BILLY GRAHAM – PRO CHRIST OR ANTI CHRIST?
“The Pope of America’s Protestants” with Hot Line to the Vatican
[This article is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, http://www.theologe.de/billy_graham.htm
BILLY GRAHAM, KAROL WOJTYLA (JOHN PAUL II) AND GEORGE W. BUSH
Since the 1960s, Billy Graham (born on 11/7/1918 in Charlotte/ North Carolina as William Franklin Graham) was an advisor and (father) confessor of all US presidents and alongside the pope the most influential churchman of the world. Time Magazine even described him as the “pope of America’s Protestants” (quoted in idea-spektrum Nr 33/2012). His last great “evangelization” took place in New York in 2005 before 60,000. The 86-year old at that time invited people to his last crusade in Flushing Meadows Park. While there are some speculations about the Washington-Vatican “spiritual axis,” the US journal Christianity Today revealed the following remarkable facts in its Nr 5/2005 edition:
In 1977 the Roman Catholic Church in Poland resisted a “crusade” planned by Billy Graham. One of the Polish cardinals judged the situation differently and issued the necessary official invitation to the evangelical US preacher for his “great evangelization”: Karol Wojtyla from Krakau…
Billy Graham comes from the West but is not only a churchman. His name was always in the front row of politics in the US. One could even say he is one of those with chief responsibility for bombing countries, armies and civilian populations by the US Army. As a kind of “spiritual father” and “minister” of US presidents, he is one of the decisive inspirations for the increasingly apocalyptical violence that started from the US. Graham advised President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) who began the Vietnam War. He was the confidant of President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) who continued this war. On the 1966, 1967 and 1968 Christmas holidays, Billy Graham traveled to Vietnam to encourage US soldiers to keep fighting. President George Bush senior made the decision for the 1st Iraq war (1991) after a conversation and prayer with Billy Graham. Graham was admonished by his wife Ruth (1920-2007) not to meddle in politics but the preacher could hardly hide how he thought. There is an anecdote about this from 1964 in idea-spektrum Nr 25/2007. He always helped the presidents to a good conscience for their belligerent decisions causing new incalculable suffering. This decisively influenced their politics. Billy Graham helped President George W. Bush (2001-2009) get rid of his alcoholism abuse and convinced him of the evangelical “faith.” George W. Bush heard a voice “from beyond” whispering to him to begin wars, for example in 2001: “George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan!” and then in 2003 “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq” (Focus online 10/8/2005, quot. in http://www.das-weisse-pferd.com/2005.html#Bush
). Graham remained mostly in the background praying. However right after the 1st Gulf War or 1st Iraq war, Billy Graham warned regarding a “nuclear or biochemical catastrophe” “hotheads like Saddam Hussein” could startle “the world with a surprise attack” (Is our world coming to its end? Neuhausen-Stuttgart 1993, p.170). So the seed was sown at that time for the 2nd Iraq war.
THE REAL TASK OF THE “CHRISTIAN WEST”
From a religio-historical perspective, the “Christian” West should have lived out exemplarily the pacificism of Jesus of Nazareth and his message of peace to Asian and Islamic peoples. However that did not happen. Instead the peoples were overrun with cruel wars in the name of Christ (including dropping nuclear bombs on Japan) that have continued. Will Billy Graham in his old age inspire an end-time war against Iran? For him, there are worse things. In his own words, “the horror of a nuclear war is over – with view to eternity. The anger that is poured over all who reject the mercy, grace and redemption offered in Christ is much more dreadful” (Is our world coming to its end? Neuhausen-Stuttgart 1993, p. 173). What a terrible conception of God! Christ never taught that (cf. Der Theologe Nrs 1, 2 and 19).
ADVERTISING “AS FOR SOAP”
In 1993 Billy Graham, the US pastor of the “Southern Baptists” called “God’s machine gun” (Frankischer Tag, 11/5/1988) preached in Germany. On five evenings, he spoke at the Essen Grunga hall and was seen by satellite at over 1000 European translators. The costly mission event (seven million marks) was called “Pro Christ 93.” One goal was to revive Europe’s ailing churches from “the highest pulpit of the world.” Persons from different Protestant churches and organizations including bishops supported this “greatest media event since the Olympic games in Barcelona” (1992) (Main-Rundschau 1/11/1993). The evangelical churches supported the great event with 1.7 million German marks.
