The evangelist Billy Graham died today at the age of 99.
My first job out of college was working for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Once upon a time I had a blog about Billy Graham and tried to write a biography. I still have a box of Billy Graham memorabilia (“Billyobilia”?) from the waning days of the BGEA before it moved to North Carolina.
I’m captivated by Graham’s transition from fiery preacher to loving grandfather. I find his comfort and then estrangement with political power to be both inspiring and troubling.
I am sometimes bothered by the seeming simplicity of Billy Graham’s message or the emotional manipulation of plinky music and a stadium full of peer pressure. But that’s also the inherent contradiction of the gospel. It’s a simple message, but a lifetime journey. It’s the already but not yet.
In short, Billy Graham led a fascinating life.
As part of my research in working on a biography, I put together a list of 25 curious facts about Billy Graham. Since little ever came of that research, it seems worthwhile to share it today. Continue reading 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Billy Graham
A story broke last week that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (where I worked about a decade ago) had removed mentions of Mormonism as a cult from its website following a meeting between the 93-year-old Billy Graham and Republican presidential candidate (and Mormon) Mitt Romney. Then a spokesman said they did it because “we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.” Uh, I think you just politicized it.
If you’re a Christian and you want to vote for Mitt Romney, go for it. But don’t suddenly change your views on Mormonism and say it’s not political. Not three weeks before the election. Can we at least be honest enough to admit this is politically motivated? And for what? Who’s going to change their vote over this? (Maybe people will vote the other way!)
It’s basic communication. And it’s why I’m plenty busy at Church Marketing Sucks (and now my long quiet Billy Graham blog, Billyspot).
Let me be clear: I don’t think Mormonism is a cult. It’s probably a good change the BGEA made. But the timing is just horrible. And the explanation is ridiculous. It seems unfair to call a religion of 14 million people a cult. That’s a loaded term and it has no place in the kind of loving outreach that’s defined Billy Graham’s ministry. Though we should also be clear that Mormonism is not Christianity.
Let me also say: I don’t think it should matter. The fact that we have to ask whether or not a Christian can vote for a Mormon is kind of disturbing. As Franklin Graham says, “Americans must remember that while our nation was founded upon godly principles, we do not have a state religion.” Of course then he goes on to say, “We need something like what Jerry Falwell did in the 1980s. We need a ‘moral majority'” Sigh.
Apparently evangelicals like Graham (Which one? Good question: Christianity Today explores Billy Graham’s recent politicism and Steve Knight wonders if Franklin is speaking for his father) will choose politics over theology when it works for them. All so they can somehow wiggle around the language and support a candidate who supports “God’s principles.” Never mind that it’s a rather different view of God. But not too different… we’re not supporting Muslims. Or atheists. Egads, no!
Meanwhile my generation has grown tired of religion constantly warring with politics. We’ve recognized that in the pluralistic society we’ve grown up in, it’s OK to work with, befriend, even vote for somebody who is different than you. And most of us don’t need to scrub our websites or write editorials to do so.
The ’25 Things’ note has been spreading on Facebook like a computer virus. Or one of those lame forwards from 1998 about Microsoft charging a fee for every e-mail sent. An estimated five million people have taken part, and it’s made some people more than a little annoyed and they show their determination not to take part in it by taking part in it (in mockery, of course).
I find the whole thing kind of funny.
Unlike an annoying e-mail forward, the notes in Facebook are much easier to ignore and they don’t gum up my inbox. Nobody is forcing you to read them. I can understand annoyance if people are harassing or threatening you to list your own ’25 Things,’ but that’s just stupid.
Who cares if people want to tell their friends 25 random things? It it narcissistic? Yeah, but blogging and twittering can be just as narcissistic. In many ways the general Facebook crowd is made up of relative web newbies who don’t have blogs or Twitter accounts. This is a new platform for them to talk about themselves. In that sense it’s like explaining to people what blogging is all over again and as always you get people who whine and complain.
Live and let live, people. I’ve completely ignored some ’25 Things’ lists and others I’ve read with curiosity and interest. Some were insightful, others were stupid. It’s just like anything else in life.
I’ve decided to deal with it (aside from blogging about it) by writing my own list of 25 Things—about Billy Graham. I think that’d be an awesome new trend. Let’s all write 25 things about someone else.
Wow. That’s about all I can say. At least one person found poetry instead of weirdness in my daily digest of Twitter posts (which I’ve already deleted). And he turned it into a poem about breakfast and Billy Graham, among other things.
You can read the poem here or after the jump (poetry like that is too potent to not give you a little warning).
Continue reading Breakfast Time Twitter Poem
I finally did it: I started a Billy Graham blog. I’ve talked about this idea years ago, but I’m finally doing it.
It’s called Billyspot and it covers all things Billy Graham. It got started just before Christmas, so it’s definitely still in the infancy stage and has a long way to go. But for now the basics are there.
Why a Billy Graham Blog?
The big question, of course, is why write a blog exclusively about Billy Graham? There’s something engaging about Billy Graham that I find fascinating. He’s a world famous and highly respected evangelist. Consider the potential paradox of that statement for a moment: In a politically correct world he tells you that Jesus it the only way to salvation, and yet he’s still one of the most respected men in the world, a counselor to presidents.
It’s kind of amazing that a religious man can have that kind of near-universal acclaim. And I want to know how he does it. I want to know the behind-the-scenes stories. I want to know the theological questions that arise. I want to see the goofy things that inevitably come up around a man like that.
Hence, the Billyspot. I’ve talked a lot about Billy Graham in the past, I worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for two years, and I have a pile of Billy-o-bilia to serve as fodder. Here we go.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association dedicated their barn-shaped “library”—which is basically an evangelistic tourist trap, animatronic cow included (apparently I was wrong).
I wish I was joking. I just have a hard time taking it all seriously, especially when the family got into a fight over whether or not Billy and Ruth Graham should be buried at the end of the little tour, making it the ultimate shrine. I’m a big fan of Billy Graham–but I’m a fan of the man, not the brand. (link via Knightopia)
My former employer, Billy Graham, graces the cover of Newsweek and is the feature of a story about his declining health and thoughts toward the end of his life. It’s an interesting read.
Having worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association before, it’s always fun to read this kind of stuff. At one point recently I was very tempted to start up a Billy Graham blog (a Billy Blog!). I had my eye on urls, I had a logo in the works and I even chatted with my lawyer about how to keep from getting sued. I ended up being too busy to invest the time into a project with no sure revenue model. I guess I’ll have to settle with my Billy Graham Squidoo lens. (Jan. 1, 2009 Update: OK, I went ahead and started the blog about Billy Graham.)
This kind of thing would have been great fodder.
Continue reading Newsweek Interviews Billy Graham
Now there’s a peculiar pairing: the indie media site Salon.com reporting on Billy Graham’s New York Crusade. It’s a great little observation piece, giving a man-on-the-street view of a Billy Graham crusade (though it’s more the left side of the street).
The first page deals with the event itself (why on earth do all the Crusade performers pander to the Christians: “How many came to worship?” asks Mercy Me’s Bart Millard. Hopefully not many Bart, otherwise Billy’s preaching to the choir), but the second page gets into the three-ring circus of weirdos who show up to protest Billy Graham for whatever crazy reason.
It’s fun to see it all from an outside perspective (and not the sanitized we-love-Billy perspective most outlets have been reporting).
Bill Clinton took the stage at the Billy Graham Crusade in New York tonight to introduce Graham and was later joined by his wife, Hillary.
And here’s the money shot:
Graham called the Clintons “wonderful friends” and “a great couple,” quipping that the former president should become an evangelist and allow “his wife to run the country.”
Considering all the hatred for Hillary Clinton (and Bill, but she somehow manages to garner more of it), I just thought it was hilarious that Billy Graham would say that. Evangelical Republicans everywhere will be wringing their hands.
The long-forgotten Thank You Billy Graham tribute has resurfaced, thanks to Pat Boone’s final hurrah. The tribute originally surfaced in July 2001, but quickly faded away (I think lack of support from Billy Graham himself and possibly legal issues with the Association were to blame, but I don’t really remember). Nice timing that it resurfaces just before what could be Billy Graham’s final Crusade in New York.
The “Thank You Billy Graham” song, which features a spoken intro by Bono and singing from LeAnn Rimes, Kenny Rogers and others, will appear on Boone’s upcoming gospel album, Glory Train, which will be available August 9.
Until then, you can check out the video, complete with old-time footage of Billy Graham.