Billy Graham -- An Inclusionist?

By GotDesign
AS I logged on to my computer this morning, I noticed an article entitled "The Gospel of Billy Graham: Inclusion." Being a Christian and having served as a counselor at the recent Bill Graham Crusade here in Louisville, KY, I was at once interested and put on guard.

The USA Today article paints Billy Graham in a very favorable light. It talks about Graham's decades of service to God around the world -- favorably comparing the Southern Baptist minister to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II. However, the article accords Dr. Graham these laudatory remarks in the name of inclusion. It goes on to say that Billy Graham "deliberately stands apart from the religious right at a time when conservative Christians are flexing their political muscle, trying to shape America from the schoolyard to the Supreme Court." The author talks about how Dr. Graham does not willingly participate in politics and has good personal relations with the Clintons as well as the Bushes.

Despite all of these seeming accolades, the article is demeaning. It makes reference to a difference between Billy Graham and his son Franklin. Franklin is cast in an off-color because he prayed "in Jesus' name" during the inauguration of President George Bush (43). Whereas Billy is portrayed as only praying "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" at inaugurations -- implying a more inclusive tone. But there is a difference between the occasions when Dr. Graham prays at an inauguration and any other time. For those who don't know Billy Graham all that well, his primary mission in life is the call to salvation through Jesus the Christ. Because of this focus, Dr. Graham does not allow himself to be distracted by politics and other issues. For this reason, Dr. Graham prays in a way that includes people while at a presidential inauguration. But in other occasions, Dr. Graham is more likely to pray "in Jesus' name." And, truthfully, Dr. Graham's inauguration prayer have included Jesus in closing through the term "the Son" -- Jesus being part of the Trinity.

To a certain extent, I can agree with the author of this article that Billy Graham is inclusive. Afterall, Dr. Graham would certainly quote Romans 3:23 -- "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." This is the inclusiveness of an evangelist's calling. "All have sinned" and therefore all need to hear of the saving work of Jesus Christ. And I can't think of anyone more actively taking the Good News of Jesus to the world than Billy Graham. If I were to publish an article in praise of Billy Graham, it would not be for inclusiveness, but for his single-minded focus on envagelism in a world that eschews personal conflict over issues of religious belief. Billy Graham maintains his message -- the message of Jesus -- despite the world's overwhelming desire for just getting along. Billy Graham does not water down the Word in order to make room for more people.

In the end, I would issue a brief caveat when recommending this article. Overall, I like the article's positive view of Dr. Graham, but I have to warn of the author's bias and attitude. With this in mind, read this article with a healthy dose of skepticism about the author's attempt to give a watered-down encomium.


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