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November 16, 2012 12:58 PM Elijah, Ahab, Obama, and the Call For a New Falwell

By Ed Kilgore

Supplementing the growing conservative fascination with “missing white voters” who cost the GOP the 2012 elections (and whose return, it is implied, could mean better GOP performance among minorities would be unnecessary), there’s a sub-meme developing in Christian Right circles. It holds, without any particular evidence, that once again, “Christians” didn’t achieve their voting potential, which means a better mobilization of that segment of the electorate could produce future victory without GOP compromises on Culture War issues.

Check out this partial transcription of an interview of Franklin Graham by CBN’s David Brody:

David Brody: What is your message to folks who are wondering what just happened, and it looks like they feel a semi hit them?
Rev. Franklin Graham: We know that from of the statistics that I’ve heard that the majority of Christians in this country just did not vote for whatever reason. The vast majority of evangelicals did not go to the polls.
Graham: God is in control, and if Christians are upset, they need to be upset at themselves. We need to do a better job of getting our people - the Church - to vote. Now, I’m not trying to tell you how to vote, you can vote, but vote, my goodness, and vote for candidates that stand for Biblical values.

The transcript does not include a fascinating passage wherein Graham compares Obama-fearing evangelicals to the prophet Elijah fleeing from Ahab (husband of Jezebel), failing to understand initially that the Lord’s Hosts had been weakened by the failure to mobilize Jews who had refused to “bend the knee to Baal.” There’s also a characteristic identification by Graham of people who “believe in God” with those who “accept God’s statutes,” which in Christian Right terms means the whole right-wing agenda.

In a separate segment of the interview posted later, Graham tells Brody this:

We need someone like a Jerry Falwell to come back and resurrect the moral majority movement where you get people that have a moral background who are willing to come together and vote for moral issues that are important to this nation. If that would take place, we would see a great change in this country, but our country is in trouble. It’s in trouble spiritually. We’ve turned our back on God.

Just remember this little data point next time you hear that the Christian Right is disbanding and turning to more spiritual activities. Their leaders really don’t recognize the distinction between the spiritual and the political, and they will show amazing persistence in keeping up the fight against “Baal-worshipers.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • T2 on November 16, 2012 1:03 PM:

    I notice the crackpot Graham didn't suggest that Evangelicals stayed at home because the Conservative candidate was a Mormon cult member. If memory serves, that was one of the early drawbacks to a Romney candidacy.
    But the crackpot Graham could have saved us all a lot of trouble understanding his screed if he had simply substituted the word "white" for the word "Christian", 'cause that's what this is about, folks.

  • CharlieM on November 16, 2012 1:17 PM:

    So am I to understand that Graham defines Christians as people who didn't vote for Obama? After all, we know those who voted for Obama certainly went to the polls. Those were all non-Christian?
    I suspect a good number of those "evangelical" voters ignored bigots like Graham and, like their Catholic brothers, decided to vote for that Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist fellow.
    I personally know one conservative evangelical Lutheran that voted for him (or at least claims to have).

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on November 16, 2012 1:22 PM:

    Rev. Franklin Graham: We know that from of the statistics that Iíve heard that the majority of Christians in this country just did not vote for whatever reason.

    Um, does he really mean to say that of the 122 million eligible citizens who voted in this election, few of them were Christian???

    A little presumptuous, aren't we, to assume that those who did vote weren't sufficiently Christian... Unless he means that everyone who voted for Obama was Muslim and everyone who voted for Romney was Mormon (who may or may not be real Christian).

  • Peter C on November 16, 2012 1:22 PM:

    I agree with @T2; I think the Evangelical turnout was somewhat less because of an enthusiasm gap for the Mormon bishop. They can't admit that publically, because the Democrats didn't make Mitt's mormonism an issue, but I suspect it made a difference. I wonder if the same enthusiasm gap would have existed with a Catholic "papist" candidate.

