- (Photo: A. Larry Ross Communications)
Journalist Roland Martin criticized in a recent op-ed the Rev. Billy Graham's new "vote biblical values" campaign, suggesting that Graham should address other issues in addition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Graham's new campaign also has critics questioning the reason for the evangelist's recent interest in politics, as in the past the evangelical leader has maintained a fairly impartial attitude toward the political process.
Martin, who is the host of TV One cable news network's "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" and author of The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House, begins his opinion piece by pointing to the full-page advertisements which Graham has run in national newspapers, including The Washington Post and USA Today.
The full-page advertisements are part of Graham's "vote biblical values" campaign, which suggests support for certain biblical values instead of one certain politician.
"I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman," the advertisements read, as Martin notes on CNN's Opinion page.
Martin then goes on to question why Graham, founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), chooses not to address other issues found in the Bible, such as "helping the needy, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and wounded, and taking the haves to task for ignoring the have-nots."
"Why no mention of the poor, sick or needy in your newspaper ads?" Martin questions Graham.
"What has happened over the last 30 years is the religious right has perverted the Bible to fit its narrow view of what Christians should pay attention to. Abortion and homosexuality. Nothing else matters," Martin wrote in his column.
"Well, my Bible is bigger than that. My faith is bigger than that. And my Jesus Christ cares about more than abortion and homosexuality," Martin added.
"Support who you want, Rev. Graham, but don't dare limit the biblical values to what I can count on one hand," Martin added.
The Rev. Graham has been receiving a large amount of political attention after GOP candidate Mitt Romney visited the minister, 93, at his North Carolina home on Oct. 11.
Shortly after this visit, the BGEA removed "Mormonism" from the list of religions described as cults on the organization's website, saying "we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign."
Although Graham has not made any official endorsement of a presidential candidate, critics agree that his visit with Romney is an implied endorsement.
Along with Martin, others are questioning why Graham has recently chosen to become so involved in politics.
As an article written by the Religion News Service notes, some critics suggest that Billy Graham's son and now president of the BGEA, Franklin Graham, has had a strong influence in the elder Graham's political involvement.
"The 'vote biblical values' campaign repeats the slogans of the religious right in ways that Billy Graham never did until he was very old and frail," Michael Hamilton, history department chairman at the evangelical Seattle Pacific University, told the Religion News Service.
"I think it would be more responsible for the media and for Americans to interpret these statements as the statements of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its current president, Franklin Graham, as opposed to the statements of Billy Graham himself," Hamilton added.
The BGEA told the Religion News Service that the purpose of the "vote biblical values" campaign is for Billy Graham to "[challenge] citizens – particularly the faith community – on how to vote, rather than for whom to vote."
The self-proclaimed purpose of the BGEA, founded in 1950 by Billy Graham, is to spread the word of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible.