Grant Wacker on How Billy Graham Thought About His Own Death

WackerEarlier today I noted on Facebook that Grant Wacker of Duke Divinity School was going to have a busy day.  In 2014, he published America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation.  I imagine his phone was ringing off the hook today.

Here is Wacker’s piece at The Washington Post about how Graham thought about his own death.

A taste:

Graham told a friend that he was prepared for death but not for growing old.

Still, Graham soldiered on, year after year, until he preached his final evangelistic crusade in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., in the summer of 2005. Though others had to help him to the pulpit, the image of an old warrior of the cross, pressing far past the normal retirement age, help normalize the aging process for many and provided inspiration for millions.

As for his future, Graham made clear that he anticipated his demise as a door to a new life in heaven. “I’m looking forward to it — I really am,” he said in 1995, in his late 70s. “I’ll be happy the day the Lord says, ‘Come on. I’ve got something better planned.’ ”

To be sure, Graham admitted that he did not look forward to the dying process itself. He said he had seen “some of the terrible things that happen to people that are dying. I don’t want that.”

But beyond the event itself stood heaven as a place of glorious fellowship with the Lord, saints, loved ones and invigorating work to do. “Think of a place where there will be no sorrow and no parting, no pain, no sickness, no death, no quarrels, no misunderstandings, no sin and no cares.” The preacher even speculated about golf courses and beloved pets — whatever it took to make folks happy.

Read the entire piece here.

 

What the Court Evangelicals Might Learn From Billy Graham

WackerThis post is worth re-publishing today:

I was also thinking about titling this post “The First Court Evangelical

From Grant Wacker’s America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of the Nation, pp.212-214.

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…

Needless to say, I also tell a version of this story in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

 

 

Are Court Evangelicals More Concerned With Trump’s Vulgar Language or the Racism Behind It?

billy-graham---nixon

Context.

First, let’s deal with the language.  I don’t appreciate the vulgarity.  And now we have CNN using the word “s#$%hole” every two minutes.  Last night I got the impression that CNN anchors and pundits seemed to be enjoying their opportunity to use this term on the airwaves.  The network was clearly relishing in the shock value.  I am sure they got a ratings bump.

Frankly, I don’t want this kind of vulgarity used on television.  If you want this kind of language broadcasting into your home get a premium cable subscription.  My kids are older now, but as I watched CNN last night I imagined the horror of a young family sitting in an airport or restaurant with CNN blaring and having to shut the eyes and cover the ears of their young kids. (Today, I noticed that CNN is now warning parents to get the kids out of the room before they use the term).

Of course CNN would not be put in this situation if our President had not used such a term.  Trump’s lack of character and discretion is a reflection of a culture that grows more coarse by the day.  This is not progress.  Trump exacerbates this culture.  Yet 81% of American evangelicals voted him into office.

Second, what about the court evangelical response? To their credit, many court evangelicals have separated themselves from Trump’s comments.  Jack Jenkins has covered this well in a piece at Religion News Service. Others have remained silent. Still others have decried the language, but defended the larger racist point about immigration.

As I wrote yesterday, this entire episode reminds me of Billy Graham’s response to the Watergate transcripts.   Grant Wacker describes this well in his biography of Graham:

Graham finally muscled up the courage to start reading New York Times excerpts in the middle of May [1974]. ‘The thing that surprised and shook me 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 government.  On the face of it they were right.  Graham did underscore Nixon’s language. He even said that was what upset him “most.”  Yet deeper issues were involved too.  First, Graham prided himself on his ability to judge character.  Nixon had not revealed that side of himself, at least not to that extent.  The preacher had heard the same language from Johnson, but Johnson did not pretend otherwise.  Nixon did.  The second, deeper issue involved the role of language in the evangelical subculture.  As in all subcultures, language formed boundaries that separated insiders from outsiders.  Graham also prided himself on not drawing boundaries, but Nixon was different.  He pretended to be an insider yet his language proved that he was not.  “Inwardly,” Graham wrote, “I felt torn apart.” 

Are the court evangelicals weeping and throwing up today?

Does Trump’s vulgar language make them “physically ill?  More importantly, does the content of Trump’s statement on immigration make them “physically ill?”

