Sunday, August 26, 2007

Something for Sunday - Billy Graham

This week, Billy Graham (88 years old) was admitted to the hospital for intestinal bleeding. On Friday, he received a personal call from President Bush himself, yet another reminder of how well he has managed to navigate the treacherous relationship between religion and politics. In case you missed it, TIME magazine recently ran a cover story on this very aspect of his remarkable career. Here are some excerpts, but I encourage you to read the whole thing:

At a time when the country was bitterly debating the role of religion in public life, we thought Graham's 50-year courtship of--and courtship by--11 Presidents was a story that needed to be told. Perhaps more than anyone else, he had shaped the contours of American public religion and had seen close up how the Oval Office affects people....

Billy Graham radiates qualities a president seldom encounters during office hours: innocence, guilelessness, sincerity strong as paint stripper. "I'm not an analyzer," he told us. "I've got a son that analyzes everything and everybody. But I don't analyze people." His critics called him gullible, naive to the point of self-delusion; his defenders, of which there were a great many more, called him trusting, always seeing the best in powerful people and frequently eliciting it as a result....

A fiercely partisan Democrat told us that Graham, a registered Democrat all his life, wasn't complicated once you realized he was actually just a Republican. But that's too simple an explanation. Graham liked all the Presidents and regarded them first and foremost as his friends--with the intriguing exception of Jimmy Carter. The fellow born-again Southern Baptist was the only President ever to organize a local Graham crusade. But on the heels of Graham's crushing experience with the Nixon Administration, the evangelist recalibrated his relationship with the White House and kept his distance....

From then on, Graham operated below the radar as three old friends--Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton--took their turns in the Oval Office. To his critics, the pastoral was political. The left deplored his spending the night with Bush on the day the Gulf War began; the right objected to his praying at Clinton's Inaugural. But Graham stood by them all, including his old charge George W. Bush, whom he publicly embraced on the final Sunday before the 2000 election--in Florida, of all places....

Graham recalled these friendships with the humility that comes with experience. "As I look back, I feel even more unqualified--to think I sat there and talked to the President of the United States," he said. "I can only explain that God was planning it in some ways, but I didn't understand it." He doesn't expect to make it back to the White House anytime soon, but he watches out for its occupant the best way he knows how. He does daily devotions, and whoever sits in the Oval Office will always have a place in his prayers.

2 comments:

Doni M said...

Well I just stumbled into this blog, and I admit, the Chesterton-ish title caught my eye. (One of my quotes on the right-hand column of my blog is from his "Father Brown.")

Anyway, Billy Graham is one of those people (like Mother Teresa or John Paul II) who just humbly does what God asks him to do, and in doing so, Christ shines through him. Sometimes we have these people who are famous simply because that they love God, and love their neighbor (in any guise), and are REAL about it. Everyone (Protestant, Catholic, non-Christian) just KNOWS that there is something different about these people of God. There are so very few true Christian (dare I say) icons left in our world, and I fear Billy Graham will leave a horribly large void in the world when he leaves us.

Ken Brown said...

Thanks for stopping to leave a comment!

I've not yet read his Father Brown mysteries (the only fiction of his I've read is The Man Who Was Thursday, but I enjoyed it very much).

As for Billy Graham, I completely agree. He's one of the few popular Christian leaders who is more concerned about loving people and sharing the gospel than about advancing his own agenda. It's refreshing.