Evangelist Franklin Graham brought his Decision America Tour to St. Paul on Thursday, urging an enthusiastic crowd to vote in November and to consider running for political office themselves.
“I have no hope for the Democratic Party; I have zero hope for the Republican Party,” Graham told a crowd of about 6,000 supporters gathered across the street from the State Capitol. “I am running a campaign, a campaign to put God back in the political process.”
Graham, the oldest son of evangelist Billy Graham, resigned from the Republican Party last year. The move reflects the broader concerns facing conservative evangelical Christians this election season, with no clear candidate carrying their political and social agenda.
While they have traditionally leaned Republican, many evangelicals are wary of presumed Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, a gambling casino owner married three times who once supported abortion rights.
Graham launched a 50-state tour to send a message that if evangelical Christians are troubled by the current political candidates, they need to run for office themselves.
They also need to vote, he said, even if they have to “hold their noses” at the ballot box.
Under sunny Minnesota skies, Graham painted a dark picture of a nation about to take “a moral nose-dive, right off a cliff.”
“The moral and political walls of our nation are crumbling,” he said. “I don’t think I have to convince you that our country is in trouble. There’s no party that’s going to be able to turn this around.”
Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said he had “no faith in our political system anymore.” He declined to comment on either Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
A longtime supporter of Republican presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney in 2012, Graham quit the Republican Party in December, citing “wasteful spending” in the GOP-controlled Congress, including the funding of Planned Parenthood.
He declared himself an independent and pledged to launch the Decision America Tour to encourage like-minded Christians to become political activists — and not just for presidential politics.
“How about county commissioner, city council … or school board?” he told the crowd. Running for office could be a “mission,” he said.
Minnesota is the 29th state on Graham’s tour. The assembled ranged from elderly people in lawn chairs, to families with children, to a few workers from the State Capitol construction project in fluorescent yellow vests. Many waved small U.S. flags during a chorus of “God Bless America.”
A Decision America drone flew overhead, taking photos. The sprawling buses of the entourage — painted with the words “Pray. Vote. Engage.” — were parked by the stage where Graham spoke.
Graham claimed that in the last presidential election, millions of evangelical Christians did not vote. His final words: “Make sure you vote.”