 

Can the Museum of the Bible Avoid Controversy?

RNS-BIBLE-MUSEUM i

In the past week I have done a few interviews with reporters about the Museum of the Bible, a Washington D.C. museum scheduled to open next month.  I have written about the Museum before and with the opening less than one month away, I expect to write about it again.  A few days after the official opening I will be at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) to speak on a panel devoted to Joel Baden and Candida Moss’s new book Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby.

A recent Washington Post piece on the museum is revealing.  Evangelical historians Mark Noll and Grant Wacker both weigh-in on their experiences with the museum.  So does Steven Friesen, an officer at the SBL.

Here is a taste:

Mark Noll, one of the country’s most prominent experts on American Christian history, served as an adviser. He compared the Museum of the Bible to the Newseum, another huge private museum.

“Obviously the museum is there to make people think better or think kindly about the effects of Scripture in U.S. history,” he said. “But I did think they were trying to be as nonpartisan as they could.”

Some remain skeptical that the museum’s viewpoint will be neutral. Steven Friesen, an officer at the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest association of biblical scholars, said there is debate in the academic community about whether to do research involving the Greens’ collection. He would advise fellow scholars to steer clear.

Friesen hasn’t seen the museum, but he believes from reading the website that its materials subtly promote a singular version of Scripture; indeed, the museum mostly omits discussion about how the Bible was compiled and which religious traditions believe which disputed books belong in the Bible. Museum staffers say the place for discussing issues such as sexuality and abortion, which aren’t mentioned in the exhibits, might be at events hosted at the museum; Friesen thinks those events are meant to draw in influential people to hear the Greens’ opinions on the culture wars.

“My guess is that they’ve worked very hard at covering what they would like to do, trying to hide the agenda that is behind the museum,” he said, defining that agenda as the promotion of their deep faith in the literal truth of the Bible.

The Bible has shaped cultures from Africa to Asia, Muslim to Mormon. But the 20-member leadership of the museum is almost entirely white, male and evangelical.

Grant Wacker, an expert on Christian history, said that he declined an invitation to join the leadership team because he was asked to sign a statement of faith. Wacker said he considers himself an evangelical Christian but that the statement went too far for him.

“It stressed, shall we say, factual accuracy [of the Bible] more than I could endorse,” he said.

Instead, he agreed to be one of the many scholars from diverse religious traditions to weigh in on drafts of some of the museum displays. The leadership team sought input repeatedly during the three-year construction process from experts from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and secular backgrounds.

Read the entire piece here.

A Very Important History Lesson for the Court Evangelicals

Graham WackerI was also thinking about titling this post “The First Court Evangelical

From Grant Wacker’s America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of the Nation, pp.212-214.

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…

Grant Wacker on Billy Graham’s 1957 New York Crusade

WackerI have always been fascinated by this Billy Graham crusade. When I was in divinity school I wrote an M.A. thesis on separatist Protestant fundamentalism in the 20th century.  The 1957 crusade was a key part of my story.

Over at the blog “Evangelical History,” Justin Taylor interviews Graham biographer Grant Wacker about the 1957 Crusade, which got underway 60 years ago yesterday.

Here is a taste:

Setting aside whatever influences on the culture this crusade might have had, historians recognize that one of the most significant internal legacies from this summer was Graham’s decision about partnering with modernists, moderates, and mainliners.

The New York crusade embodied and portended one of the most important strategic decisions of Graham’s entire life. He determined that he would work with anyone who would work with him if (1) they accepted the deity of Christ and if (2) they did not ask him to change his message.

In practice he quietly overlooked the “deity of Christ” provision. He accepted the help mainline of Protestants who probably would have the affirmed the divinity but not necessarily the deity of Christ, and of Jews, who found his emphasis on God, patriotism, and decency appealing.

But the second provision—“if they do not expect me to change my message”—proved absolutely non-negotiable. There is no evidence anyone tried.

Inclusiveness worked—on the whole. As I noted earlier, the invitation to New York came from a majority of the churches, evangelical and mainline. It is hard to generalize about Catholics, but signs abound that thousands of ordinary believers and many members of the Catholic clergy supported him. Some Jews, too.

