A "plain, ordinary preacher from a farm in North Carolina."
February 21, 2018 8:34 AM   Subscribe

The Rev. William "Billy" Graham has died at age 99. Washington Post obituary. Politico obituary. As a child, he was kicked out of a local youth group for being "too worldly." At age 14, upon the end of Prohibition, his father forced him and his sister to drink alcohol until they got sick, thus creating a lifelong aversion to drugs and alcohol for the rest of their lives. He rose to prominence after World War II, taking advantage of the new media of radio and TV. Criticized for his centrist views (as well as a registered Democrat), Bob Jones said that "Dr. Graham is doing more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man." An early integrationist, he was also accused of pandering to southern whites. Pastor to the presidents, he was a good friend of Richard Nixon and supported the Vietnam War. He also helped George Bush, Jr. stop drinking. His Crusades reached millions. Here is CNN's 10 things you didn't know about Billy Graham. God's Bully Pulpit: Time Magazine's feature story on his 75th birthday (paywalled) And hey, did you know that Mike and Karen Pence follow the "Billy Graham Rule"?
posted by Melismata (53 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
If there is such a thing as an afterlife, I hope Graham experiences everything he hoped would be experienced by people of whom he disapproved.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:38 AM on February 21, 2018 [48 favorites]


Yeah, I don't believe in life after death but he did, and if he's right, then I hope he's enjoying all that hellfire and brimstone he wished on so many many many of us.
posted by mareli at 8:40 AM on February 21, 2018 [11 favorites]


Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many - and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans. - President Obama
posted by riruro at 8:41 AM on February 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


The kindest thing I can say is that, considering all the popular preachers America produced and will continue to produce, Billy Graham did less evil than many, including his son. He was no vicious Father Coughlin or swindling Jim Bakker. And that much I am willing to grant him.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2018 [60 favorites]


My first exposure to Graham was as a small child when I would eagerly tune in for a new prime time Garfield special only to angrily discover that the local CBS affiliate had bumped it for another of his damn Crusades. My opinion of him only went downhill from there over the years.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2018 [36 favorites]


All I will say is that any man who follows the Billy Graham Rule has a poor opinion of themselves, the sincerity of their marriage vows, and women.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:43 AM on February 21, 2018 [45 favorites]


It's always instructive to find out what those who in life had the audience of the world and the ear of the powerful actually said to the powerful in private:

"Especially let them bomb the dikes which could over night destroy the economy of North Vietnam."
- Billy Graham, "Confidential Missionary Plan for Ending the Vietnam War"
Memo to Pres. Richard Nixon, 4/15/1969
posted by likethemagician at 8:46 AM on February 21, 2018 [32 favorites]


*
posted by The Potate at 8:46 AM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


1. Billy Graham once preached for more than 100 nights straight

Well he's no Dr Gene Scott
posted by chavenet at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Growing up Southern Baptist, I often heard about how Graham desegregated his rallies. Church leaders wanted to use him to absolve them of their full-throated approval of segregationist policies and ongoing support of white supremacy. Of course, those same leaders never mentioned how Graham explicitly rejected legislative support of civil rights.
posted by sgranade at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


.
posted by bitslayer at 9:08 AM on February 21, 2018


Good riddance.
posted by Kitteh at 9:10 AM on February 21, 2018 [9 favorites]


Billy Graham may not have been the worst of the worst, but he raised Franklin Graham, who definitely IS. So he failed as a father and a Christian, in my book.
posted by rikschell at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2018 [31 favorites]


Graham was, ultimately, a man for the status quo. He found segregation distasteful, but he found civil disobedience more distasteful. Worse, he believed that achieving good ends by the means of the government was inherently wrong. To his mind ending segregation laws was theologically, morally, and intellectually incorrect.

He famously bailed MLK out of jail. But with less fanfare he was exactly the sort of "white moderate" that King railed against in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

And that characterized Graham on every issue of any importance at all. He was the calm, gentle, nice, voice arguing for continuing oppression and opposed to improvement. He was the gentle face on an ugly agenda.

Women's rights, LGBT rights, black rights, he opposed them all.

Graham was also a vocal opponent of environmental protection, a position rooted both in his anti-government philosophy as well as is absolute certainty that the world would be ending very soon. He believed, and preached, that with Jesus returning any day now there was no point in trying to conserve resources.

