What’s New at the Billy Graham Center Archives?

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The Billy Graham Center Archives recently acquired some of Luis Palau’s private papers

If you study American evangelicalism, you have probably made a visit to the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College.  Last year the archives lost the papers of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, but it also acquired some very interesting collections.   Here is a taste of a recent post at the archives blog:

Every once in a while, acquisitions in a given year seem to follow a specific theme. In 2018 we received several large collections of private papers by prominent figures in evangelistic ministry, including Merrill Dunlop, Luis Palau, Merv Rosell, and George Beverly Shea. On the other hand, 2019 was the year of the authors. Individuals who had written significant books on evangelism and /or evangelical history contributed their research files, which included boxes and boxes of letters, transcripts, audio recordings, photos, and more that they had gathered. For example, Valarie Elliot Shepard donated the letters her parents had written to each other during their courtship, which formed the basis of her book, Devoted: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot (2019) The gift also included Jim Elliot’s papers from his days as a Wheaton College student. The Elliots were best known for their involvement in evangelism among the Waorani people of Ecuador. The Waorani had never heard the Christian gospel, and Jim and five other men formed a project to reach them. On January 6, 1956 after an initial friendly contact, all five men were killed by members of the tribe. In October 1958, Elisabeth, along with Rachael Saint, the sister of one of the five, and three-year old Valerie traveled into the jungle to live among the Waorani and begin the work that was to bring many of them to faith in Jesus Christ.

Read the entire post here.

Darryl Hart on Boston’s Park Street Church, Evangelicalism, and the “Ghost of Harold John Ockenga”

Park StreetHarold John Ockenga was the pastor of Boston’s Park Street Church from 1936 to 1969.

He was one of the early leaders of the neo-evangelical movement in the 1940s and 1950s.  We normally associated the rise of neo-evangelicalism with people such Ockenga, Billy Graham, Nelson Bell, and Carl F.H. Henry and institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Christianity Today.

Ockenga was one of the founders of the National Association of Evangelicals and served as its president from 1942-1944.  He was the president of both Fuller and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He was the chairman of the board of Christianity Today during its first twenty-five years of publication.

As some of you know, the National Association of Evangelicals recently named a new president.  His name is Walter Kim and  he served as a minister of Park Street Church for fifteen years.

Christianity Today recently named a new editor.  His name is Daniel Harrell and he served as a “preaching minister” at Park Street Church.

Here is Hart as his blog:

Here are the balls to keep an eye on: Boston’s Park Street Church, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Fuller Seminary, Christianity Today.

That means Harrell is following a trail blazed by Harold John Ockenga. Who, you might ask? Well, he was the rare winner of evangelicalism’s Triple Crown — presiding over Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Fuller Seminary. He was also pastor of Park Street Church. 

And this:

Granted, Kim only has two direct links to Ockenga — Park Street and the National Association of Evangelicals — compared to Harrell’s four. Whether these institutions function more as gatekeepers or networks is debatable. But if you want to know where to look for leadership within those who want to be evangelicalism’s leaders, look to Boston while gesturing to Pasadena, California.

It looks like a certain wing of evangelical Christianity in America still runs through the Boston Common.  I wonder what this means for my former pastor at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

Evangelical-Jewish Relations

NetanyahiRalph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH.

A session on Evangelical-Jewish relations brought new light to the harmonies and tensions between American Jews and pro-Israel Evangelicals. Amy Weiss (College of St. Elizabeth) presented Billy Graham and Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum of the American Jewish Committee as partners, not without differences, in the forging of an alliance regarding Israel and the promotion of inter-religious dialogue before 1979 when Baptist claims of Evangelical exclusiveness made it harder for Jews to work with the SBC. Daniel Hummel (UW-Madison) discussed the construction of a Judeo-Christian identity in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War, arguing that that war prompted a clearer definition of the term by the religious right, one that asserted that freedom of religious practice (specifically that of Christians in Islamic regions) is a human right. Hummel described Jerry Falwell’s trip to Lebanon as a point in the development of American support of Israel. Third, Ian Van Dyke (Notre Dame) unpacked the difficult questions regarding the religious identity of Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians, particularly as they arose during the 1989 International Congress of World Evangelization in Manila. Tensions between these two groups triggered questions about who could be considered Christian (as well as whether Messianic Jews were still Jews), in particular given their stances toward Israel. As Heath Carter stated in his comment after these papers, it was evident that there was more conflict within Evangelicalism concerning Judaism and Israel than there was between Evangelicals and Jews.

*Christianity Today* Editor Mark Galli Says His Critics are Ethically Naive

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Mark Galli, the outgoing editor of Christianity Today and the author of an editorial calling for Donald Trump’s removal, recently spoke with Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs of The New York Times.

