Initial Thoughts on the Death of Billy Graham

Graham crowd

I am not sure how to begin to process this.  The death of Billy Graham today has led to a blurring of identities for me.

As an evangelical Christian, I feel a deep sense of loss.  Graham had his flaws, but his consistent proclamation of the Gospel is a continued inspiration to me.  But perhaps these kinds of reflections are more appropriate among the community of faith.

As a historian, my mind is spinning about how to think of Graham’s place in the American story.  I should have been prepared. Stay tuned.  In the meantime, my good friend Eric Miller wrote to me this morning with these words: “I now feel like the 20th century, the American Century, is really over.”

As a blogger, I am trying to bring some order to all of the tributes and reflections circulating right now.  Stay tuned, I will try to post things as I see them and process them.

This morning I announced Graham’s death to my U.S. survey class at Messiah College.  I did not expect much of a reaction from the 80 or so students in the lecture hall.  Many of my students do not recognize the name “Billy Graham.”  This is even true of many of my evangelical students.  But I was pleasantly surprised today to hear a quiet gasp in the room when I passed along this news.  (I announced in the middle of a lecture on Puritans in which I was trying to articulate the differences between the Puritan understanding of the conversion and the more free-will view of conversation made popular by Graham’s stadium-style revivals).  Perhaps Graham’s legacy among Christian college students is stronger than I thought.

One thought on “Initial Thoughts on the Death of Billy Graham

  1. Mr. Graham was one of the most influential evangelicals in the 20th century. He utilized modern modes of transportation and communication to preach to more than any other evangelist. In addition, Billy Graham supported the launching of Christianity Today and the Lausanne Movement. He was supportive of Wheaton College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (a founder with Ockenga and Pew). It is imperative that this history be told to the next generation.

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