Who was Billy Graham? He was born on 11/7/1918 in Charlotte/ North Carolina and with Charles Templeton founded the mission work “Youth for Christ” when he was 26. Half jokingly he summed up his work as preacher and “evangelist” in the sentence “I sell the greatest product of the world. Why shouldn’t it be advertised like soap?” (Frankischer Tag, 11/5/1988). In 1949 he preached in Los Angeles for eight weeks at a so-called “Great Evangelization.” In retrospect, that was the beginning of his worldwide “crusade” as an “evangelist” and “revival preacher.” According to evangelical faith, every preacher supposedly had the full power to forgive sins in God’s name and initiate the work of the Holy Spirit through “word and sacrament.” However this alleged “grace of office” has hardly had an effect in all countries of the world. In Germany, pastors themselves compare church reality to a “living corpse depending on the drop of church taxes” (an assessment at a meeting of the “charismatic” revival movement in the fall of 1992).
LOYALTY TO THE AUTHORITY OF THE US PRESIDENT
Could the “development helper” from the US revive this German “corpse” with methods from the advertising branch? Was Billy Graham, as one critic wrote, a man whose preaching was “masterful in its ambiguity” (Malise Ruthuen, Der gottliche Supermarkt, Frankfurt 1991, p.238)?
In the years of his ascent to the most heard theologian of (church-) history and “confidant” and “golf partner” (Encyclopedia Britannica, p.406) of many (or all) US presidents in this time, Graham was ordained as a preacher of evangelical Baptists in 1939. Because he saw America as “God’s own country,” he supported the “hunt for communists” under Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s and preached for the Korean War (1950-1953) waged under President Harry S. Truman. Later he did his utmost for the Vietnam War and comforted President Richard Nixon when he showed some repentance or self-pity on account of the Watergate scandal (spying on Nixon’s rival George McGovern in the presidential election campaign). In 1983 Graham was awarded the “Presidential Medal of Freedom” by President Ronald Reagan that President Harry S. Truman (responsible for dropping the atomic bomb and the Korean War) once endowed for “services” in war and President John F. Kennedy rededicated for civilian honoring. Billy Graham also planned a meeting with George and Barbara Bush on the last night of Bush’s presidency. For the Baptist preacher Graham, George Bush senior was a “born again believer” with “the highest moral standard” of anyone he knew (Time 5/28/1990). On January 20, 1993 the preacher announced to the world public that he prayed God might direct Bill Clinton’s presidency (New York Times, 1/16/1993). Like no other, the American evangelist represents “loyalty to the authority of the president” (Der Spiegel, Nr 28/ 1979).
Who really serves whom? Does Graham serve the president of the US or does the president serve the preacher Graham and the forces behind him? In 1/16/1993, the New York Times wrote: “Presidents come and go but Rev. Billy Graham remains.” When Billy Graham visited Barack Obama, he was the 12th US president since Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) who was advised by Billy Graham and with whom the Bible man prayed.
In this connection, the question is raised whether the supporter of “Jesus” and the US belongs to a sworn society that shuns the light of the public. Graham also founded the “Suburban Professional Men’s Club” which indicates that other interests are in play when Graham is called an evangelist.
WAR OR PEACE AFTER CONVERSATIONS WITH BILLY GRAHAM
Was Graham’s influence underrated in the past? In 1979 Billy Graham surprised the public with the statement: “The people of the United States and the people of the Soviet Union want peace” (Der Spiegel Nr 28/1979). Before others, he foresaw the development in the USSR desired in the West and meddled correspondingly in the political discussion. In the two years before, his intensive bond began with Karol Wojtyla, the later Pope John Paul II. The gates for his “great evangelizations” called “crusades” were opened to Graham in the East and West. In 1986 Rumania’s dictator Nicolae Caeuseseu complied with the desires of the Graham people. George Bush “decided for war in the Gulf after a conversation with Billy Graham,” according to the Evangelisches Sonntagsblatt, 3/7/1993.