Here are some highlights of the interview:

  • On the day after the editorial appeared Galli’s landline at Christianity Today “literally rang–this is not hyperbole–all day.” He took media inquires via cell phone and e-mail.
  • When asked about the criticisms of the article from Franklin Graham and Donald Trump, Galli said:  “And it did strike me as a bit ironic that they both said that it wasn’t significant or going to make any difference. It makes you immediately think that they do think it’s significant, or they wouldn’t comment on it.”
  • On other critics of his piece:  “I’ve been surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial. There does seem to be widespread ignorance — that is the best word I can come up with — of the gravity of Trump’s moral failings. Some evangelicals will acknowledge he had a problem with adultery, but now they consider that a thing of the past. They bring up King David, but the difference is King David repented! Donald Trump has not done that. Some evangelicals say he is prideful, abrasive and arrogant — which are all the qualities that Christians decry — but they don’t seem to grasp how serious it is for a head of state to talk like that and it does make me wonder what’s going on there.”
  • Galli suggests that some of Trump’s closest followers are “in a sense, being discipled by him.”
  • In retirement, Galli will write on evangelicalism for the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian.

Read the entire interview here.  It is also worth noting that Galli’s critics are logically naive.

Losing Faith in Franklin

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James Seawel, a social worker and Christian counselor from Maynard, Arkansas, was once a Franklin Graham fan.  No longer.  Here is a taste of his piece at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

My critique of Rev. Franklin Graham (Christianus rectus) might appear predictable, although he excels in making himself an easy target with his wholesale approval of the president. As a Christian progressive and a frequent detractor of “Billy’s Boy,” it also might appear as if I simply enjoy throwing stones. I do not.

In our American tribal culture, many evangelical friends–my tribe–feel that challenging any evangelical leader borders on heresy. Attention, friends and neighbors! Franklin Graham is not and never will be either the church or its head. Not even the esteemed and beloved Billy Graham could’ve claimed that title, though his diplomacy and graciousness appealed to the masses.

On my spiritual journey I have learned and grown tremendously from theological and political conservatives. I also have been a lifetime fan of Billy Graham and, once upon a time, a fan of the entire Graham family.

One Christmas, as a junior at Harding University and a devoted member of the Church of Christ, I responded to a chapel challenge to stuff a shoebox full of Christmas gifts for Franklin’s Christian relief agency, Samaritan’s Purse. I made a quick Walmart run, then mailed a Nike box full of toys and chocolates to a deserving Appalachian orphan.

Some time later, after coming to grips with my conviction that Christianity was bigger than the faith group to which I belonged, I looked beyond my fundamentalist roots to the greater evangelical Christian culture. Enter Billy and Franklin Graham. They had “personal relationships” with Jesus– something I’d never been taught. I developed my own connection with the Lord when I transitioned from fundamentalism into evangelicalism and reveled in my newfound association.

Read the rest here. I think it is safe to say that Seawel is not alone.

Have You Visited the Billy Graham Center Archives?

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Last year evangelist Franklin Graham moved the papers of his father, Billy Graham, from the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  We commented here and here and here.

Despite the transfer of the Billy Graham papers, the Billy Graham Center Archives continue to be the country’s most important repository for the study of American evangelicalism.  Here is a taste of archivist Katherine Graber‘s recent piece at Christianity Today:

What makes the BGC Archives unique is its focus on collecting records that have traditionally been overlooked by other research libraries.

While church denominations collect their own records, many nondenominational and parachurch organizations simply do not have the resources to preserve their history, let alone make it available to outside researchers.

Often, these records are lost or destroyed, and with them invaluable pieces of American evangelical history. The BGC Archives exists to preserve those materials that might otherwise fall through the documentary cracks. After more than40 years of collecting, the BGC Archives now holds records documenting a broad range of missions and evangelism efforts.

Organizations like the Lausanne Movement and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are perennially popular. More recently, we have witnessed renewed interest in role of American evangelicals in 20th-century global missions.

Records from organizations like Africa Inland Mission, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, or Latin America Mission are frequently requested by both scholars and laypeople. While documenting evangelical missions and evangelism is the core of the BGC Archives’ collecting focus, we also hold records that chronicle American evangelicalism more broadly, such as the records of Moody Memorial Church, the Fellowship Foundation, and Evangelicals for Social Action, as well as papers from figures like missiologist Donald McGavran, theologian Harold Lindsell, and even hymn-writer Fanny Crosby.

In addition to making our current collections available to researchers, the BGC Archives is continually receiving new materials, usually faster than we can open them for research. Some new and noteworthy collections donated in 2019 include a treasure trove of Elisabeth Elliot materials, such as recordings from her Gateway to Joy radio program, lecture notes from her many speaking engagements, and years of correspondence between her and Jim Elliot written during their courtship.

We also gathered new materials from a longtime missionary to Kenya that document the growth of evangelical missions efforts in East Africa and supplement our extensive Africa Inland Mission records.

Read the entire piece here.

Did Billy Graham Vote for Trump in 2016?

