Billy Graham: A Critic Looks at His Life and Death!

I qualify as a Graham critic not because of any animas but because of my disagreement with some of his policies, practices, and positions. However, he was my brother in Christ and anytime I criticize him I want to provide a lively yet respectful and edifying discussion. This discussion is necessary since my position is believed by a large part of the evangelical/fundamentalist world.

Furthermore, the Bible characters were not immune from a stringent examination of their lives so Graham should not be an exception. If so, then that smacks of being unsavory, unnecessary, and unscriptural hero worship.

I have noticed over the decades that my critics refuse to deal with the core issue; instead, they accuse Graham critics of being jealous or haters, or legalists, or not following Matthew 18.

Billy Graham was my brother in Christ who made some ministerial decisions that I thought very unwise. However, they were very successful on the surface. I have always had great appreciation for him as a person—husband and father. Graham was a conspicuous example of discretion and commitment in a day when some televangelists and megachurch pastors have been caught with their pants down–then flying to exclusive pleasure spots in their multimillion dollar jets.

During his long life, Graham was never involved in a financial or moral scandal! He built and supervised a massive global organization of citywide crusades, a radio and television empire, books, newspaper columns, and movie productions. He was responsible for raising and spending about $100 million annually which would justify a million-dollar salary yet he always received a very modest salary and benefits. No one ever accused Billy Graham of being greedy.

Graham-haters make much of his net worth of $25 million as being excessive; however, when you realize his long life that is not unusual. With a nominal and conservative retirement program started at age 21, he could easily be worth more than that amount. Howard Stern has a net worth of $500 million and Rush Limbaugh is worth $300 million. By any standard, other than financial, Graham was worth far more than both men combined.

Daniel Borochoff, executive director of the nonprofit watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy, declared of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “He’s been looked upon as the gold standard.” No one can legitimately criticize Graham relating to money.

Graham’s personal morality is impeccable and his refusal to be alone with a female, not related to him, is one I have followed all my life. That rule kept him (and me) from a hint of scandal.

Any man who lives about a hundred years, often away from home, with access to large amounts of money without a hint of hanky-panky is to be commended not condemned.

As a friendly critic, I was delighted when the powers-that-be decided to have his body lie in state in the rotunda of the capitol. I took it as an honor to all Christian leaders and a casual endorsement of the Gospel. I was pleasantly surprised when President Trump said, “Billy Graham was 15 years old at the time. Just a few months later he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. That choice didn’t just change Billy’s life, it changed our lives. It changed our country and it changed, in fact, the entire world.” Wow, that is astounding. I hope Trump follows Graham’s example.

Billy Graham’s funeral made an incredible, indelible, and lasting impact on the world! I was surprised, shocked, and satisfied at the clear presentation of the Gospel in song, testimonies, and sermon. President Trump offered the National Cathedral for the funeral but the Grahams opted for a huge tent! Good for them. His funeral at the National Cathedral would have been spiritually grotesque.

The Graham funeral was one of the most spectacular events on television! He was buried on his mountain property after an amazing service in a huge tent. The singing of Bill Gaither was superb, the personal testimonies from Graham’s children were moving, and the message by Franklin Graham was right on target. And all paid for by the liberal media! No doubt atheists’ knees jerked all over America—left ones, of course.

Fox News carried the complete funeral while CNN spent less than 3 minutes on it; however, a few years ago, CNN did run the complete funeral of another Graham—Kay Graham, the late publisher of The New York Times. MSNBC decided 26 seconds was sufficient for Billy Graham! CNN and MSNBC devoted a whole day of coverage to the funeral of Muhammad Ali! Boy, they have their priorities in order!

Graham got his start in a large tent in Los Angles in 1949 when over 350,000 people came to the “Canvas Cathedral” during eight exciting weeks. Some of the Hollywood crowd trusted Christ and according to the media, about 3,000 people trusted Christ or “hit the sawdust trail.” Thousands of hearers listened intently as Graham preached nightly while thousands more listened outside the tent and others in their parked cars.

Stuart Hamblen was a skirt chasing, boozing, fighting, cowboy radio star in Los Angeles. He heard of the Billy Graham stir around L.A. and wanted him to be a guest on his show. He attended the tent meeting one night and he thought Graham called him a fake during his message! Hamblen stomped out and two nights later, he appeared at Graham’s hotel door at 4:00 a.m. drunk as a skunk! Hamblen trusted Christ as Savior and his life was changed immediately. He stopped his wild, hedonist living and soon the Hollywood crowd began to shun him, a typical reaction. Hamblen was fired from his popular radio show because he refused to accept a beer commercial.