AN UNUSUAL GESTURE OF THE POPE
In this mosaic, a “great number of parallels” connected Graham with the pope (Time, 5/28/1990). In 1981 Pope John Paul II greeted Billy Graham with an unusual gesture. He put his right hand on Graham’s left thumb and said “we are brothers.” In Europe on the eve of Pro Christ 1993, the American always sought a close alliance with the church hierarchy and heads of government, with the chairperson of the German catholic bishops’ conference Cardinal Karl Lehmann and the Roman Catholic German chancellor Helmut Kohl. Ultra-conservative critics of Pro Christ saw at work a “sect” or an event with a “sect-like” character. Character assassination can be carried out easily with the reproach “sect” or “sect-like” in the religious climate of Germany dominated by the church hierarchy.
THE ROLE OF THE US
The religious and political interest in the future of the world and the earth joins Billy Graham with his influential friends. For example, the evangelist also speaks about the role of Russia, Japan and China in the end-time events before Christ’s return (Billy Graham, A Generation discovers Jesus, Witten 1982, p.134f). On the other hand, he keeps the role of the US (and his own role) in the dark. This is a remarkable omission. Will not the US play a great role in future world events according to Graham’s understanding or is this reserve intentional? While the Baptist preacher is more cautious here than in the past, the firm belief of the US as the “kingdom of God” is still in boom season among his many adherents.
But what does the American policy of the last years have to do with Jesus of Nazareth? Was Jesus of Nazareth there when Billy Graham prepared the changeover in the White House with George Bush and Bill Clinton while US bombs rained down on Iraq (1,17-19, 1993)?
In 1985 Graham healed George W. Bush junior, Bill Clinton’s successor as president, from his alcoholism and later supported him in an intensely moral way in the second Iraq war.
GRAHAM AN INFLATED BALOON
Graham’s project is seen by critics as a mission for the “holiness of America’s capitalist values,” as Der Spiegel formulated (Nr 28/1979). This kind of mission was prepared and executed long before. The social ascent of the preacher Graham started in 1949. At that time reporters of the influential newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst were given the specific commission to “inflate Graham” (Der Spiegel, Nr 28/1979). Billy Graham was 30 years old. During the 1973 Watergate crisis, Billy Graham was consciously shielded from the politically assailed President Richard Nixon because the image of the “white West” of the preacher should not be harmed. One temporary culminating point in his lifetime was 1984 when Graham participated in the formal consecration of his own memorial statute (Decision Nr 2/1984). In 1989 he was even awarded a pentagram-star with his name in the plaster of the pedestrian zone on the “road of fame” in Hollywood (Nr 11/1989) – which is surprising for a man who preaches publically about Jesus. Jesus did not support the self-glory of people in any way and certainly would not have tolerated if Pharisees erected a memorial to him in the temple at Jerusalem or another place.
In the 1990s the American Billy Graham stood in the center stage of public interest and world politics even though the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper wrote in 1992 that he “was a sick old man” (10/23/1992). A staff of 450 employees worked behind him in the US with an annual budget of $50 million – enough to organize and carry out a “crusade” in Germany. That was the hour of birth of “Pro Christ.’
WHO BLESSES WARS AND SOWS BOMBS…
Graham addressed people with their private worries and did not preach about political and social connections. His prescription is simple. Whoever accepts Jesus Christ as Savior allegedly receives the forgiveness of all sins in the same instant. “This means one stands before God as though one had never committed a sin” (A Generation discovers Jesus, Witten 1982, p.105). With this “fast or high-speed wash” with “Graham soap,” the “law of seed and harvest “ should supposedly be annulled according to which every negative act falls back on the causal agent sooner or later. Every evangelical Christian can also read in the Bible: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap” (Galatians 6,7). For example, whoever blesses wars and sows bombs will one day experience himself the human suffering in war or will feel that agony in his own soul in the world to come.