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After Mark Galli published his anti-Trump editorial at Christianity Today, Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, took to Facebook claiming that his father voted for Trump in 2016. Billy Graham founded Christianity Today in the 1950s.

John Schmalzbauer, the Blanche Gorman Strong Chair in Protestant Studies at Missouri State University, did some digging at the website of The North Carolina State Board of Elections. He recorded what he found on Twitter:

William “Billy” Franklin Graham Jr., the famous evangelist, father of Franklin Graham, and founder of Christianity Today, was born on November 7, 1918.  He was a registered Democrat.  This definitely looks like him.

 

So it looks like both a “William Franklin Graham” and a “Ruth Bell Graham” registered in 1968.  Ruth Bell Graham was the wife of the evangelist Billy Graham.  Montreat is the small North Carolina town where the Graham’s lived. It is in Buncombe County.

Schmalzbauer corrects the previous tweets that said “William Frank Graham”:

This information, of course, does not prove whether Billy Graham voted for Trump, but it does present some interesting context for Franklin’s statement about his father’s vote in 2016.

Franklin Graham Essentially Tells *Christianity Today* to Shut-Up and Stay Out of Politics

Here is his recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network:

Commentary

  1. Franklin Graham suggests that Christianity Today is moving to the Left.  I assume he thinks this because CT has not endorsed Donald Trump and disagrees with Trump’s policies on matters related to poverty relief, immigration, and the environment, to name a few.  CT also does not believe that political power is the best way to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Graham sounds a lot a like evangelical critics of social justice such as John MacArthur and Founders Ministries.  (It is worth noting that CT was critical of MacArthur’s critique of social justice). One might make an argument that the debate over the social implications of the Gospel, and not Donald Trump, is what is really dividing evangelicals right now.  Let’s remember that this was also part of what brought division to Protestantism during the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th-century.
  2. Franklin says that his father, Billy Graham, the founder of Christianity Today, “stopped reading the magazine a long time ago.”  It is fascinating to watch how both CT and Franklin are trying to claim Billy Graham.  (Franklin is doing this much more than CT–Galli just referenced Graham at the start of his editorial).  Graham’s life and ministry offers a usable past.  This is not unlike the way everyone in American politics today invokes the founding fathers or Abraham Lincoln to advance their agendas.
  3. Graham says “Christianity Today has changed, and that’s unfortunate.”  Graham raises an interesting historical problem here.  Who has really changed?  Has Christianity Today changed or has white evangelicalism changed since the time the magazine was founded?  I am guessing such a question would elicit fierce debate, even among historians.
  4. Graham condemns Christianity Today for taking sides in something that is “so obviously partisan.”  Wow, that’s rich coming from a court evangelical.
  5. The host asks, “Rev. Graham…do you think that this article [the CT editorial] has any kernel of truth or any merit of all?”  Graham answers: “No, I really don’t. None.”  Wow!  This speaks volumes.  Graham seems to suggest that everything Mark Galli wrote in his editorial is wrong.  This is fundamentalism.
  6. Graham criticizes CT and Mark Galli for offering a moral criticism of Donald Trump and calling for his removal from office.  Then he says, “They should have stayed out of this completely, in my opinion.” Again, wow!  Franklin Graham has used his pulpit and platform as a GOP and Donald Trump propaganda machine for years and now he has the nerve to tell Christianity Today shut-up and stay out of politics!

 

Franklin Graham Offers Another Response to the *Christianity Today* Editorial. Says His Father Voted for Donald Trump.

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Franklin Graham has written a nice summary of the court evangelical position, the view of evangelicals and Trump that I address critically, as an evangelical Christian myself, in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Here is Graham on his Facebook page:

My Response to Christianity Today:

Christianity Today released an editorial stating that President Trump should be removed from office—and they invoked my father’s name (I suppose to try to bring legitimacy to their statements), so I feel it is important for me to respond. Yes, my father Billy Graham founded Christianity Today; but no, he would not agree with their opinion piece. In fact, he would be very disappointed. I have not previously shared who my father voted for in the past election, but because of this article, I feel it is necessary to share it now. My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.

For Christianity Today to side with the Democrat Party in a totally partisan attack on the President of the United States is unfathomable. Christianity Today failed to acknowledge that not one single Republican voted with the Democrats to impeach the President. I know a number of Republicans in Congress, and many of them are strong Christians. If the President were guilty of what the Democrats claimed, these Republicans would have joined with the Democrats to impeach him. But the Democrats were not even unanimous—two voted against impeachment and one voted present. This impeachment was politically motivated, 100% partisan. Why would Christianity Today choose to take the side of the Democrat left whose only goal is to discredit and smear the name of a sitting president? They want readers to believe the Democrat leadership rather than believe the President of the United States.

