evangelist Billy Graham turned 90 last Friday, celebrating amid family
near his mountainside home in Montreat, N.C. Although he’ll attend a
larger celebration party with family and friends later this month, the
appreciation for “America’s Pastor” began circulating long before.
Since son Franklin Graham invited Christians worldwide who have been
impacted by his father to send a message, the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association (BGEA) has gathered tens of thousands of greetings. A few
weeks ago, Billy: The Early Years released in theaters across
the nation to commemorate the special occasion—albeit without the
BGEA’s endorsement. “[Billy Graham] enacted America’s idealized self,”
commented Grant Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke
University in Durham, N.C. “He’s modeling the kind of person people
wish they were.” Another religion professor, William Long of Reed
College in Portland, Ore., said one of Graham’s outstanding traits was
his ability to transcend religious divisions with a simple yet pointed
message. “He burnished off the fine points—the notion that you needed a
certain kind of baptism or doctrine. He went straight for the essential
gospel message: Jesus Christ died for you. … People date the beginnings
of their relationships with God to their encounters with Graham—the
most continuing symbol of religious vitality in American life.”
[usatoday.com, 11/6/08; christianpost.com, 10/7/08, 11/7/08]
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