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By John Pierce

Some American Christians have nearly mastered the art of appearing foolish. And politics is the main stage where such grand performances are displayed.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal contained a presidential endorsement (sans candidate’s name) from aging evangelist Billy Graham. But it sounded a lot more like his less-thinking son, Franklin.

The endorsement had all of the usual religious right rhetoric about supporting Israel (based on some end-times biblical theory) and defending “traditional marriage” (though not all varieties in the Bible). But, of course, it was not an endorsement of a particular candidate.

Coincidentally, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed the long-standing reference on its web site that labels Mormonism as a cult. Just a coincidence.

Now I have no surprise that Franklin Graham supports Mitt Romney for president. That’s fine — though it would be preferable if he just said so instead of (apparently) using his nearly 94-year-old dad as a political tool.

Why do I suspect such? Because the WSJ column directly contradicts the elder Graham’s reflections just a couple of years ago on his long and influential life.

 “I also would have steered clear of politics,” responded Billy Graham to a question from Christianity Today about what he would have done differently in his life. “I’m grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now.”

Somehow, I suspect the feeble evangelist was pushed over the line this time.

But, then, the younger Graham seems pretty into the political scene — especially the efforts to deny equal rights to gay and lesbian persons.

This whole “defense of marriage” concept might make sense to me if I’d never taken that Introduction to Logic course as part of my religion and philosophy studies at Berry College. But the idea of defending marriage by denying rights to those not responsible for the institution’s decline makes no sense.

With high divorce rates in American society — including churches — true proponents of the defense of marriage could choose a wiser, more constructive and less-alienating course.

But, then, we’re talking about divisive politics and power-seeking preachers, not what makes sense — nor how the church might avoid one more self-inflicted wound that drives others away.

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