Procession planned for Rev. Billy Graham

They wouldn't even sit them together. His body will be taken from Asheville to Charlotte on Saturday in a procession expected to take 3 ½ hours and ending at the Billy Graham Museum and Library.

Of the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese civilians by USA troops, Graham said, "we have all had our My Lais in one way or another, perhaps not with guns, but we have hurt others with a thoughtless word, an arrogant act or a selfish deed".

Let's consider for a moment his attitude towards gay people, illustrated rather well by an exchange of letters in 1974. "At one time, he paid his bail when he was in prison". "This is the message of the Gospel - and this is the message you have read in this book". But the reverend later said he was shocked to hear what was really going on in Nixon's secretly recorded White House tapes. "Were either one of them ideal?" I met Graham during that week, immediately before one of the services. It doesn't show the fact that his faith was where he got his power. I hope God sends us another one soon, because we sure need one. Do you feel that's being taken away?

"Today, we lost a General in the Kingdom of God!"

In 1957, he invited black ministers to be on his New York crusade's executive committee, and he welcomed Martin Luther King, Jr., to join him in the pulpit in New York City. For one who spoke in person to over 100 million people and countless more over television, satellite, film and internet, and for being the "friend and confidante of popes and presidents, queens and dictator" (according to Randall Balmer, Columbia University historian), he was approachable by anyone and everyone and received them as though they, too, were royalty.

But this is also true about Billy Graham: He embraced integration and the civil rights movement at a time it might have alienated his core supporters.

What, then, is the relationship between Graham's political activities of the mid-twentieth century and contemporary evangelical conservative politics? The world was created in six calendar days; Moses parted the Red Sea; Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Graham and his family were members of this church during his childhood and teen years.

In that regard, Graham represented a bygone era in American evangelicalism - an era when politicians' perceived leadership abilities and Christian identity mattered more to evangelicals than their particular stances on the issues, and when many centrist-minded evangelicals were wary of identifying the gospel with right-wing politics.

Graham's public profile was raised in the United States when he held a two-month ministry in a giant tent in Los Angeles in 1949.

The Rotunda has always been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens.

"Some think in terms of extreme fundamentalism", he said. When the transcripts of the Oval Office conversations in the wake of Watergate were released, he said: 'The thing that surprised and shook me most was the vulgar language he used. As I reflected on his death I remembered something he once said that has been written and rewritten this week. I will be forever grateful that this world experienced God's love through my dear Daddy Bill and am profoundly hopeful that we will carry this love forward.

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  • Leroy Wright