More than any preacher in American history, Billy Graham has acted as the religious of the Protestant faith in this country. He’s held court worldwide with politicians, presidents, celebrities, and many others. He’s been the spiritual counselor of most of our modern Presidents. His long career also meant he was forced to deal with a changing landscape of civil rights, women’s rights, the Cold War and dozens of other shifts in America. It’s a shame for any student of American history to not understand his influence across generations and administrations.
“Sincerity is the biggest part of selling anything, including the Christian plan of salvation.”
As someone who grew up in a very religious community and household, I’ve heard about Billy Graham all my life. As a relatively agnostic adult, he’s not someone I’ve thought of in many years. When I came across this biography, I thought it might be a good chance to get some history of the America’s preacher, who greatly influenced the faith of many in my family.
I was quite interested when I picked up Billy Graham: His Life and Influence, by Times reporter and acclaimed author, David Aikman did quite an impressive job of giving you a look at the man behind the legend, the good and the bad. He manages to take you through Graham’s childhood and young adult influences, his call the Ministry, his development as a speaker, and his rise to fame and power and how he helped shape the world.
“God never takes away something from your life without replacing it with something better.”
The book is a bit long, and I struggled at times to get through all of it, but that’s my general experience with documentaries, so it’s probably no comment on the author. Overall I definitely recommend the book if you have any interest in the life and history of Billy Graham.
Below are a few of my notes:
“Graham has preached the gospel in person to more people than anyone in history: 210 million people in 185 nations and territories around the globe by the end of his sixty one year career.”
I just thought that was amazing for anyone to have been heard like that. That’s an amazing level of influence on the world.
Billy Graham‘s greatest weakness was his desire to be close to power and to be liked. This was evident in numerous scenarios dealing with Presidents, such as not condemning Nixon for racist comments.
Sometimes our biggest failures lead to our biggest successes. You have to find what works for you. There’s no one path. Billy Graham initially failed at Bob Jones university due to a real cultural conflict. After moving to a smaller university in Florida he flourished
Be teachable. Repeatedly through the book, the author highlights Graham’s humble teachability, even at the peaks of his career as his greatest strength. He was always willing to listen, take criticism, and hear the other side. As the author says, “personal modesty and humility have again and again protected him from the worst attacks of critics and the judgement of history”.
I really appreciate how on the front end of history Graham was on racial discrimination. He refused to speak to a segregated audience even thought it caused a lot of strife with many of his Southern audience. I think a greater impact could have been made had he marched with Dr. King.
Be willing to change your mind. “The transformation of Graham’s views on communism, war and peace were truly momentous. By the end of his career his world view largely transcended tribal and national constraints”. He called for an end to the arms race, apartheid in South Africa, racial discrimination and America’s disproportionate share of resources.
I enjoyed a chance to learn about Billy’s wife and family who were an integral part of his success. I think his wife has lived an interesting enough life for her on biography.
I watched a few videos to get a feel for Billy Graham as I read the book.
Below is what Youtube called, Billy Graham at his finest. You can see why he was so charismatic. I can also see how many preachers have used this style over the years.
I also enjoyed this Ted talk, which came much closer to the end of his life.
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