“America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham
Last week I attended a rally in front of the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, where Franklin Graham addressed a crowd of approximately 3,500. We weren’t Baptists or Methodists or Pentecostals that day. Just believers. Some came out of curiosity. Some to hear what the popular evangelist, son of the most well-known preacher in the world, had to say. Some were there to pray. I went to gather with my kind. Young and old, black and white, pre-trib and post-trib, dunkers and sprinklers. Such a gathering exudes grace.
On the sidewalk in front of the staging area, I found a pillar no one had yet leaned against or rested their arms on, and I threw my jacket over it and planted my elbows there. Of course, I shared the prime spot with others. My husband, for one. An elderly veteran who had a lot to say. A man in a wheelchair.
From ten-thirty to noon, I talked with others in the crowd. Some older proper southern ladies complained about the president. A lot. The crowd began singing patriotic songs. I listened. After a while, someone started up "Amazing Grace" and it waved its way to my part of the assembly. I joined in.
I didn’t see any protesters, but I heard later there were a few atheists with signs. I hope somebody took time to offer them water bottles, or something. If they stuck around long enough they heard the Gospel. Rev. Graham included it in his address, as he should have.
He began with a word of thanks to all who chose to attend. His father, he said, was joining us in prayer from his home in North Carolina. This squelched whispers rippling through the crowd that the white-haired gentleman in the wheelchair at the top of the steps was Billy Graham himself.
Then the younger Graham told us why he was spending 2016 traveling to every state capital. He said our country is in trouble. Politically, financially, and racially. There is no hope in political parties. Our only hope is in the Lord. And we must pray. He referenced the book of Nehemiah—the prayers that went up. The rebuilding of the wall to protect the city. He told us our moral walls have been torn down, and our leaders now care more about political correctness than the ways of God.
This was when the praying began. We were asked to pray for our country, out loud, all at once. Not a recited prayer, but an individually voiced cry to God. I listened to those around me. The crux of the prayers from those nearest my pillar: “We have messed up.” A sentiment quite appropriate, maybe inspired, because Rev. Graham then led us to pray silently and confess our sins. And then we were told to confess the sins of our fathers, as Nehemiah did.
When the mess we all knew we’d allowed in the great U.S.A. was out there before God, the call to salvation was presented. Some may have wondered why, in the midst of a huge crowd of believers, the Gospel needed to be spelled out. But I’m sure the good reverend knew we Christians need frequent reminding of our great redemption. Our hope in the government, in the Constitution, may fail. Our nation may falter. But this—our truth everlasting—does not fail, or end, or come up short of what we’d once hoped. Like America has done. Besides, maybe God had His eye on one of those atheists.
After the matter of prayer and the message of salvation, Rev. Graham told us what to do. He told us to vote, to stand for Biblical truth in a nation now stripped of its Biblical heritage. He talked about the shift to secularism. About godlessness in our world. He said he wondered what his own father would do if he were a younger man. And this—the call to prayer—was it. He shared some of Billy Graham’s words on the matter: The elder reverend believes Christians should run for political office. That pastors should take time to explain to church members what each candidate supports. That God honors those in high places who honor Him.
Franklin Graham stressed local offices and schoolboards as important positions where Christians can make a difference in their communities. And he encouraged us to gather with other believers to pray for our country.
After that, the focus turned from what we can do to what we now face. Rev. Graham believes the goal of some in leadership is to change the Constitution. To disallow our freedoms. He said the enemy is not at the gate, but through the gate. He asked us all to sign a pledge to pray and to do what we can to make a difference. For most of us listening, this was done by texting a code. The pledge can be read at https://decisionamericatour.com/pledge.
I don’t always agree with Christians becoming involved too deeply in politics. I border on the “let evil rule evil” philosophy knowing God appoints rulers, even if they are evil. But the comment from Rev. Graham that struck me more than any other on that cool, sunny day in Tallahassee was this: “We have one election left. Then it’s over.” I believe it. I’m convinced that at the national level, it’s already over. But if God raised up a Nehemiah in my community to patch the crumbling wall for a little bit longer, I’d vote for that person. And in doing so, I’d follow Franklin Graham instruction: “Go back to your communities and advocate for God’s truth.”
The rally ended and new acquaintances I won’t see again this side of Heaven scattered. Some will honor the pledge they made. Some won’t think of it again until Election Day. But gathering under the blue sky with so many believers was a good thing. An act of hope I will remember.