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Christians Don't Have to Belong to GOP, Democrat Graham Says

July 23, 1988|Religious News Service

ATLANTA — Christians have a duty to be active in both political parties instead of just casting their lot with the Republicans, the Rev. Billy Graham said in an interview here during the Democratic National Convention.

"People do get the impression that if you're an evangelical Christian, you're a conservative Republican," he said. "I do feel that that idea should be dissipated."

Graham pointed to himself as an example of someone who defies the stereotype of the Christian-Republican. The 69-year-old Southern Baptist evangelist is a lifelong registered Democrat, although he describes himself as an "independent" who has voted for candidates from both parties.

Graham was invited by Georgia Gov. Joe Frank Harris to offer prayers at the convention. He has made several such appearances, having attended most conventions of both political parties.

In keeping with his self-imposed rule of not endorsing a candidate, Graham had only kind words for both Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis and Vice President George Bush.

He also offered high praise for the Rev. Jesse Jackson: "He by far has the most charisma of anybody in politics today." His last personal contact with Jackson came about 18 months ago when the civil rights leader asked Graham to phone Jackson's mother as a special Christmas gift.

Commenting on the recent primary campaigns, Graham said Republican candidate Pat Robertson doomed his candidacy by trying to distance himself from his religious past.

"If Pat Robertson made a major mistake, it was when he renounced his ordination," Graham said. "I think he lost a lot of his following at that point." Many Americans, he said, could not accept Robertson's decision because they believe that ordained ministers are "called of God" and "called for life."

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