Look at all the President has accomplished in a very short time. The economy of our nation is the strongest it has been in 50 years, ISIS & the caliphate have been defeated, and the President has renegotiated trade deals to benefit all Americans. The list of accomplishments is long, but for me as a Christian, the fact that he is the most pro-life president in modern history is extremely important—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that, to say it doesn’t count? The President has been a staunch defender of religious freedom at home and around the world—and Christianity Today wants us to ignore that? Also the President has appointed conservative judges in record number—and Christianity today wants us to ignore that? Christianity Today feels he should be removed from office because of false accusations that the President emphatically denies.

Christianity Today said it’s time to call a spade a spade. The spade is this—Christianity Today has been used by the left for their political agenda. It’s obvious that Christianity Today has moved to the left and is representing the elitist liberal wing of evangelicalism.

Is President Trump guilty of sin? Of course he is, as were all past presidents and as each one of us are, including myself. Therefore, let’s pray for the President as he continues to lead the affairs of our nation.

Christianity Today can defend itself, but here are my thoughts on this:

  1. Christianity Today did not just invoke Billy Graham to “bring legitimacy to their statements.”  They invoked Graham because he founded the magazine.  Like many important people, Billy Graham’s legacy is now a deeply contested one.  There are multiple evangelical institutions that are connected to his work.
  2. I am sorry to hear that the 98-year-old Billy Graham voted for Donald Trump and thought that, in Franklin’s words, he was the man for this hour in the history for our nation.”  This does not sound like the post-1974 Billy Graham.  After the Nixon debacle, he realized that these kinds of political endorsements hurt the witness of the Gospel and he stopped making them.
  3. Christianity Today is not a political outlet, but Franklin Graham is incapable of understanding Mark Galli’s editorial apart from politics.  GOP politics and evangelical Christianity are so welded in his mind that he cannot “fathom” the fact that good Christians might, on some issues, be closer to Democrats than Republicans.
  4. Franklin Graham does not believe that the POTUS is a liar. When Trump speaks to him, he believes every word he says.  This sounds SO MUCH like his father during the Nixon impeachment.
  5. I am guessing that Trump’s tweet this morning was informed by this statement.

Franklin Graham on the *Christianity Today* Editorial: “My father would have been embarrassed.”

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Check out Elisabeth Dias’s piece at The New York Times. She got an interview with court evangelical Franklin Graham about today’s Christianity Today’s editorial.

A taste:

“My father would be embarrassed,” Franklin Graham said in an interview, referring to his father, Billy Graham, who founded the magazine.

“It is not going to change anybody’s mind about Trump,” Mr. Graham said. “There’s a liberal element within the evangelical movement. Christianity Today represents that.”

 “A liberal element.”

Read the entire piece here.

It’s the Eve of Impeachment and the Demons are Back

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Some of you may remember when Fox News fired conservative radio personality Todd Starnes for saying that Democrats worship a god who supports child sacrifice.  Today, court evangelical Franklin Graham came on his new show to talk about the impeachment of Donald Trump.  Listen here.

A few highlights:

  • Graham starts out with some American “history.”  He says about Trump: “there has never been a president in history that has been attacked like he has from day 1.”  Really?  What about this.  Or this?
  • He once again says that the opposition to Trump, specifically the women’s march on the day after the election, is “almost like it’s demonic.”  Starnes agrees with him: “I have never seen such hate and such anger…there is something unnatural about all of this.”  Graham then asks Americans to pray in order stop these demonic attacks.  I would have to go back and look more closely, but I can’t recall this kind of spiritual warfare language ever used by any mainstream evangelical figure in American history.
  • Graham has a short memory.  He said that when Barack Obama was elected president,  Americans all “hoped he did well.”  We could spend a lot of time contesting this, but I just want to point out that Donald Trump, the man who will be impeached tomorrow, did not hope Obama “did well.”  In fact, he questioned his citizenship.
  • Graham openly admits that Trump committed a quid pro quo.  He thinks what Trump did was right.  Graham goes so far as to say that Trump was withholding aid from Ukraine to stop the Ukrainian government from giving the aid to the Bidens.
  • Graham believes that all the blame for our divided country rests with the Democrats.  How is this man of God incapable of seeing Trump’s role in such division?  It is like he is brainwashed.
  • Graham says that God’s judgement is coming upon the United States because of abortion and LGBTQ (he compares this to Sodom and Gomorrah).  These are longtime Christian Right talking points.  His father used to say similar things about communism.

Who Speaks for Evangelicalism?

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I was struck by this question again yesterday in class.  We were reading Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address and I was asking students to compare Lincoln’s moral vision in the address with the anti-Confederate writings of some 19th-century Christian leaders.  One of those Christian leaders was Henry Ward Beecher, the clergyman who historian Debby Applegate described as “The Most Famous Man in America.” Beecher’s wanted to punish the post-war South for its sins.  Lincoln, as anyone who read the Second Inaugural Address knows, took a different approach.

