“Preaching Nothing but the Bible”: Against a Political Church

  • Michael G. Long


“I think the church needs to get back to preaching nothing but the Bible.” It was 1964, and Billy Graham was at a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona, for the purpose of publicizing his Crusade there. “We’re so involved in all of these social programs and organizations and political pressures,” he stated, “that we’re leaving the Bible [behind]… I feel that in this country, with all our problems, that if preachers would stick to the Gospel and preach the Gospel and all of its power, that … could turn the world upside down.”1 Curiously, Graham had announced to the press only minutes earlier, and without making any appeal to the Bible, that he strongly supported a legislative effort to counter the 1964 Supreme Court decision that ruled state-sponsored school prayers as unconstitutional (Engel v. Vitale). Was it logically coherent for Graham, on the one hand, to announce his opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision on school prayer, and on the other, to denounce church involvement in politics?


Political Authority Local Politics Civil Disobedience Press Conference Governing Authority 
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  1. 7.
    Graham, “The Risen Christ—Adequate for the World’s Greatest Problem,” tape 742, BGCA. And thus Ralph Reed, Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1996), misunderstands Graham when he argues that King, unlike the evangelist, “considered his duties as proselytizer and political player inseparable” (60).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Graham A, My Answer (Garden City, KS: Doubleday & amp; Company, 1960; repr., 1967), 180.Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    A. James Reichley, Faith in Politics (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2002), 292.Google Scholar
  4. 38.
    For more on the evangelical appeal to the two-kingdoms approach, see Dennis P. Hollinger, Individualism and Social Ethics: An Evangelical Syncretism (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983), 111–113.Google Scholar
  5. 39.
    Martin Luther, “On Secular Authority,” in Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority, trans. and ed. Harro Hopfl (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 9.Google Scholar
  6. 57.
    Walter Pilgrim, Uneasy Neighbors: Church and State in the New Testament (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1999), 64.Google Scholar
  7. 70.
    The phrase “strategy of access” is from Mark A. Noll, American Evangelical Christianity, 49. For more on Graham and the public square, see Eric J. Paddon, “Modern Mordecai: Billy Graham in the Political Arena” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio University, 1999).Google Scholar
  8. 71.
    Press Conference Transcript, Columbus, July 9, 1964, 8. For more on Graham’s relationship with U.S. presidents, see Elizabeth Earl, “A Comparison of Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio University, 1991);Google Scholar
  9. Danny Day, “The Political Billy Graham” (M.A. thesis, Wheaton College, 1996);Google Scholar
  10. and, most importantly, Richard V. Pierard, “Billy Graham and the U.S. Presidency,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 22, no. 1 (1980): 107–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 89.
    King , Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (New York, NY: Harper & amp; Row, 1958), 117.Google Scholar

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© Michael G. Long 2006

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  • Michael G. Long

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