Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Graham and Racial Integration

I have blogged more than once about what other people have written about Billy Graham's influence on the theological decline in evangelicalism. I've also criticized his bold statements about the condition of the late John Paul II's soul.

Then in the comments to a recent thread where we were speculating on whether Ligon Duncan, Jesse Jackson, Bob Jones III, and John Piper might have ever been in the same place in Greenville, South Carolina, at the same time (they share it as their hometown), a commenter wondered if a pre-1957 Graham crusade might have provided an opportunity. I doubted that these events were integrated in the South at that time.

Well, not even 48 hours later I find reason to believe (and I wasn't even looking) that I was dead wrong—assuming that Bill Clinton is a reliable source. In this monologue about an article he wrote in The New Yorker magazine, Peter J. Boyer relates an anecdote from a conversation he had with Clinton about their memories of attending Graham crusades as young people. Clinton's memory is of being struck by the racial integration of the crowds at a crusade he attended in Little Rock as a child. Graham had actually refused to conduct a segregated crusade. The BGEA website says that Graham visited Little Rock in 1959 and 1989, and Clinton would have been 12 or 13 in 1959.

So unless there was a change in Graham's integration policy during the 50's, I was wrong to suggest that his crusades were segregated. It is easy for paleoevangelicals like me to take shots at Graham's choices (with good reason, I believe), but he was far ahead of his time on this point (as Piper [1] chronicles [2]), and my respect for him has increased with this knowledge.

On a related note, you may want to check out the article about Graham in The New Yorker (apparently unavailable online except to subscribers). See Kevin Bauder's new blog for news and discussion about it.

And finally, some of you will appreciate this. Boyer says about Franklin Graham, "His sword is really of a much sharper iron than Billy's."

P.S. I use the term "crusade" under protest.


joy mccarnan | said...

I can find some lamentation on April 5 about Franklin Graham's comments on the Pope, but I can't find where you "criticized [his father's] bold statements about the condition of the late John Paul II's soul." Help?

joy mccarnan | said...

And again, I say "nevermind." WWLD?
I swear, I illustrate a Murphy's Law of blog-browsing.
If it's there to find, you'll find it, just after you break down and ask.

Ben said...

Good to know that someone is reading carefully. Hopefully, that will keep me on my journalistic toes. Here's the link.

I would offer you free absolution, but both Luther and Tetzel would be mad at me.