The Bible is a quarry of the most different conceptions of God. Billy Graham masterfully understood how to interpret the Bible to his goals or to his faith and conceptions. Superficially one sees this differently and acts as though one’s own faith corresponded to what is written in the Bible. Like other members of the church of Southern Baptists in the US, Graham is also committed to the explanation passed by the 1987 convention of Southern Baptists. The church believes in the “infallibility of the Bible in all areas of reality” and “in all fields of knowledge” (Ruthven, p.240) so it cannot be officially contradicted. There are as many different interpretations as there are churches.
For example, Baptists in the last century derived the permission for slave-holding from the Bible. In this way the church was the stronghold of slave-owners and this racism leaves a deep impression in the south of the US even in our time.
Graham and his fellow Christians also proclaim the fate of an eternal damnation in the Bible – namely for those who do not accept Jesus as their Savior in the sense preached by them. So one could ask: what about the many thousands of war victims in Iraq? Were they blasted into temporal death and also eternal damnation by Americans?
As expected, Graham left out this problem with ProChrist 93 or only touched it at the margin without facing the scandal. There is no Christian justification of killing and murder in war. In opposition to that justification, Jesus declared: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Bless those who curse you; do good to those who hate you” (Matthew 5,44). However Billy Graham and the Southern Baptists do not take the Bible seriously although they officially start from its infallibility.
IMPRESSED BY THE ‘TREASURES’
Jesus of Nazareth said: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6, 19) and “You cannot serve God and mammon” (6, 24). In his book “The Divine Supermarket,” Malise Ruthven describes the Baptist reality in the US daily routine differently… Jesus spoke of “God’s reign” that has come near. In contrast, Graham comforted poor Russians facing the country’s great problems with his speech on the “Last Judgment” (BZ Berlin, 10/27/1992).
With the help of Billy Graham, the organizers of ProChrist 93 pointed to Christ and communicated t6he “Christian” message. Therefore the five day media-event called itself “ProChrist 93.” However one could ask in view of the contrast to Jesus’ message: Was it really “ProChrist 93” or not rather “AntiChrist 93”?
Jesus of Nazareth announced: “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not do mighty works in your name’? And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7, 21-23). Billy Graham is a good Bible expert and should at least think about this.
“Breaking the Vicious Circle of Poverty” by Bettina von Clausewitz, December 2010 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2010/12/404802.shtml
“Believing without Seeing,” Margot Kassmann http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/12/277205.shtml
“The Dangerous Doctrine of Justification.” Dieter Potzel http://la.indymedia.org/news/2010/12/243598.php
VIDEO: The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge, 2009 http://www.booktv.org/Watch/10487/The
Translator Marc Batko’s note on “The Dangerous Doctrine of Justification”::
While religion can make people happier by giving connection to a larger world, it can also make people blind and neurotic. Self-righteousness is the grand delusion distorting life in the church and outside the church (cf. Eberhard Juengel). The present is more than the present since it includes the promise. Hope can free us from everything past and present in the power of the coming, the power of the promise (cf. Jurgen Moltmann).
Life is not longevity, sickness is not sin, the sun does not revolve around the earth and the world does not depend on American exceptionalism. Faith is a leap across 70,000 fathoms of water (cf. Soren Kierkegaard), an invitation to break with old conventions and myths and attempt new life by exchanging roles and rediscovering wonder and interdependence. Faith is personal but not private and more interruption than custom. One act of obedience can be more important than a hundred sermons (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
Christians should change the world socially and not only interpret the world theologically in the sense of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Heinz Zahrnt). The ego must die for the self to live. Christians, Buddhists and Jews should work to make the world more human and systems more social.
In the come-of-age world, God is not necessary but more than necessary (cf. Eberhard Juengel). All people are called to be subjects and not objects, co-creators for a future that is open and dynamic and not closed and static. The human God can make persons human.
Light came into the world but men loved darkness and the casino more than interdependence and sharing, social justice and solidarity opening doors. May the future be bright with transformation and liberation!