Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Mixed Legacy of Rev. Billy Graham (1919-2018)

From the New York TImes:

The Rev. Billy Graham, a North Carolina farmer’s son who preached to millions in stadium events he called crusades, becoming a pastor to presidents and the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years, died on Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99.

His death was confirmed by Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Mr. Graham had dealt with a number of illnesses in his last years, including prostate cancer, hydrocephalus (a buildup of fluid in the brain) and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Graham spread his influence across the country and around the world through a combination of religious conviction, commanding stage presence and shrewd use of radio, television and advanced communication technologies.

A central achievement was his encouraging evangelical Protestants to regain the social influence they had once wielded, reversing a retreat from public life that had begun when their efforts to challenge evolution theory were defeated in the Scopes trial in 1925.

But in his later years, Mr. Graham kept his distance from the evangelical political movement he had helped engender, refusing to endorse candidates and avoiding the volatile issues dear to religious conservatives.


For many Americans, Graham's legacy will always be a mixed one.  Graham liked to claim he had far more vocal detractors on the right than he did on the left. Yet carefully tucked into Graham's ecumenicalism was a subtle and at times not so subtle message of bigotry and exclusion. Graham, claimed in 1993 that AIDS was a “judgement from God”, yet in his view other Chronic illnesses like Cancer, and Diabetes were not.

In a 2015 interview with a Russian newspaper, Graham praised Vladimir Putin’s support for anti-gay laws – and repeated Putin's stance that homosexuals “take people’s children”. and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association continues to advocate gay ‘cure’ therapy,, (which every reputable medical entity has rightly defined as torture.), on its website.

It is also worth noting that Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz,and Son Frankin Graham both suggested that God let 9/11 happen because God was upset about transgender people

Billy Graham invented modern televangelism. And by wrapping a conservative theology in a outer shell of ecumenical outreach was able to be true cultural force in America. Whether that force was a good or bad thing is a very valid point of debate.

As a young gay kid growing up I remember being confused by Graham's messages. On one hand he said God loved me and people shouldn't judge others, and in the next breath said I was a demon possessed abomination, who was a threat to kids, and was going to burn in hell.  (Wait…what?? Geez man, make up your mind!)

You can't deny his influence and impact, but what is clear today is, despite how sweetly Graham may have couched his message in "the good news" his passing means there is one less voice of hatred and homophobia in the world,

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