    The idea that the 'majority' of Evangelicals didn't vote is absurd and shows that Graham lives in a fantasy world. Yes, a smaller proportion may have voted than in the past, but less than half???

  • JMG on November 16, 2012 1:24 PM:

    Dear Ed: The point isn't that the Christian right is somehow going to stop trying, it's that they're losing more elections than they win at an increasing pace of failure.

  • CharlieM on November 16, 2012 1:25 PM:

    Oh, and Franklin (can I call you Franklin?),
    I'd be willing to suggest that in this last election that moral voters DID show up and vote.
    -They voted for women having control of their own health choices.
    -They voted for GLBT citizens having equal rights that the rest of us have.
    -They voted for taking care of the less fortunate among us and against gilding the plate of those already well off (something your own God tends to emphasize in that book you revere)
    Yup. Moral voters did show up to vote. That why we won and why you and your ilk lost.

  • FriscoSF on November 16, 2012 1:28 PM:


    Where is Sun Myong Moon ?
    Now that we REALLY NEED HIM !!

  • Peter C on November 16, 2012 1:29 PM:

    "Graham: God is in control, and if Christians are upset, they need to be upset at themselves. "


    Wait, wait, wait! If God is in control, why would anyone say that He didn't get the result He wanted?????

  • arkie on November 16, 2012 1:41 PM:

    Since I am suppose to be a Baal worshiper, how come no one has given me the date and location of the next fertility orgy? Sounds like more fun than an Episcopal Eucharist.

  • Ronald on November 16, 2012 1:44 PM:

    Goodness, it certainly takes some brass 'baals' to assume that, just because somebody calls God by the name of Jesus that they will immediately and unalterably subscribe to the far rights world view.

    I seem to remember Jesus being more of a 'help the poor and downtrodden' sorta guy anyway...

  • Rick B on November 16, 2012 1:58 PM:

    Personally I think there is a growing market for statues of Baal. But bronze is expensive. Can I get one in plastic? I'll set it alongside the sidewalk opposite the Foo Dog statue.

    Seriously, Franklin Graham represents the religion and expressed political morality of the older rural America. The new social morality is expressed in social equality and a great weakening of the class structure Graham expresses. That's why the younger voters are not voting for Graham's vision of morality. They are part of the newer urban America.

  • boatboy_srq on November 16, 2012 2:05 PM:

    @Sgt. Gym Bunny:

    Yes. Yes, he is.

    Because to the FundiEvangelicals, you're not Xtian unless you belong to their particular little sect - and in some cases their particular little church of their particular little sect. You don't have to be Muslim not to be Christian to them: being Methodist (for one example) is enough.

    This is one of the reasons Graham wants another Falwell: that old snake-oil salesman was very very good at fooling lots of people that his particular flavor of Xtianity was actually Christian. To swell their ranks they need a similar figure today. The trouble is too many are falling grievously short: Haggard, Long,... the list is remarkable how many of them are being outed for the hypocritical, money-grubbing, drug-abusing, child-abusing, sleeping-around charlatans that they are - and no amount of crocodile tears from any of them will win the faithful back a la Swaggert's "I have sinned" confession.

    Graham's statements are as much about proselytizing to the nation (and converting all us Heathens) as they are about electing properly Xtian representation.

  • MuddyLee on November 16, 2012 2:59 PM:

    I hope Franklin Graham has some people who are better with numbers and statistics than he is handling the finances of his organization. He also needs to realize this: in the Carolinas many mainstream church people had a lot of respect for Billy Graham over the years - in the 21st century many of these same people have nothing good to say about Franklin Graham, in large part because of his affection for people like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. Might be time for the IRS to take a look at the tax exempt status of Graham's ministries - he sounds like a republican partisan to me.

  • mds on November 16, 2012 4:10 PM:

    "Might be time for the IRS to take a look at the tax exempt status of Graham's ministries - he sounds like a republican partisan to me."

