Yesterday, as I was standing in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, quietly reflecting on and honoring the life of Rev. Billy Graham, I was struck with how one man’s stand for faith had profoundly impacted America, as well as around the globe.
The Memorial service in Washington was somber, deeply moving, and endearing as our President, Vice President, and Members of Congress and their families filled the Rotunda to pay tribute to a man known as “America’s Pastor.” Rev. Graham would undoubtedly be pleased, not so much that he was given the national stage once again for thousands to hear of his extraordinary accomplishments, but that his life message about the Gospel of Christ could be proclaimed without apology or hesitation. His legacy lives on.
President Trump’s remarks were poignant, “Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, was always in America. He took his message to the poorest places, to the downtrodden and to the brokenhearted, to inmates in prison, and to the overlooked and the neglected. He felt a great passion for those who were neglected. Everywhere he went, Reverend Graham delivered the same beautiful message: God loves you. That was his message: God loves you.”
Faith promotes love, hope, charity, kindness, mutual respect, and civility. It has always been a very important part of America. As President Trump aptly noted while speaking:
“Here in this room, we are reminded that America is a nation sustained by prayer. The painting to my left is of the Pilgrims as they embarked for America, holding fast to the Bible, and bowing their heads in prayer.
Along these walls, we see the faces of Americans who prayed as they stood on the Lexington Green, who prayed as they headed west, prayed as they headed into battle, and prayed as they marched for justice, and always marched for victory.
Around us stand the statues of heroes who led the nation in prayer during the great and difficult times, from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King. And today, in the center of this great chamber, lies legendary Billy Graham, an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God’s grace.”
The President also reminded us that faith is and always has played a significant role in our heritage, making it all the more appropriate that we honored someone who humbly represented the Judeo-Christian values and ideals that helped birth our great nation.
These remarks affirm that one doesn’t have to be a pastor to vibrantly live his or her faith in the public square. Whether a leader in the highest offices of government, a student, business owner, a first responder or anything in between, each of us has the freedom to live unashamedly and boldly according to the tenets of one’s faith.
We also know it’s not always easy. Challenges abound and the voices of intimidation can be shrill and insensitive.
People everywhere heard about the recent uproar that was created when Joy Behar, cohost of the nationally syndicated talk show, The View, callously mocked the faith of Vice President Pence, even declaring it to be a sign of mental illness. He handled the situation diplomatically, but unequivocally when he said, “I try to start every day by opening the Good Book. My wife and I try to have a prayer together before I leave every morning. I can honestly tell you my faith sustains me in all that I do and it’s just a regular part of our lives. But I’m not unusual. I think I’m a very typical American, whatever your faith tradition, people understand that”…. “We’re better than that. Our country’s better than that,” Pence concluded. “I’d like to be light about it, but I really can’t. Not for my sake, but for the tens of millions of Americans who cherish their faith, I can’t be silent.”
Whether you are the Rev. Billy Graham, President Trump, Vice President Pence, another admired public figure or any of the countless Americans who care about our country, putting faith in God is something to be proud of, to never take for granted, and a freedom we must diligently protect for future generations.
The CPCF honors the Rev. Billy Graham and the entire Graham family, and we likewise honor all those who are standing for faith wherever they have a voice and can influence today’s culture. Living an extraordinary faith, especially when we work together, will give us the opportunity to tell our story and to let others know why we stand for faith.