In order to help my students understand Beecher’s influence I asked them if such a national Christian spokesperson exists for their generation.  Billy Graham served this role for my generation, but evangelicalism today is such a diverse coalition that it is unlikely a Graham-like figure will emerge.  With the exception of a few Catholic students who mentioned the Pope, most students could not come up with a Graham-like voice.  Evangelicalism, like the rest of American culture, is experiencing an “age of fracture.”

What is Franklin Graham’s “Decision America” Tour All About?

In 1950, Billy Graham started a radio show called “Hour of Decision.” Cliff Barrows, Graham’s musical director, hosted the show.  It featured Graham sermons and usually ended with a call to make a “decision” to accept Jesus Christ as savior and be born-again.

Billy Graham’s sermons often included political commentary (usually something about the evils of communism), but when the evangelist talked about a “decision,” it was always meant in a spiritual context.

Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, is current on the road on a tour he is calling “Decision America.”  When a reporter asked Franklin “what is the question being decided?” by his tour,  he gave an answer that would have made his father proud:

If you can’t see the video in the tweet, here is a summary of what Graham says:

[By “decision” I mean] where do you stand before God.  Are you ready to meet Him…Life is coming to an end for all of us one day and are we ready to stand before God at that point.  I believe there is God.  He sent His son to die for our sins….The problems in this world is because of our sin of the human heart. So I hope many people will come.  I hope many people will put their faith and trust in Christ and they’ll have their lives changed forever.

But is this really what “Decision America” is really all about?  Is this tour just about the preaching of the Gospel?  We will have to see how the tour unfolds.

In the meantime, check out Alana Schorr’s Associated Press piece on Decision America’s Greenville, North Carolina stop.  The piece does not say that Graham used his platform to preach politics explicitly, but I think Schorr’s is right when she suggests that when Graham makes reference to the “trouble” our country is facing, he is probably referring to the Democratic attempts to impeach Trump.  It is hard to understand this in any other way in light of Graham’s court evangelicalism.

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Rev. Franklin Graham did not utter the word “impeachment” as he spoke to thousands of Christians here this week, the latest stop on a long-running tour he has dubbed Decision America — a title with political and religious undertones.

But evangelicals who turned out to see Graham didn’t necessarily need his warning that “our country is in trouble” in order to tap into their deep-rooted support for President Donald Trump during an intensifying political crisis hundreds of miles north in Washington.

“I do feel like we are, as Christians, the first line of defense for the president,” Christina Jones, 44, said before Graham took the stage. Trump is “supporting our Christian principles and trying to do his best,” she added, even as “everybody’s against him.”

The impeachment furor is the latest test of Trump’s seemingly unbreakable bond with conservative evangelical Christians. Trump suggested this week that the peril of impeachment would only cement his ties to that voting bloc, which helped propel him into office, and supporters who have stood by him through accusations of sexual assault and infidelity see no reason to back away from a president they view as unfairly beleaguered.

Frances Lassiter, 65, dismissed Democrats’ pursuit of a case against Trump as “all a bunch of crap” designed to push him from office.

Read the entire piece here.

Religious News Service Talks to Franklin Graham About Impeachment

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The court evangelical Franklin Graham remains loyal to Trump amid the House of Representative impeachment inquiry.  Today Yonat Shimron of Religion News Service spoke with Graham.  Rather than addressing the fact that the President of the United States called a foreign power to tell him to dig up dirt on the president’s political rival, Graham did what most court evangelicals do when Donald Trump is trouble. First, he changed the subject.  Second, he engaged in fear-mongering.

Instead of addressing the problems with Trump’s phone call, Graham described it as a “distraction” and called for the investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden.  Actually, it is Graham who is doing the distracting here.

Graham also told Shimron that he is concerned that Hunter Biden is using cocaine.  See what the court evangelical is doing here. The mention of cocaine is a dog whistle. Graham is betting that no conservative evangelical would ever vote for a candidate whose son uses cocaine. Shame on Graham!  No pastor or true evangelical leader would relish in the fact that Hunter Biden has struggled with drug addiction.  Graham is sacrificing Christian charity and compassion for political gain.

Here is a taste of Shimron’s piece:

Graham’s defense of the president echoed that of fellow evangelical Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, who has warned of a potential civil war if the House votes on impeachment and who has accused Democrats of worshipping the pagan god Moloch.

Sounding the alarm about a nation in peril is a tried-and-true evangelical strategy, said John Fea, professor of American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

“I’ve argued this has been a typical part of evangelical political engagement for centuries — fear mongering,” said Fea. “You can’t make an argument to support what the president did on his phone call with the Ukrainian president. So what do you do? You play the traditional game of instilling fear in the electorate so they will see us falling off the cliff as a nation and this apocalyptic language will convince them they have to vote for Trump again in 2020.”

Read the entire piece here.