That being said, fundamentalists relentlessly opposed Graham’s effort in New York and, from then, pretty much everywhere else. By working with so-called liberals and Catholics, they reasoned, he had sacrificed doctrine for success, and the price was too high. Their opposition could be called “the bitterness of disillusioned love.” In their eyes, Graham had once been one of them, but he had left the family, never to return.

The diversity was not only religious but also included men and women from a variety of occupations and social levels. The crusade was sponsored and undoubtedly partly funded by leading figures in the business community, such as George Champion, vice president (soon president) of Chase Manhattan Bank, one of the largest in the nation. The nightly meetings featured a retinue of testimonials from prominent entertainers, politicians, and military men. Anecdotal evidence suggests that thousands of ordinary people—more often readers of the New York Post than the New York Times—talked about the meetings on the subways and in street corner diners.

Read the entire interview here.

Celebrating the Career of Grant Wacker at the 2015 Meeting of the American Society of Church History

Those of you who have been following our coverage of the annual meetings of the American Historical Association and the American Society of Church History (ASCH) are familiar with Mandy McMichael.  You can read here previous posts here.

Mandy is a former student of Grant Wacker, the esteemed historian of American religion at Duke Divinity School who is apparently retiring soon.  As I joked on twitter a few days ago, it seemed like every session on American religious history at the ASCH last weekend was somehow devoted to Grant’s career.  And Mandy was at them all!  Enjoy her post.  –JF


“Salvation comes in many forms. Today is one of them,” concluded Grant Wacker at the end of Saturday’s lunch in his honor.

The meal was one of several events organized during ASCH to commemorate Wacker’s upcoming retirement. Featured speakers included three of Wacker’s students (Philip Goff, Lydia Hoyle, and David Weaver-Zercher), his daughter, Laura Wacker Stern (Associate Pastor, Millbrook United Methodist Church, Raleigh), and Mark Noll. All of the speakers were phenomenal. Noll had the audience rolling within moments. “What has Wacker Whacked?” he asked. Answers included everything from academic pretense to excessive adjectives. Goff, Hoyle, and Weaver-Zercher told stories of Grant’s fashion choices (shorts, black socks, and sandals) and his grading practices (once typing comments on post-it notes). Stern recounted her years as the daughter of an academic, regaling us with stories of her father pulling off the side of the road on family vacations to read historical markers and the uselessness of her budding theological vocabulary on the playground. Speakers allemphasized the generosity, thoughtfulness, and compassion of Wacker as a scholar, mentor, and friend. After Wacker’s final remarks, he received a standing ovation from the crowd.


Back row (L to R): Philip Goff, David Weaver-Zercher, Front Row: Lydia Hoyle, Laura Wacker Stern, Grant Wacker







After the lunch, most of the room proceeded en masse to the panel, “BelievingHistory: In Celebration of Grant Wacker’s Contributions to American ReligiousHistory.” I snagged a seat in the back, but another standing room only crowd eventually filled the room. (Unfortunately, this happened a lot at this meeting.)

Nathan Hatch presided over the panel, which included Mark Noll, Joel Carpenter, Kate Bowler, and Laurie Maffly-Kipp. Noll’s paper tracked Wacker’s approach to historical knowledge throughout his career from acknowledging the dilemma to setting aside philosophical questions to a kind of “aw, shucks” methodology. He praised Wacker’s later “belief inflected history” as “just as responsible” as other approaches. Noll posed a few questions to Wacker including one about what caused this shift. Joel Carpenter’s paper, “Getting Real with Grant Wacker,” noted Wacker’s penchant for conveying the thoughts of everyday people and “probing the questions that really matter.”

Kate Bowler, herself a “Wackerite,” delivered “The Wackerites: An Ethnographic Account of a North Carolina Sect.” She joked that many Wackerites shared the feeling of being “plucked from obscurity” by their beloved mentor. Their “testimonies” followed a predictable narrative arc and their sect abided by three Latin phrases that formed their “creed.” In English these are translated, “In charity, truth,” “In friendship, meaning,” and “Without clarity, death.” Wacker expected his students to employ a hermeneutic of charity in their work, to work well with others, and to write clearly. “Family comes first, but grammar comes second.” Wacker modeled each of these things in his own life as a scholar and mentor, gaining respect not just from his students, but from his colleagues. Indeed, he is thanked in the acknowledgments of more than 100 books in the field.


