Reverend Billy Graham, Darkness and Light

Reverend Billy Graham, Darkness and Light

The Dark Side

The pastor whose preaching led Graham to Christ was an extreme bigot.

Decades later, Graham was caught on the “Nixon tapes” complaining to the president about “the Jews” and their “stranglehold” on the media, and blaming them for “all the pornography.” Even after the president replied that he agreed but “you canʼt say that” in public, Graham pressed the point: Yes, right, but if you get elected to a second term, then we could do something about the problem. Graham added that while many Jews were friendly to him, “they donʼt know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country.” [After the Nixon tapes came to light Graham said he had no memory of ever having said such a thing, but none the less he apologized profusely multiple times after hearing them for himself.] [Source: David Vest, The Rebel Angel, “They Donʼt Know How I Really Feel” Billy Graham, Tangled Up in Tape, March 5, 2002, Counterpunch]

Graham was also caught on the Nixon tapes giving a wholehearted thumbs up to the controversial plan by some of president Nixonʼs military advisers to “bomb the damns” in North Vietnam which would have drowned many and starved a million or more North Vietnamese by draining the water used for their rice paddies. (The plan was never carried out.) [Source: Alexander Cockburn, The Lordʼs Avenger: When Billy Graham Wanted to Kill One Million People, March 12, 2002, Counterpunch]

In 1965, Billy Graham dismissed demonstrations for peace in Vietnam, saying, “It seems the only way to gain attention today is to organize a march and protest something.” [Source: Jon Meacham, Pilgrimʼs Progress: In the Twilight, Billy Graham Shares What Heʼs Learned in Reflecting on Politics and Scripture, Old Age and Death, Mysteries and Moderation, Newsweek]

When Senator Hatfield called the Viet Nam war a “sin” at his National Prayer Breakfast speech Billy Graham wrote the Senator a letter of criticism. [Source: Mark Hatfield, Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Texas: Word Books, 1976)]

Graham has long considered homosexual behavior to be a “sinister form of perversion,” a lifestyle choice that will lead gays to personal ruin. When a young woman wrote him about her sexual love for another woman in 1974, the evangelist replied with a threat: homosexual perverts will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. “Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected and will be judged by Godʼs holy standards,” he answered. For Graham, “any willing person can be liberated from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”

Grahamʼs evangelistic rallies in the South were only integrated after his fellow evangelist, Charles Templeton, led the way, refusing to preach to a segregated audience.

Graham did not put himself on an annual salary until after his friend Charles Templeton did so. (Those were the days when Evangelists would walk away with ALL the money donated on the final night of their evangelistic rally, which consisted of a huge bag of money. Thereʼs a photo I have seen of Graham with a big bag of money slung over his shoulder.)

Charles Templeton was the only evangelist ever chosen to represent the U.S. Council of Churches. He also ran the largest Youth for Christ rallies in North America. Later, he left the fold. But he remained Grahamʼs lifelong friend, and they would meet to debate their differing views as Charlesʼ questions concerning evolution and biblical inspiration continued to pile up. During some of the Graham-Templeton private debate sessions the question of evolution came up, and Graham at that time was apparently a young-earth creationist. But later on his life Graham appears to have accepted that a Christian can be a theistic evolutionist: “I donʼt think that thereʼs any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and weʼve tried to make the Scriptures say things that they werenʼt meant to say, and I think we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course, I accept the Creation story. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man… whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and manʼs relationship to God.” [Source: Billy Graham, interview with David Frost, “Doubts and Certainties,” 1964]

The Brighter Side

Graham: “I donʼt think that weʼre going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because theyʼve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they donʼt have and they turn to the only light they have and I think theyʼre saved and theyʼre going to be with us in heaven.” [So Graham has apparently adopted the “anonymous Christian” view defended by liberal Catholic theologians like Hans Kung. I also suspect that Grahamʼs view may have been influenced by seeing good friends die without becoming born again Evangelical Christians, including lifelong friend and fellow-evangelist-turned-agnostic, Charles Templeton, succumb to Alzheimerʼs.-EB]

Schuller: “What I hear you saying is that itʼs possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life even if theyʼve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what youʼre saying?”

Graham: “Yes it is because I believe that. Iʼve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, have never heard of Jesus but theyʼve believed in their hearts that there is a God and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.”

Schuller: “This is fantastic. Iʼm so thrilled to hear you say that. Thereʼs a wideness in Godʼs mercy.”

Graham: There is. There definitely is.”

[Source: The Hour of Power television program #1426, “Say ‘Yes’ To Possibility Thinking,” aired May 32, 1997]

“When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people… Graham says:

“Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who wonʼt… I donʼt want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.”

[Source: Jon Meacham, Pilgrimʼs Progress: In the Twilight, Billy Graham Shares What Heʼs Learned in Reflecting on Politics and Scripture, Old Age and Death, Mysteries and Moderation, Newsweek, Oct. 15, 2007]

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