Wow, a man of principle! That doesn’t happen very often.

John, one of Stuart’s old Hollywood drinking buddies, asked him one day if “getting religion” was worth all the bad repercussions and Stuart told him it was. John said, “But Stuart you sure liked your booze, don’t you miss it?” He told him that he did not miss it and John said, “I don’t understand how you could give it up so easily.” Stuart replied, “It’s no secret what God can do.” His friend replied, “That’s a catchy phrase. You should write a song about it.” He did. Stuart went home, sat down at the piano and finished the song in 17 minutes. His new gospel song, “It is no secret what God can do” was the first song to cross over from Gospel to country to pop ballad reaching number one on all three charts!

His drinking buddy was John Wayne with whom he appeared in some of Wayne’s movies where Hamblen had minor roles. It is noteworthy that one of the six songs chosen by Graham for his funeral was written by Hamblen.

Other stars impacted by Graham’s meeting included the beautiful, brassy, and boisterous Jane Russell, Dennis Morgan, Virginia Mayo, Porter Hall, Connie Haines, Michael O’Shea, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans.

When Graham decided to cast his lot with the modernist branch of Christianity thereby rejecting his fundamentalist roots, he received universal support from the media. Very seldom did the press offer even mild criticism; however, the fundamentalist media universally considered his decision a sellout.

The Charlotte Observer, usually very supportive of Graham, observed in 1971 that even some of Graham’s fellow Southern Baptists believed that he was “too close to the powerful and too fond of the things of the world, [and] have likened him to the prophets of old who told the kings of Israel what they wanted to hear.” That would be one of my major disagreements with him.

The major complaint Bible-oriented Christians had with Graham is that he pretended unbelieving ministers were believers to get their cooperation in his crusades. That was wrong and Christ healing a leper illustrates the principle that obedience to Him has priority over telling the Gospel story, even the essential and true story!

In Mark 1:40-45, Christ healed a leper and told him not to broadcast that amazing news lest it hinder His work! That was strange. Why not testify of a personal miracle? According to Old Testament law, when a person contracted leprosy he was to be separated from society. The outcast lived alone in desert places. But now he was free of leprosy but he could not immediately re-enter society.

Such a leprosy-free person had to go the priest for examination before reentering society. This forced the priest to certify Christ’s power even as he opposed Him! Note the difference between Christ’s power and that of the priests: The priests were authorized to pronounce a man clean, but Jesus had the power to make him clean!

Christ told him to see the priest and be examined, then make an offering; however, because he blazed the matter abroad, the crowds hindered Christ from doing His work. Christ could no longer enter cities because of the crowds! His fame hindered rather than helped His ministry! Obviously, having big, excited crowds is not proof of God’s will. Christ’s main purpose was not to heal every leper in Israel but to reveal Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus could no longer openly enter into the city, and was forced to live in desert places. It is interesting that Christ and the leper exchanged living conditions: the leper could now live among the people but Christ lived in “desert places” because of the former leper’s disobedience.

Dr. Billy Graham influenced millions of people but, like every other believer, his main obligation was not preaching but obedience and in that I believe he failed. The healed leper, like Graham, could boast of huge crowds but Christ wanted his obedience not crowds and the leper’s crowds interfered with Christ’s work! The leper sincerely thought he was doing right by drawing great crowds to Christ and was among the first to preach the good news about Jesus but he disobeyed Christ in doing so—just as Billy Graham did.

However, a disobedient Graham may have had an even greater impact at his death than in his life proving that a sovereign God will finally work things out to own satisfaction!

Most sensible people believe that there are two sides to every controversy; however, those same sensible people will not consider the possibility that Graham had faults, failures, and foibles! I am the only one who has provided the historical reality of the life, ministry, and death of Dr. Billy Graham but most people prefer the fable to facts.

Truth still matters and while it will set you free, it often stings!

Boys’ book, Muslim Invasion: The Fuse is Burning! is available here. An eBook edition is also available.

The God Haters

Angry Atheists, Shallow Scholars, Silly Scientists, Pagan Preachers & Embattled Evolutionists Declare War Against Christians

by Don Boys, Ph.D.

The God Haters

Angry Atheists, Shallow Scholars, Silly Scientists, Pagan Preachers, and Embattled Evolutionists are, of necessity, attacking the Bible for if they can denounce, deny, distort, and denigrate it, they will win more converts to atheism. They have been waging this war for a few years and most of us have ignored their books, television interviews, and university debates because they have just been more of the typical dog and pony shows that the most fanatical God haters have created for centuries. They want a fight, and while I consider atheists to be unimpressive fools, I’m willing to take them on. No quarter asked or given.

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