Laurie Maffly-Kipp’s paper, “The Stealth Sarsaparilla: Mentorship as Scholarship,” suggested there is a method to be gleaned from Wacker’s interactions with others. Wacker, she noted, trained and shaped a community of scholars that have benefited the field. She explored some of his processes to discern how his results might be replicated. His “generosity of spirit and acts of kindness” from reading and commenting on works in progress to always paying for the coffee provided one clue. Wacker also possessed the unique ability to “gather people together.” He managed to forge relationships and make connections. He practiced, she argued, an “embodied model of scholarship” that anyone would do well to emulate. Maffly-Kipp even suggested that Wacker offers us a “subversive method of constituting an academic career” though she was quick to note that he probably never thought anyone would describe him as subversive. He is a successful scholar not afraid to help other scholars achieve success. Indeed, he seems to enjoy it. “No one cheers…quite like Grant does.”


As his student, I agree. I never imagined that my advisor would care about me outside my academic performance. And yet, Grant saw all of us as whole people. He knew our spouses, met our parents, and welcomed our children. He touted our successes in good times and helped us “reimagine” new life through the bad. In short, he allowed us space to be more than just his students. I count it an honor to call Grant my mentor and friend. What a privilege to celebrate with him and my fellow “Wackerites” this weekend!

Mandy McMichael Reports from the Meeting of the American Society of Church History

I am pleased to welcome Mandy McMichael to The Way of Improvement Leads Home family.  Mandy is Assistant Professor of Religion at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama and a former Grant Wacker student at Duke Divinity School.  She is working on a project, stemming from her Duke dissertation, on religion, the Miss America Pageant, and southern womanhood.  How cool is that?  And to top it all off, she even found a lanyard! I hope you enjoy her first post.  –JF

ASCH Session #5: “Doing History
Today I experienced a first: a standing room only crowd in an American Society of Church History (ASCH) session. I’ve attended full sessions before, but this one had an overflow of more than twenty people who got left in the hallway. Just as Jennifer Graber (presenting on behalf of David Steinmetz) noted that individuals in the midst of a historical event cannot know how it will turn out, Randall Balmer stopped her. Laughter erupted from the audience as we were informed that a bigger room was to be procured.
Finally settled into a larger – though still filled to capacity space – Jennifer Graber (University of Texas at Austin) began again. Steinmetz’s work challenged listeners to strive to accept historical events on their own terms. He offered several examples of what that might look like. To more fully understand the world which Luther inhabited, for instance, one should know Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. Only when one immerses herself as completely as possible into the world she is studying can she begin to accept it and explain it on its own terms. This is, of course, not fully possible. Steinmetz thus surmises that translating past events as clearly as we can while being both sympathetic and honest is what constitutes “doing history.”
Catherine Brekus’s paper, “Who Makes History?: American Religious Historians and the Problem of Historical Agency,” was the most helpful to me. All three papers were fantastic, but hers hit on several issues that helped me understand my approach to “doing history.” As Erin already noted, “Brekus explored the possibilities and problems of individual agency, criticized by theorists who would argue that there is no self, only subjectivity, on the one hand, and proponents of ‘big history’ and ‘deep history,’ particularly Guldi and Armitage, for whom the extreme longue durée is the only appropriate way to study history and give it an impact in our contemporary world.” Brekus also argued for “microhistory” as the first step toward expanding the broad narrative, asking larger questions, and exploring the agency of marginalized groups. She closed by noting that Grant Wacker’s work provides a model for conceptualizing agency (as relational and not just individual), writing short term history, and proffering grand narratives.
David Hall’s paper explored his assumptions in two stories he’s found useful in his work on the Puritans: Elizabeth Knapp and Anne Hutchison. He pushed us to consider how we interrogate the stories we use to tell history. How do we determine their authenticity? Do we consider the multiple revisions they must have gone through before they got to us? Who else is mediating the story and is that important to recognize? In other words, he asked us to approach narratives and testimonies and our use of them with “self-critical scrutiny.” He concluded by noting his desire to continue using stories to tell history. Still, we must do so, he cautioned, aware of the “thin ice on which we skate.”
Peter Kaufman’s response elicited much laughter from the audience as he remarked, “Who makes history? We make history.” He interacted skillfully with the panelists’ ideas, using a poem by Robert Frost titled “Mending Wall” as a description of what it looks like to do historiography. We historians are that “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…” If historians are those who “make facts meaningful,” he concluded, “Grant, you give me a paradigm.”
Today I’ll be attending the luncheon in honor of Grant Wacker as well the panelcelebrating his contributions to American Religious History, “Believing History.” I’ve heard (hilarious) snippets from Kate Bowler’s paper already so I know that the session will be just as brilliant as today’s panel.

