Religious Right: People Still Have Faith

Sunday, 20 Apr 2014 06:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Church attendance may be on the decline, but people still want to hear that God loves them and is real, the Rev. Franklin Graham said Sunday.

According to a recent poll, only 59 percent of Americans in 2013 said they attend a church or synagogue regularly, compared to 70 percent in 1992, and Graham said on ABC's "This Week" program Sunday that he has no doubt those numbers are correct.

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"I'm not going to be out of a job," Graham told host Martha Raddatz. "I'm an evangelist. I want people to know that God loves them, that God is real."

Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was joined in a roundtable discussion by Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and also author of the new book, "Awakening;" and ABC's Cokie Roberts.

Despite the declining numbers, Graham said he keeps telling people about God's love "because even though people may not be going to church, people still want to know the truth."

Moore, likewise, said he's not worried because the numbers reflect changing society.
"There was a time in America where in order to be a good person, to be seen as a good citizen, one had to nominally, at least, be a member of a church," said Moore. "Those days are over."

Instead, Moore said,the changing attitudes give the church the opportunity to speak about faith and "to give a winsome and clear message about what the gospel actually is."

Roberts, though, pointed out while people aren't going to church, they still believe.

"All these people who say that they are not connected to a religion, most of them, something close to 70 percent say they believe in God" she pointed out. "Something like 25 percent say they pray every day. So it's organized religion that they're having a problem with. It's not really belief. And I think that's significant.

The political influence of evangelical Christians is also declining, the roundtable guests agreed.

At one time, Graham's father, the Rev. Billy Graham, was considered the minister for the nation's leaders, including the late President Richard Nixon.

He admitted that those days are past, and both Moore and Reed admitted that the days of the "Moral Majority" and its influence on politics are also gone.

Reed noted that his group is very politically active, including conducting voter registration drives in the nation's churches and sending out voter guides to people who buy religious books online.

"We now have the ability because of the technology of the Internet to communicate with up to 89 million evangelicals online," said Reed.

Moore said that the Moral Majority, which reached its peak in the 1980s, came during a different time, and now, religious leaders are speaking with people who don't always agree with them.

"There was a time in which we could assume that most Americans agreed with us on life and on abortion and upon religious liberty and other issues," said Moore.

The panel also discussed the issue of gay marriage, with Raddatz asking Graham about statements earlier this year that Congress could learn from Vladimir Putin on the issue of homosexuals and adoption, and that he thinks Putin was smart to protect his nation's children.

Graham said Sunday that he believes Putin will do what's right for his country, which might not be what's right for America.

"We used to have a president in this country that did what's right for this country," Graham said. "But we don't seem to have that right now."

Moore and Reed both, meanwhile, said they believe every child deserves a mother and a father, but Moore said he does not think Putin is doing what's best for Russia.

"I have two children I adopted from a Russian orphanage, and I see the way that Mr. Putin has used Russian orphans as pawns," said Moore. "There are children and orphans in orphanages all over Russia who are waiting for parents, he has shut down adoption from America."

And Reed said the issue isn't about Putin, but "the social science is irrefutable" when it comes to having a home with a mother and father present and the details are not yet available when it comes to same-sex couples raising children.

Graham, though, reiterated his belief that gay people can go to heaven if they repent from their sins, and he would tell a child being raised by a same-sex couple that his or her parents would need to repent to be able to go to heaven.

"A person cannot stay in adultery and be accepted by God," he said. "Franklin Graham is a sinner, and I'm no better than a gay person. I'm a sinner. But I've been forgiven, and I've turned from my sins. And for any person that's willing to repent, in turn, God will forgive. And you can be gay and go to heaven, no question."

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