One of his last great gifts to America.
It was may turn out to be one of his last great gifts to America, 93-year-old evangelist Billy Graham publicly endorsed North Carolina's marriage amendment shortly before the vote, helping guarantee its passage by a large margin.
"Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern," Graham said in ads that his ministry published in North Carolina newspapers. "I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected."
"At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage," he deadpanned. "The Bible is clear -- God's definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment."
There had been some indications shortly before the May 7 vote that the margins of victory for Amendment One were narrowing. But in the end it received over 60 percent of the vote. As always, cultural elites were flummoxed. Same sex marriage is supposed to be inevitable, after all. They wonder: why won't voters just accept it and move on?
Graham, even in retirement, remains America's most revered religious figure. Now in the public eye for over 60 years, he is possibly America's most influential clergy ever. Who would rival him? Colonial New England's Puritan divines, culminating with Jonathan Edwards in the 1750s, deeply shaped America's religious conscience. Evangelists from George Whitefield to Francis Asbury to Charles Finney to Dwight Moody to Billy Sunday shaped America's populist religion from the late 1700s to the early 20th century. In the mid-20th century, Roman Catholic prelates like the media savvy Bishop Fulton Sheen brought their faith out of ethnic ghettoes and into the mainstream of American public life. Martin Luther King, across a tumultuous but relatively brief 15 years, became the chief icon of the civil rights movement.