Sometimes I wonder if this kind of loyalty to corrupt presidents is part of the Graham family DNA.  As Shimron notes in her piece, Billy Graham (Franklin’s father) also stood behind Richard Nixon to the very end.  Here is Billy Graham biographer Grant Wacker:

Graham possessed boundless admiration for Nixon.  In the 1968 contest between Nixon and Senator Hubert Humphrey, as in the 1960 race between Nixon and Kennedy, Graham did not issue a formal or explicit endorsement of Nixon, but he made no attempt to camouflage his views either.  One week before the election the press reported that Nixon’s name was on Graham’s absentee ballot…

The relationship continued to thicken….Honor Billy Graham Day in Charlotte on October 15, 1971, won another visit from the president.  Some felt that Nixon’s remarks about Graham that day crossed the line from honor to adulation.  Less than a month before the 1972 presidential election, Graham declared on the Merv Griffin Show: “Nixon is the most able and the best trained man for the job probably in American history.  In an election year that divides people…I [have] to be honest.

These events form the context in which Graham’s reaction to Nixon’s role in the Watergate controversy should be framed.  The details of the low-level crime and high-level mendacity that led to Nixon’s impeachment and forced his resignation in August 1974 have been rehearsed many times and need not detain us.  The crucial point is that Graham continued to defend Nixon long after most Americans smelled a rat.  When the first hint of something amiss came to light in 1972, Graham dismissed it as pettifogery.  He pointed out that illicit undercover behavior was no stranger to the White House.  Through 1972 Graham allowed that the Watergate events themselves were troubling but insisted that Nixon had nothing to do with them.  As late as December he privately assured Nixon of his personal affection and “complete confidence in your personal integrity./”  Graham maintained that posture through January 1974.

Finally, on April 29, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee received 1,200 pages of transcripts of Oval Office conversations.  They showed that Nixon had participated in the cover-up virtually from the outset.  The transcripts also showed Nixon’s capacity for vulgarity and profanity.  Graham finally muscled up the courage to start reading New York Times excerpts in the middle of May. “The think that surprised me and shook me most was the vulgar language he used…I felt physically sick.”   Elsewhere Graham admitted to weeping and throwing up.  Graham biographer Marshall Frady said Graham attributed Nixon’s fall to “sleeping pills and demons.”  Graham insisted he was misquoted. But he was prepared to say that “all of Watergate was demonic because…it caused the American people to lose confidence in its institutions….almost as though some supernatural power of evil was trying to destroy this country.

Graham’s reference to Nixon’s language left many journalists and historians appalled. They felt Graham had proved incapable of distinguishing between the minor issue of cussing and the major one of undermining the government.  On the face of it they were right….

Graham’s entanglement with Nixon marked a turning point.  Until 1974 Graham had tumbled more and more rapidly into the vortex of partisan politics.  When Nixon crashed, his muddy reputation soiled Graham’s.  The Nixon years represented the bottom of Graham’s slide.  Graham acknowledged that Nixon’s magnetism had clouded his judgment.  In 1993 he would say, simply, that his friendship with Nixon had “muffled those inner monitors that had warned me for years to stay out of partisan politics.  He urged young evangelists to avoid his mistake…

Will Trump-Supporting Evangelicals Learn Anything from the Graham-Nixon Relationship?

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In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,  I wrote:

[Billy] Graham’s relationship with Richard Nixon brought him closer to the world of presidential politics than he had ever been before.  The two stayed in close contact during the years following Nixon’s loss to Kennedy in the election of 1960 and the evangelist continued to speak positively about the politician in public venues.  In a 1964 interview in McCall’s magazine, Graham expressed his bafflement that he often heard people say  “I just don’t like Nixon.”  According to Graham, the former vice president was “one of the warmest and most likeable men I have ever known.”  Nixon claimed that Graham encouraged him  him to run for president again in 1968, and Graham, in turn, suggested that Nixon’s second change at the nation’s highest political office was part of God’s providential plan.  During Nixon’s years in the White House (1969-1974) , Graham made regular visits to the president, served as an unofficial surrogage (without formally endorsing him), advised Nixon on policy decision, and publicly thanked God for his presidency.  [Historian Steven] Miller goes as far to suggest that there were times when “Graham’s [religious] services or appearances seemed to double as Nixon rallies.”  Nixon used Graham to win evangelical votes, especially in the South. where Nixon needed the votes of white southern Christians–his so-called “Southern strategy”–and Graham believed that Nixon was a moral statesman, God’s man to lead a Christian nation.

