Franklin and Billy Graham: the apple and the tree

"The Apple and the Tree" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“The Apple and the Tree” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

I am interested in the life and ministry of Billy Graham. Even though I may not agree with some of his theology, at the same time I’ve seen him display a remarkable graciousness that I’m sure has alarmed his followers.

Barth liked him. Billy Graham and Barth had a meeting once when Graham was preaching a crusade in Europe. Barth enjoyed the conversation and respected the man. It was only when he went to hear him preach that he found his methods unsettling. Here’s the text from Eberhard Busch’s biography of Barth:

“The same frontier was evident in a conversation Barth had with Billy Graham, in August 1960. His son Markus brought them together in Valais. However, this meeting was also a friendly one. ‘He’s a “jolly good fellow”, with whom one can talk easily and openly; one has the impression that he is even capable of listening which is not always the case with such trumpeters of the gospel.’ Two weeks later Barth has the same good impression after a second meeting with Graham, this time at home in Basle. But, ‘it was very different when we went to hear him let loose in the St Jacob stadium that same evening and witnessed his influence on the masses.’ ‘I was quite horrified. He acted like a madman and what he presented was certainly not the gospel.’ ‘It was the gospel at gun-point . . . He preached the law, not a message to make one happy. He wanted to terrify people. Threats – they always make an impression. People would much rather be terrified than pleased. The more one heats up hell for them, the more they come running.’ But even this success did not justify such preaching. It was illegitimate to make the gospel law or ‘to “push” it like an article for sale . . . We must leave the good God freedom to do his own work’.”

But Franklin seems to be a whole other animal. Or apple. His recent attack on the LGBT community is a case in point. I do not hear grace in his voice, words, or actions.

So, hence the cartoon. Sometimes the apple can fall far from the tree.

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a patron of the arts? Help me out! Thanks.


5 Replies to “Franklin and Billy Graham: the apple and the tree”

  1. Leaves me wondering if the Graham family lived with the gracious face of Billy or the legalistic, hell-fire and damnation one – Jekyll and Hyde parents can have a devastating effect on their offspring. Franklin is a difficult act to like from outside the fundamentalist community -who seem to fall on his words – from my perspective his stance seems bizarre and cruel

  2. After reading the article linked to, I have a question: How would you like people to phrase their concerns?

    How should they speak kindly and graciously but communicating basically: we don’t want to see your parade or your genitals in our towns for all to witness; we don’t want people with penises in our girls’ locker rooms; we don’t want our houses of worship spray-painted pink; we don’t want to associate the fight against racism or slavery with the fight for “insert LBGT issue of the day”. How could they say this in the tone that would be acceptable? Someone try it. Should they say “Please” and “Thank you”?

    On the other hand, personally, Billy Graham has not done me good. We once went to a crusade in Edmonton (I don’t know what possessed my parents) and in the end there was the usual altar call. In Germany I had been to something similar once, held in a church, where my mother sang in a famous choir, and where we sometimes communed. Why were we being evangelized and issued altar calls? It was pretty strange. If someone wants to be a Christian let him or her go to a church and look for a decent catechists and participate in congregational life. Of course, the Grahams would suggest this also, but the pressure and altar call associated with the decision theology is not ok. Barth is right about that.

  3. As a 12 year old from a church family I went forward at Billy Graham’s 1966 London Crusade; it was when I accepted Christianity intellectually and the start of a conversion process that continues to this day. The odd thing is the only thing I remember him saying is “Take up your electric chair and walk.”

  4. Hugh, it was good for you then? I was 16 or so, and certainly did Not go forward. I was baptized as a child, had been sung songs all my life about how Jesus loves and forgives me, I was not now going to make some other start and accept him, or something.

  5. So the “immoral agenda” he alleges is that any “man” who uses a woman’s rest room or shower facilities because it best fits with what the individual feels is their gender identity by “mandate of law” is not doing so out of being a civil right issue and him being criticised for expressing that view.

    Kind of interesting to consider this in the light of what Germain Greer has said recently about an “M-F” transgender person not being a woman in her opinion but out of a courtesy her using female terms. It being alleged that she is “inciting violence” against anyone transgender and is transphobic.

    So lack of grace, yes it is an issue.

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