So no, he wasn't a transparent charlatan like the Bakkers or Swaggart. And he didn't scream hatred from an ugly face. But he did speak hatred with a calm face and gentle words, and he did his utmost to make the world a worse place during his life.

*
posted by sotonohito at 9:14 AM on February 21, 2018 [93 favorites]


only the good die young
posted by entropicamericana at 9:15 AM on February 21, 2018 [14 favorites]


*spit*

The only Billy Graham I acknowledge is the Black Panther/Luke Cage Marvel cartoonist.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:19 AM on February 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's always instructive to find out what those who in life had the audience of the world and the ear of the powerful actually said to the powerful in private:

"Especially let them bomb the dikes which could over night destroy the economy of North Vietnam."
- Billy Graham, "Confidential Missionary Plan for Ending the Vietnam War"
Memo to Pres. Richard Nixon, 4/15/1969


Just a plain ol' ordinary preacher who actively and consciously advocated for the deaths of a million people, yessir, a true follower of christ, definitely better than other preachers because gosh darnit he was earnest.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 9:20 AM on February 21, 2018 [30 favorites]


“Is AIDS a judgment of God? I could not be sure, but I think so.” (He later claimed to have said that by accident.)

“Let me say this loud and clear, we traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.”

Fuck him. I like to imagine him sharing the same Hell as Jesse Helms. Fuck his bigoted son too, he's even worse.
posted by Nelson at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


All I will say is that any man who follows the Billy Graham Rule has a poor opinion of themselves..
I don't agree with them on much but I have a poor opinion of them as well.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


Those pesky Nixon tapes...:

''They're the ones putting out the pornographic stuff,'' Mr. Graham said on the tape, after agreeing with Mr. Nixon that left-wing Jews dominate the news media. The Jewish ''stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain,'' he continued, suggesting that if Mr. Nixon were re-elected, ''then we might be able to do something.''

Finally, Mr. Graham said that Jews did not know his true feelings about them.

''I go and I keep friends with Mr. Rosenthal at The New York Times and people of that sort, you know,'' he told Mr. Nixon, referring to A. M. Rosenthal, then the newspaper's executive editor. ''And all -- I mean, not all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine, they swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know that I'm friendly with Israel. But they don't know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country. And I have no power, no way to handle them, but I would stand up if under proper circumstances.''

posted by gwint at 9:41 AM on February 21, 2018 [33 favorites]


I normally advocate for forgiving people who've done shitty things. I think we should understand people as products of their environment, try to see the good they meant to do, etc, etc. So I have no problem honoring (in a limited way) Schindler even though he was a Nazi, or Jefferson even though he owned slaves.

But I have no use for this guy. Occasionally opposing racism doesn't get you a gold star if you are also foaming at the mouth with hatred of gays, Jews, socialists, etc. If I *do* judge him in his historical context, all I can see is that he put a warm, smarmy face on hateful ideologies that even he could sometimes see were awful. He wasn't a spiritual leader who strayed, or an eminence grise who should be given the benefit of the doubt. He was someone who failed morally, and tempted our country into further moral failure.

I'm not seething with hatred for the guy—there are plenty of religious leaders worse than he—but I don't think we should mourn his passing.
posted by andrewpcone at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


Woody Allen interviews Billy Graham in 1969. Not really sure how to feel about that one.
posted by non canadian guy at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


🖕
posted by tobascodagama at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2018 [17 favorites]


Fuck his bigoted son too, he's even worse.

Agreed; I wonder where could he have picked up his religious intolerance from?
posted by TedW at 10:07 AM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't truly hate anyone, but I will say that I disliked Billy Graham more than I disliked Fred Phelps. At least you knew exactly who Fred Phelps was - a wolf in wolf's clothing.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:09 AM on February 21, 2018 [6 favorites]


The only Billy Graham I acknowledge is the Black Panther/Luke Cage Marvel cartoonist.

Hey, whoa.

What about the legendary 1960s San Francisco music promoter?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:25 AM on February 21, 2018 [11 favorites]


"If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Note the following silence.
posted by Splunge at 10:26 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of reverential posts about Graham in my Facebook newsfeed today. It got me enraged inspired to write this post for my own page:

There's a lot of eulogizing of evangelist Billy Graham happening today, and I think any summation of his life must take into account that his horrifying behind the scenes behaviour by no means measured up to his saintly public image.

