Evangelist Franklin Graham urges Baton Rouge crowd to pray for America at downtown rally

A day after President Barack Obama gave an upbeat account of the nation’s standing in his last State of the Union speech, evangelist Franklin Graham painted a different picture for an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people at North Boulevard Town Square in downtown Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

“The state of the union,” Graham declared, “is broken.”

Graham is preaching in all 50 states this year, calling America back to biblical values. He’s encouraging Christians to stand firm for their faith and to get involved in the political process as part of his “Decision America Tour.”

Baton Rouge was the third stop on the schedule where, in most places they are holding rallies on the state’s capitol steps.

“We’re here today because we see that our nation is in trouble — that’s the state of the union,” Graham said before a cheering crowd, many of whom waved miniature American flags. “We are in trouble spiritually, racially, economically and we’re in trouble politically. No political party is going to be able to turn this thing around — only God can fix it.”

“I have zero hope in the Democratic party,” he continued, “but before you Republicans start high-fiving each other, I have zero hope in the Republican party — or any other political parties. The only hope for our nation is the Almighty God.”

Using the biblical prophet Nehemiah as an example, Graham described how the Jewish remnant left in Jerusalem, after it was destroyed by the Babylonians, rebuilt the destroyed walls in 52 days.

“The walls of America are crumbling,” he said. “Walls are meant for protection … our moral walls are down. Our politicians, our educators and our pastors are more concerned about political correctness than God’s truth and righteousness.”

He urged the audience to pray — out loud — for repentance of America’s sins of abortion and of same sex marriage, which he described as “a sin against God.” He also urged prayers of repentance for an entertainment industry he said was filled with sex and violence.

For several minutes, the plaza was filled with voices in prayer. The group then prayed again, silently this time, in confession of personal sins, followed by a third, silent prayer confessing “the sins of our fathers.”

Graham described America as a more moral nation during the time he was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s but said that changed when “secularism crept into our government and society.”

He said secularism is no different than communism.

“They are both godless,” Franklin said. “The secularists are led by people with very appealing names like ‘progressives.’ If you ever hear someone say they are progressive you better watch out. They most likely oppose the standards of God.”

He read a pledge that called for living by biblical principles in the home, honoring God in public by serving those in need and serving on political boards and governments.

It also called for those making the pledge to support candidates who uphold biblical principles.

Graham told anyone who wanted to sign the pledge digitally to get out their smart phones and dial 51555 and text “America,” which many in the crowd did, including LSU student Deanna Wallace, 26.

“I’m here because it is important to be united in this and to engage the culture,” Wallace said.

Claudine Ashton, of Baton Rouge, called the rally “a beautiful thing. I’m glad I came. I hope it encourages everyone to move forth in making the right decisions.”

Cecilia Francencon and Jim Gentry left West Monroe at 4 a.m. to get to Baton Rouge in time for the noon rally.

“We do have separation of church and state in America, but we are here to bring God back into our country,” Francencon said. “We have to bring God back into schools and public places. That is why we are here, to declare God is No. 1.”

After the rally Graham met briefly with local reporters.

“It was a great crowd, a lot of energy, a lot of excitement,” Graham said.

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