Billy Graham’s son came to Turlock on a particular kind of crusade Tuesday night — getting conservative Christians to vote in a state with a lot of liberals.
The Rev. Franklin Graham spoke to a few thousand people at the Stanislaus County Fairground against abortion, same-sex marriage and other sins he sees in California and beyond.
And he asked the audience to pray for Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other Democratic leaders.
“You never know what God might do,” Graham said. “They might get saved. Wouldn’t that be great?”
Turlock is one of 10 rallies over two weeks on the Decision America California Tour. It has hit a few Southern California cities along with Bakersfield and Fresno. Rallies await in Santa Clara, Berkeley, Chico and Redding.
Graham is president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, founded by his famous father, who died in February.
The younger evangelist noted that Stanislaus County had a key role early on in Billy Graham’s work. In 1948, crusade leaders meeting here drafted the Modesto Manifesto, which called on preachers to be avoid financial and sexual misdeeds, among other things.
Tuesday’s rally took place at an outdoor stage, the audience on lawn chairs and blankets under a warm evening sun. At times, the place resounded with the sounds of Christian singer Jeremy Camp and other musicians. At others, spectators held hands and spoke quiet prayers.
Graham urged them to vote for Christians at the federal, state and local level. He noted that 127 churches in and near Stanislaus County sponsored his visit, and they could have a big impact if each of them put forth a candidate for a school board.
“We are here to celebrate what God’s doing in the Valley,” said spectator Jane Miller of Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto. “... I think it’s good for us to have a Christian leadership here.”
Mervin Bernard, who came from Los Banos to hear Graham, said he liked the message from Decision America.
“Jesus is my lord and savior,” he said. “We should pray for our leaders. The Bible says we should whether we agree with them or not.”
Tricia Glaze of Arnold, a member of Big Trees Community Bible Church, found it meaningful, too.
“I believe there’s definitely power in prayer,” she said.
At a news conference before the rally, Graham said he was not concerned that getting too involved in politics could cost churches their tax-exempt status under federal law.
“It was the pastors of this country who stood up against slavery 160 years ago,” he said, “and I think we need to hear the voices of the church.”