    Oh, goodness, no. Notice that in the above passage he explicitly says he's not telling Christians whom to vote for. Just that they need to vote "Biblical values," which he defines elsewhere as represented by Republican politicians. See? No IRS trouble there!

  • SYSPROG on November 16, 2012 4:18 PM:

    Franklin Graham is no Christian...he just 'plays' one until his Daddy dies...he is a fraud. The only 'good Christian' that he sees is one that believes EXACTLY as he does. It was just recently that the Mormons made the cut and they're probably back on the 'bad' list now.

  • Daniel Kim on November 16, 2012 4:26 PM:

    I haven't seen any temples to Baal recently, but I know a worshipper of Mammon when I see him. That's who I vote against.

  • Fess on November 16, 2012 8:20 PM:

    I always wonder if these people have actually read the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe it's like all those back pocket copies of the Constitution, cherished and fiercely protected, but never actually read or understood.

  • Tom Marney on November 17, 2012 12:15 AM:

    I think "Thou shalt not bear false witness" hurt Romney more than Graham et al realize. Obfuscation and spin are part and parcel of politics, but Romney and his campaign did it in an particularly ham-handed and blatant way, essentially daring people to call him on it. And, apparently, they did.

  • Jesse Fell on November 17, 2012 6:26 AM:

    Billy Graham could, on occasion, engage with reality and relate it in some reasonable way to Christian faith. Franklin, alas, appears never to have gotten out of the right-wing echo chamber. A special mark of his difference from his father is the heavier emphasis he places on what we Christians call the "old" testament. None of that avant guard Sermon on the Mount stuff for him -- forgiving your enemies, rejecting wealth, giving what you have to the poor, getting out of the condemnation business altogether, etc. No, and if Jesus forgot to condemn gays -- forgot to mention homosexuality even once -- well, we can step forward and and supply the deficiency.

    In the 19th century, evangelical Christians were champions of social justice, lending their support to child labor laws, labor unions, women's suffrage, and other worthy causes. Even so late a specimen as Aimee Semple McPherson showed a remarkable amount of sympathy for the poor and the victims of racial discrimination -- and she acted on it.

    Is there a good book on the decline of evangelical Christianity from a movement which, however flawed, had its roots in the Gospel, and today's evangelical movement, which throws its holy water over Wall Street and institutionalized privilege?

  • bos;n on November 17, 2012 6:01 PM:

    'Seriously, Franklin Graham represents the religion and expressed political morality of the older rural America. . .'
    Franklin represents no religion. He more closely resembles someone hawking dubious nostrums on your less salubrious cable television networks. He's the white version of the late Reverend Ike, who financed a luxurious lifestyle fleecing the simple-minded and devout. His father is a marginally less odious version of the same thing. His version of Christianity has little to do with Christ.

  • Sean Scallon on November 18, 2012 8:24 AM:

    "We need someone like a Jerry Falwell to come back and resurrect the moral majority movement where you get people that have a moral background who are willing to come together and vote for moral issues that are important to this nation. If that would take place, we would see a great change in this country, but our country is in trouble. Itís in trouble spiritually. Weíve turned our back on God."

    So another words another political organization and Graham volunteering to be "next Falwell"? Did it ever occur to them if Moral Majority, Christian Coalition and the RFC couldn't get the job done, why would another such political organization be any more successful. If there were "missing voters" (which I doubt to the degree they believe it cost Romney the election but I'm sure is a convient story they tell themselves) Maybe it's because they're grown weary of trying to find political solutions to cultural problems and the election of Mitt Romney would not have changed those problems.

    It's culture which drives politics, not the other way around

  • Angi English on November 18, 2012 10:15 AM:

    I heard a quote recently that I think sums up what is happening here with the Christian Right.

    "Beware the moments when facts seem to confirm prejudices. Such times are traps, when the well-meaning are misled and the mean-spirited gain confidence."

    Arthur Teitelbaum