P.S. I scored a lanyard. I’ll keep an eye out for more.

The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals Closes Its Doors

In case you have not heard, the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE) at Wheaton College (IL) will be shutting down operations at the end of the year.   Last week Wheaton held a symposium to celebrate the work of the Institute and somewhere along the way this video was produced.  It provides an informative and brief oral history of the ISAE.  It also has some great pictures of Mark Noll, George Marsden, Grant Wacker, Harry Stout, Darryl Hart, Nathan Hatch and other members of the “evangelical mafia” in their younger days.  I love the story that Noll tells about some of these evangelical historians gathering together in a local eatery near the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School to discuss plans for the Institute. Reminds me of similar meetings, about a generation later, during my own days at TEDS.

Enjoy:

//player.vimeo.com/video/110402289?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0 Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals Farewell from Tim Frakes on Vimeo.

The Author’s Corner with Grant Wacker

Grant Wacker is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History at Duke University Divinity School. This interview is based on his new book, America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (Belknap Press, September, 2014).

JF: What led you to write America’s Pastor?

GW: A suggestion from historian Mark Noll that the time is ripe for a fresh look at Billy Graham’s relation to broader trends in American culture.
JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of America’s Pastor?

GW: The book argues that Graham’s success is at least partly attributable to his extraordinary ability to appropriate trends in the culture and then apply them to his purposes of personal evangelism and moral reform of the nation (and world).
JF: Why do we need to read America’s Pastor?

GW: I hope that it supplements the excellent biographical work of William Martin and others with a focus on the relation between Graham and post World War II America.
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

GW: I went to Harvard Divinity School hoping to become a philosopher of religion, but I took a required course from William Hutchison, and found myself hooked for life!

JF: What is your next project?


GW: I am working with Harry Stout at Yale and Laurie Maffly-Kipp at Washington University on a study of American religious history with a clear focus on religion’s embeddedness in the wider context of American life. Differently put, we hope to show that the adjective American really counts.
JF: Thanks Grant, sounds exciting!

Thanks to Megan Piette for her work in facilitating this installment of the Author’s Corner

Did Billy Graham Endorse Mitt Romney?

Matthew Schmitz, writing at First Thoughts, thinks that he did.  Here is Graham’s statement after his recent meeting with Romney:

It was an honor to meet and host Governor Romney in my home today, especially since I knew his late father former Michigan Governor George Romney, whom I considered a friend. I have followed Mitt Romney’s career in business, the Olympic Games, as governor of Massachusetts and, of course, as a candidate for president of the United States.

What impresses me even more than Governor Romney’s successful career are his values and strong moral convictions. I appreciate his faithful commitment to his impressive family, particularly his wife Ann of 43 years and his five married sons.

It was a privilege to pray with Governor Romney—for his family and our country. I will turn 94 the day after the upcoming election, and I believe America is at a crossroads. I hope millions of Americans will join me in praying for our nation and to vote for candidates who will support the biblical definition of marriage, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms.

On another Graham issue, Grant Wacker, the author of a forthcoming biography of the evangelist, recently spoke at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.  (Wacker was in town to speak and donate his collection of Pentecostal materials to the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center).  Joy Qualls, a political science professor at Evangel, tweeted the following line from Wacker’s lecture:

Rev. Billy Graham to historian Dr. Grant Wacker when told Dr. Wacker was writing a book about him…”Why would you want to do that?”

Classic Graham!