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  10. GOOD NEWS

    Jesus Blood / Jesus Water

    4oz. or 10oz. decorative gold bottles

    50% off sale extended through November!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com

    November 1, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  11. FatSean

    Christianity was a dangerous cult which brought down the Roman Empire. The god of the ancient Hebrews ordered them on several occasions to commit genocide. I put politics before gods.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • A boring history lesson

      No, the Roman empire did not fall because of Christians, nor did it fall because of homosexuality or decadence. It feel because it overexpanded and could not maintain it's borders, nor fight so many wars at once for so many years. The height of the overexpansion came under Trajan, and as early as his successor Hadrian major attempts to stabilize the borders were underway (like Hadrian's Wall, a pull back position). After Marcus Aurelius, the situation accelerated as the following empirors were not as competent as they needed to be at the complex military situation. This was all 100 years before Constantine.

      The fact that Constantine felt he needed to cut a deal with Christians to keep his military strength up tell you how far Rome had fallen already.

      However, once given political power, Christians were a very intolerant and tyrannical force in the last years of Rome.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Highly accurate. Nice post.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  12. Andrew

    The author has it totally wrong. You shouldn't have either one in front of the other because they should be two totally separate things.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  13. Jeffrey Root

    I used to be a Mormon, but I not only left Mormonism, I left all religion behind. You begin to realize that there is no difference in Moses receiving stone tablets from a burning bush than Joseph Smith receiving golden plates from an angel. It is better to be an Agnostic and live your life according to what you feel is right. I base my moral compas on listening to people and finding the good on this Earth.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Cheers, mate!

      Congratulations on discovering that your true humanity is actually the best guide through life.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  14. Moon

    If you talk to invisible people, you are crazy. Hopefully one day, and I know it will be in the distant future, believing any of the things Christians, Mormons or Muslims believe will be a barrier to holding public office on the basis of suspected insanity. Have any of you picked up a science book lately? Have any of you addressed the fact that you take pieces that you like from the bible and damn the rest which makes the entire basis of your religious views a joke? Grow up and be ok with facing the world without "God" looking after you. You'll be fine.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Moon:
      Jack & Jane walk into a room.
      Jane sees 50 people. Jack only sees 25.
      Jack thinks Jane is crazy.
      Jane thinks Jack is blind.

      But the question remains: who is right?

      November 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Well you yourself said that "Jack sees 25". So he's not blind.

      My guess is the delusional one who thinks a person who clearly has sight is blind is the wrong one.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Moon stated, "Have any of you picked up a science book lately?"

      Have you Moon so done what you have asked others to do?

      What do you know about genetic algorithms? What say you regarding Fractal Cosmology?

      Let's talk about these two shall we?

      November 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • SC

      @God's Oldest Dreamer,

      That's gotta be one of the smuggest comments I've heard here. You didn't persuade or argue...you just came off as a pompous jerk.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Russ

      @ anonymous: interesting. so you're trying to end run the question...
      Would you hold the same position if it was a scientist who was insisted the Moon didn't exist?

      November 1, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Sure.
      Scientist Jack says, "I see a moon."
      Scientist Jill says, "I see two moons."

      Scientist Jill thinks that Jack is blind, even though Jack can clearly see (regardless of whether it is the same thing she sees). Scientist Jill is therefore most likely not the sharpest tool in the shed.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Unit

      Adam and Steve walk into an empty room. Adam sees five people there: Adam, Steve, God, the Virgin Mary and Jesus (baby version). Steve sees six people: Adam, Steve, Lucky the Leprechaun, Zeus, Quetzlcoatl, and Truman Capote.

      Christy Brinkley then walks into the room carrying her Abdominizer. She says there are only four people in the room now. Adam and Steve beat her to death for being an atheist.

      Jack Nicholson comes out and tells the moral of this story: Some people just can't handle the truth.

      November 1, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Gary Glitter

      Maybe scientist Jill had been drinking heavily and had double vision.

      November 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Unit

      The Jack Nicholson tells Unit what an idiot she is for losing track of how many people were in the room.

      November 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Russ

      @ anonymous: you changed the analogy to suit your bias. not a very scientific move... re-consider it as it was posed.

      instead of positioning Jane as the inherently wrong one (two moons), take it at face value.
      what would you make of a scientist (Jack) who insisted that while he could see other objects in space, he did not see the moon?

      November 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  15. religionandpoliticsdontmix

    I'm happy that I'm not a religious person can't believe in this day and age ppl still believe in a boogeyman in the sky

    November 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  16. 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 cellularized life formations? 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! Too little are our intellectual abaters

    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.

    Ergo. does that mean dumbness is genetical or is it societal hierarchies being the dumbness from which socialisms are currently adorned and auspisciously bequeathed?

    November 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Austin

      you pray to a mass murderer, a killer of children, and you pray to it still. you should be ashamed

      November 1, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Dreamer

      What I find hilarious is that you have meny non-words in your post, not to mention the distinct attempt at pseudo intellectual thought that has failed spectacularly on your part.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      hawaiiguest,

      Show me and others my 'meny non-words' if one can! You are but a societal dummy hawaiiguest wanting to clamor away your ding-dong!

      Here we go, another reposting so you don't have to wonder aimlessly about,,,,,,,,

      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 cellularized life formations? 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 being just and righteous 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! Too little are our intellectual abaters

      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.

      Ergo. does that mean dumbness is genetical or is it societal hierarchies being the dumbness from which socialisms are currently adorned and auspisciously bequeathed?

      November 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Answer

      Quoting gibberish to defend gibberish. It's so sweet to mock. XD

      November 1, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Dreamer

      Well I misspoke. The foreverness damningly, etc. are not non-words. Still doesn't change the fact that your post is a bunch of pseudo-intellectual sounding (not even pseudo-intellectual) bullshit designed to make you feel smarter than you actually are.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @HG,

      don't waste your time. The word salad here is almost (but not quite) as bad as 'filthy hinduist mullah man'.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  17. tc4012

    "Until quite recently, many evangelicals saw Mormonism as a dangerous cult spreading false theology and dooming its followers to hell."

    This is nothing but an outrageous lie. Shame on you sir.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Russ

      @ tc4012: nope, as an evangelical I can tell you that is pretty much STILL true.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • andros

      Not even remotely a lie. Many people have long considered the LDS church to be a false church, not Christian, and a dangerous cult, and many still do. Sorry if you choose to believe otherwise, but it is simply the case.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  18. fed up

    I wish Jesus would come back already and take you fvckers away.

    Shove your religion down my throat some more why don't you. DIAF would be welcomed at this point.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  19. dale

    There are truly good religous people, But most are as self centered as the rest of us

    November 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Anonymous

      It's another case of 99% giving the other 1% a bad name.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  20. tc4012

    hmmm...did you have this same concern when 95% of blacks and black preschers voted for Obama, or is this concern just hitting you now?

    November 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • tc4012

      *preachers

      November 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • donivan

      Agreed. I didn't see people complain about the economy when it was riding high, but want to blame when it goes wrong. That's the strongest form of hypocrisy known to man. Perhaps the author would be enlightend to know that Mormons don't see eye to eye with Muslims, hence they did not speak out. Until all Muslims continuously speak out against attrocities commited by Muslim extremists, the world as a majority will pay them no mind.

      November 1, 2012 at 10:19 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.