In 1969, Billy Graham sent a memo to Richard Nixon recommending that he "step up the war" in Vietnam by moving conflict into the north and bombing the dikes, an act which, as he said, would destroy the economy in Vietnam overnight, and by Nixon's estimation, kill a million Vietnamese. He flew to Vietnam and encouraged the troops there to "skin" a Viet Cong. Some of them did. After My Lai happened, his response was, "We have all had our My Lais in one way or another ... with a thoughtless word, an arrogant act, or a selfish deed."

Graham was also taped in conversation with Nixon making some very anti-Semitic remarks. When Nixon claimed that the country's media was totally dominated by the Jews, Graham replied, "This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain." He could also be very anti-Catholic in private, though not publicly.

He spoke out against feminism, and though he did support the end of segregation, he criticized the civil rights movement for "going to far and too fast". He also supported Joe McCarthy's suggestion that the Fifth Amendment (i.e., the right not to incriminate oneself), be suspended for leftists with an enthusiastic, "Then let's do it!"

These were not harmless, off-the-cuff remarks. Billy Graham influenced many millions of people, including several American presidents. By preaching against Communism, he helped create the anti-Communism hysteria of the 1950s. Nixon may not have bombed the dikes, but he did take Graham's advice to attack North Vietnam. Mike Pence's refusal to dine alone with a woman not his wife (a sanction that has very likely interfered with some of his female colleagues' professional efficacy, by the way) was inspired by Billy Graham's teachings. Graham instructed and emboldened many who are part of the destructive and repressive New Right today, and arguably contributed greatly to the elections of both George W. Bush and Donald Trump. His son, Franklin Graham, is a very vocal and fanatical supporter of Donald Trump.

I can neither admire nor mourn such a man.
posted by orange swan at 10:26 AM on February 21, 2018 [41 favorites]


The only downside to Billy Graham dying is it didn’t happen decades ago and current estate law means we can’t seize all of his ill-gotten gains and money he stole from poor grandmothers across the nation as a lecherous grifter posing as a man of God.
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 AM on February 21, 2018 [18 favorites]


As a kid, I remember Billy Graham suggesting that UFOs weren't really alien spaceships, but rather sightings of angels. What a dummy! I thought. Everyone knows flying saucers don't have wings! Sheesh!
posted by SPrintF at 10:35 AM on February 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


"If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

I have a nice thing to say: he's dead.
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:36 AM on February 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


He's also part of the secret Minnesota roots of Evangelical and Penatcostal Christianity. He was a past president of Northwest Bible School and had his headquarters in Minneapolis for a half century. We also have North Central Bible College, when Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner met. Between the two of them, Minnesota pushes out a massive number of ministers.

People love to oh yah and fer sure and pretend Minnesotans are all mild-mannered Lutherans making hotdish in their church basement, but there is a huge streak of fundamentalism in the state that is rarely acknowledged.
posted by maxsparber at 10:36 AM on February 21, 2018 [16 favorites]



All I will say is that any man who follows the Billy Graham Rule has a poor opinion of themselves,


Nicene Christianity mandates believers retain a poor opinion of themselves.
posted by ocschwar at 10:43 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I just want to say thanks, metafilter. The general media is filled with quotes from luminaries talking about what a wonderful man he was. It really felt like gaslighting. I was like, wait, wasn't he a truly awful human being? After reading one of these articles I immediately went to the blue, and was like, yeah, THATS the Billy Graham I remember.

The monster. The monster of Christian hate that led the way for even greater monsters of Christian hate.

Luckily for him, there is no afterlife. For that he should be eternally grateful.
posted by el io at 11:02 AM on February 21, 2018 [19 favorites]


Setting aside for a moment his loathsome views and simply trying to understand what his adherents saw in him, I'm at a loss. I have never ever understood his appeal. To me he was singularly lacking in charisma.
posted by HotToddy at 11:12 AM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Billy Graham epitomizes the complicated relationship I have with white American Evangelical Christianity. Having grown up in the culture (and having mostly moved on), I continue to have a deep appreciation for the emphasis Graham and Evangelicals put on personal holiness—I was taught to act selflessly, to act with integrity, and to care genuinely for other’s souls. I also continue to have a deep sadness for the de-emphasis and often outright rejection by Graham and Evangelicals of the Social Gospel. There have long been some Evangelicals trying to rectify this, but that movement will have to survive Evangelicalism's darkest hour: the appalling alliance so many have made with Donald Trump.
posted by thomisc at 11:21 AM on February 21, 2018 [16 favorites]