But Graham would quickly learn that Richard Nixon was one man in Graham’s presence and quite another when operating in the cutthroat world of presidential politics.  During the Watergate scandal, Graham stood by the president.  During the 1972 election campaign, he chided Nixon’s opponent, South Dakota senator George McGovern, for saying that the Nixon administration was up to something sinister.  In one letter to President Nixon, Graham quoted Psalm 35:11-12, where the psalmist writes: “They accuse me of things I have never heard about.  I do them good, but they return me harm.”  [Historian Grant] Wacker says that Graham “continued to defend Nixon long after most Americans smelled a rate.”  In December 1973 , the evangelist told Nixon that he had “complete confidence” in his “personal integrity.”  When transcripts of Nixon’s Oval Office conversations (which included Nixon’s strongly anti-Semitic language) proved that the president was ultimately responsible for the Watergate break-in, Graham seemed more concerned about Nixon’s profanity on the tapes than the fact that the president was using his power to cover up his crimes.  When Graham read excerpts of the tapes in The New York Times, he claimed to feel “physically sick.”  Years later, Graham admitted that his relationship with the disgraced former president had “muffled those inner monitors that had warned me for years to stay out of partisan politics” and, as Wacker notes, “he urged young evangelists to avoid his mistake.”

There are a lot of similarities between Graham’s relationship with Nixon and the court evangelicals‘ relationship with Donald Trump.  Have the court evangelicals learned anything from Billy Graham?  Over at The Washington Post, Anja Maria-Bassimir and Elesha Coffman offer a revealing look into the way evangelical magazines responded to Graham’s relationship with Nixon during the Watergate scandal.  Here is a taste:

While Graham enjoyed private chats in the Nixon White House and urged his fellow citizens to rally around the flag at Honor America Day, another prominent evangelical, then-Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), warned that a bad graft between religion and politics was turning gangrenous. “We would always rather hide our wounds than heal them,” he said at the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Chicago in May 1973. “It is always more comfortable to believe in the symbols of righteousness than to acknowledge the reality of evil. This is especially true in our national political life. And we have become adroit at manipulating religious impulses in our land to sanctify this political life.”

People in power, such as Hatfield, had to work even harder to resist such craven impulses. He noted: “When we are given a position of leadership, it becomes almost second nature to avoid admitting that we may be wrong. Confession becomes equated with weakness. The urge toward self-vindication becomes enormous, almost overpowering. A politician faces this temptation in a very special way, for somehow it has become a political maxim never to admit that one is wrong. Now, that may be wise politics. But it’s terrible Christianity.” These sentiments earned Hatfield a place on Nixon’s infamous “enemies list” and a concerned letter from Graham, according to the book “Lonely Walk.”

As revelations about the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverup accumulated in 1973 and 1974, many evangelicals vacillated between Hatfield’s warnings and Graham’s reassurances. At first, only Hatfield’s allies in the small but vocal evangelical left sounded the alarm. Hatfield’s speech echoed the rhetoric of his friend Jim Wallis, who regularly hit these ominous notes in his radical magazine, the Post-American (later renamed Sojourners). Then, the far-from-radical magazine Eternity chimed in, as columnist Joseph Bayly wrote: “Whether we like it or not, a major problem we face as evangelical Christians today is the identification in the popular mind of the religious position we represent with the Nixon administration and its actions. We are ‘middle America,’ the group sector that gave President Nixon his ‘mandate.’ We are the war party, the white backlash (if not racist) party, the Watergate scandal party.”

Finally, the more staid Christianity Today — the magazine founded by Billy Graham — came around. It had printed Hatfield’s speech in June 1973, but also Graham’s “mistakes and blunders” comments several months later. Appearing reluctant, in June 1974, an editorial argued for Nixon’s impeachment. Authors acknowledged that “evangelicals can point to some in their ranks whose private or public conduct is disgraceful, perhaps even worse than that displayed by the Watergate participants.” Ten years later, Graham told the magazine: “I came close to identifying the American way of life with the kingdom of God.” He said he had learned his lesson. And near the end of his life, he said: “I also would have steered clear of politics.”

Read the entire piece here.

Some Good News on the Billy Graham Papers Front

Billy Graham Library

As many of you know, we have been covering the move of the Billy Graham Papers from Wheaton College to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Much of our coverage has been negative.  I have expressed concern that the papers will now be closed-off to researchers. Read our posts herehere, and here to get up to speed.

Now it looks like the Billy Graham Library is going to hire an archivist to care for the papers.

This appears to be a step in the right direction.  I am glad to see that the BGEA is advertising through the Society of American Archivists.  It looks like someone knows what they are doing. Of course the hiring of a professional archivist tells us nothing about what future access to the papers might look like.  We will see how it all plays out.

The Billy Graham Library supports the mission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to proclaim the Gospel to all we can by every effective means available to us, and by equipping the church and others to do the same. Our staff and volunteers present the Gospel through the Journey of Faith tour, Memorial Prayer Garden, Homeplace, and evangelistic outreaches like Christmas at the Library. We also serve and equip Christians through the Billy Graham archives, Ruth’s Attic bookstore, Graham Brothers Dairy Bar, group programs, special events, memorabilia displays, student resources, communications, and donor ministry activities.