.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:22 AM on February 21, 2018


.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:33 AM on February 21, 2018


.
posted by 4ster at 12:04 PM on February 21, 2018


He's got a lot to answer for, and that's me being generous.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:39 PM on February 21, 2018 [1 favorite]




I don't know why the Marvel Comics guy went with "Billy" as his professional name when he could have used Bill, William, Willy or Will, the last one assuring confusion with the fictional Hannibal protagonist/antagonist, and making me wonder if Thomas Harris considered the Billy connection in naming the character. In researching this, I discovered that Graham's grandson has now gotten into the Evangelical Biz under the name "Will". If that's not sacrilegious I don't know what is.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:45 PM on February 21, 2018



Woody Allen interviews Billy Graham yt in 1969. Not really sure how to feel about that one.

A. thanks for the link

B. I'd say, take it as a weird but true view into what the world (the American one that is) was like when folks from so-called left and so-called right would actually go to the trouble of talking and listening to each other ...
posted by philip-random at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah the good ol days, like how Buckley and Vidal spoke with such respect. Although the specter of a child molester interviews a swindling man of God is probably worse.
posted by Nelson at 3:50 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


I went to one of his crusades in Vancouver in 1984, I was 13. It was in the then-new BC Place, just massive amounts of people. My parents were in their full-on fundamentalist stage but I was starting to doubt. I'd spent the previous few years laying awake at night, terrified, praying to Jesus and waiting for the rapture to happen.

One part of Graham's sermon stuck with me, still sticks with me. He said that many people expected God to be fair, but that God wasn't fair. He was right about that at least. His God isn't fair, Billy Graham's ideas weren't fair, the fundamentalist Christian church wasn't fair, my parents with their stupid "exorcism" performed on a mentally ill woman on our kitchen table under the guidance of the local delusional fundamentalist preacher wasn't fair.

I grew up, became an atheist, studied the fine arts and humanities, got a graduate degree, came out, married another woman. How pleasant that my happy life feels like revenge for the fear and shame that man and his ilk made me feel as a child.
posted by Cuke at 4:12 PM on February 21, 2018 [29 favorites]


Meh. About damn time. Move on.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:50 PM on February 21, 2018


I was saddened last year when Iconic Voice Actor June Foray passed away three months short of her hundredth birthday. But I'm relieved that her 99 years 9 months was longer than Graham's 99 years 3 months, because she certainly deserved Centenarian status far more.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:06 PM on February 21, 2018 [2 favorites]


The way my grandmother, an otherwise practical woman, would reverently place her hands on her c1960s television set and pray along with this televangelist always creeped me out. She probably sent him and his ilk too much money.
posted by filtergik at 3:49 AM on February 22, 2018


> Cuke:
"How pleasant that my happy life feels like revenge for the fear and shame that man and his ilk made me feel as a child."


"Living well is the best revenge" --George Herbert
posted by chavenet at 4:31 AM on February 22, 2018


I have absolutely no sympathy for that man. Between him and his vicious son, the Graham's have tried to set the clock back to the middle ages, while lining their pockets with the gullibles coin. Fuck him(and all of his ilk), rot in hell, and when is Franklin going to croak?
posted by james33 at 5:41 AM on February 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


Panicked Billy Graham realizes he took wrong turn into Heaven’s largest gay neighborhood.

Actually far nicer than he deserved. The Onion believes in a more benevolent God than Graham did.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:23 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


Rot in hell.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:49 PM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


How Billy Graham closed down Dallas and co-wrote Townes Van Zandt's 'Pancho and Lefty'
First thing I thought of when I heard that Billy Graham had died was Explo '72, held here 46 summers ago. The festival was otherwise known as "the religious Woodstock" to people — like its organizer, Billy Graham — who clearly hadn't attended Woodstock. Second thing I thought of was the immortal song "Pancho and Lefty," which Townes Van Zandt always insisted he wrote in a cheap motel to which he'd been exiled because of Graham and "all this religiosity going on in Dallas."
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:09 PM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


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