The BGEA archivist is responsible for the overall organization, management, supervision and preservation of the historical records program and the operations of the public research study center and program of the BGEA archives.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Oversee and manage BGEA archival functions and public research study center adhering to professional standards and requirements.
  • Process, arrange, catalog and store BGEA archival materials.
  • Manage archival collection and PastPerfect memorabilia databases.
  • Provide reference services to archival collections.
  • Plans and implement archival digitization and access initiatives.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of current archival processes, long term storage requirements, digitization of materials, and trends in electronic delivery systems.
  • Assists in the development and maintenance of the archive’s web presence (presentation and content).

Marginal Duties and Responsibilities

  • Coordinate with Library promotions director and assistant for memorabilia displays and development of special interest programs in the Library.
  • Coordinates with the Director, Media and Archive group for preservation, storage and access for study of the BGEA audio-visual historical collection.
  • Review archival policies and procedures on an annual basis to adjust, update and create as needed.
  • Maintain professional awareness and technical expertise in archival work through attendance at educational workshops and professional training as needed, through review professional publications, and in utilizing professional networks and archival societies.
  • Maintain budgets and financial records.

Reporting Relationships

  • Reports to the Executive Director, Billy Graham Library.
  • Works with; Ministry Operations Director, Ministry Development Manager, Guest Services Manager, Volunteer Program Manager.
  • Relates to a variety of BGEA departments and ministries.

Benefits

  • Employees filling regular full-time positions, who are working no less than 40 hours per week, are eligible to participate in BGEA’s benefits program.

Skills and Knowledge

Master’s degree in library science or archival training from an ALA accredited institution.

  • Has understanding and experience with evangelical history, archival collections and theological/educational  institutions.
  • Two or more years’ experience in library or archive setting.
  • Experience in processing and organizing archival holdings, development of catalogs and guide systems.
  • Experience in archival database operations and other technical requirements.

Physical/Mental Demands

  • Excellent communication skills, written and verbal, including the ability to present information in a variety of formats.
  • Demonstrate organizational and time management skills.
  • Possess good interpersonal communication skills.
  • Ability to move boxes, stack materials, retrieve memorabilia items, and access shelving.

Working Conditions

  • Ability to perform under pressure and work with tight deadlines.
  • Ability to work independently as well as a team environment.
  • Possess excellent computer skills, including experience with archival database systems.
  • Ability to work at a computer station for long periods of time.

 

Ministry Requirements

  • Maintains a personal, active relationship with Jesus Christ and is a consistent witness for Jesus Christ.
  • Faithfully upholds BGEA in prayer.
  • Participates in daily BGEA staff devotions.
  • Demonstrates behavior aligned with BGEA’s Mission Statement, Statement of Faith, Hallmarks, policies, and expectations.
  • Effectively represents Jesus Christ to those within both personal and professional spheres of influence.

Thanks to my colleague Devon Manzullo-Thomas for bringing this to my attention.

More on the Billy Graham Archives Move from Wheaton to Charlotte

BG-Library-Fall-Events

Religion News Service is running another piece on the Franklin Graham’s decision to move the Billy Graham Archives from Wheaton College to the Billy Graham “Library” in Charlotte.

Back in March, I weighed-in as part of another RNS piece on this topic.  At that time I said this: “By taking the papers away from Wheaton, where access is open, Franklin Graham and the BGEA can now control access and can thus control the narrative of his father’s life in terms of who gets to read them….Evangelicals must come face to face with both the good side and bad side of their history by taking an honest look at people like Billy Graham.  I am not sure this will happen in Charlotte.  The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte is not a library.”

I also wrote a post here.

Here is a taste of Tim Funk’s recent RNS piece:

This week, at Wheaton College in Illinois, specially trained movers will begin organizing, preparing and packing 3,235 boxes of paper items, 1,000 scrapbooks of news clippings dating back to the 1940s and more than 1,000 linear feet of videos, cassettes, reels, films and audio.

All of it documents the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham, the Christian college’s most famous alumnus. And soon, all of it will be headed to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, N.C., Graham’s hometown.

The big transport trucks that will haul the valuable cargo won’t make the nearly 800-mile trip until mid to late June. But the controversy over moving the Graham materials all began more than two months ago. That’s when it was announced that, after June 1, the materials would no longer be housed at Wheaton’s highly regarded Billy Graham Center Archives.

Since it opened with Billy Graham’s blessing in 1980, more than 19,000 scholars, journalists and other researchers from around the world have spent 67,000 hours doing work there.

The BGEA’s Charlotte site does include the 12-year-old Billy Graham Library, but it was not designed as a research facility. Instead, it is a presidential-like museum celebrating the life of Graham, who died last year at age 99, and is a brick-and-mortar continuation of his worldwide evangelism efforts.

“The so-called (Billy Graham) Library is not a library,” said Edith Blumhofer, a longtime history professor at Wheaton who is now completing a study of the music of the Billy Graham Crusades. “It has no archives. It has no archivist.”

Read the entire piece here.