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How Billy Graham changed religion in America

(RNS) — Without Pope John XXIII, there would have been no Second Vatican Council, no quick walk for the Catholic Church into the modern world.

Without Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Tibetan Buddhism would be a shadow of its present self, a disappearing tradition of interest mostly to academics.

So what about that other great 20th-century religious figure, Billy Graham? What would our world be like without him?

Graham burst onto the national scene after World War II to revive a tradition of urban mass revivalism that had petered out with the 1925 Scopes monkey trial. Although his background was fundamentalist, he became the Galahad of its kinder, gentler postwar incarnation, Neo-evangelicalism.

As a revivalist, he cast himself more in the mold of irenic Dwight L. Moody than of hard-edged characters like Charles Grandison Finney and Billy Sunday. He was, early on, denominationally inclusive; and moderate on race when that wasn’t easy for a Southern Baptist.

Coming of age at a time when theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich ruled the roost, he, like his contemporary Martin Luther King, Jr., made it his business to pay them homage. In 1954, he ventured into their lion’s den, New York’s Union Theological Seminary, and after speaking in chapel 45 minutes and answering questions for another 30, received a standing ovation for his manifest sincerity and magnetism, and his verbal adroitness.

Christianity Today, the magazine he founded, set evangelicalism’s agenda. Wheaton College, his alma mater, became evangelicalism’s Harvard. And it was out of Wheaton that the megachurch movement emerged — a movement that, in beckoning religious seekers into the fold, became the suburbs’ answer to urban revivalism.

Long story short, Graham made Evangelical Protestantism safe for the world, and in the process played the central role in a development that none of the experts expected — its return to prominence in our religious culture.

Today, the default setting for non-Catholic Christianity in America is evangelicalism, not mainline Protestantism. It is fair to say that without Billy Graham, that would not have happened.

Yet while there always were critics to his theological left, the real hatred and vituperation came from the right — from unreconciled fundamentalists like Carl McIntire, who never forgave him his willingness to overlook religious differences in the saving of souls, his readiness to turn the other cheek. And in the end they had their revenge.

In the last decades of the 20th century, the fundamentalist style returned to America with a vengeance, led by decidedly non-Billy Graham characters like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and (how sharper than a serpent’s tooth) Graham’s own son Franklin.

The movement Graham led out of the wilderness has been taken over by the very forces he rebelled against. They are now leading it back whence it came.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • Pope John XXIII, Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Billy Graham, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Grandison Finney, Billy Sunday, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Martin Luther King, Jr., Carl McIntire, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Franklin Graham, and the fictional Galahad.

    These are the people in your column, representing the greatest or at least most or more influential religious leaders of the 20th century (or their influential predecessors or successors). Some you like, some you don’t. The manly photo of Billy Graham does look like a modern Sir Galahad. All are males, but you don’t mention patriarchy being alive and well in your pantheon of great religious leaders.

  • There’s hardly an area of human life on this planet where patriarchy isn’t alive and well. Mentioning it in terms of religious influence would be like mentioning that water is wet. True, but obvious.

  • This Ann Graham Lotz?

    “When you sin and you refuse to repent, God backs away. You don’t repent and you continue to sin and you become defiant, and He backs away further until in the end, God just turns you over to yourself. That’s where America is today. Look at the end of Romans 1. He’s just backed away from us, turned us over to ourselves. As they say, ‘America, how’s that working for you?’

    “And I’m talking about something like a nuclear strike, an earthquake that splits us in two, an EMP attack that devastates our electrical grid. Something major that would be a game-changer for America, because we are so defiant and rebellious and idolatrous and immoral, and we know better.” – Anne Graham Lotz, speaking to her father’s Decision Magazine.

    Previously, this “lady” has issued these howlers:

    Anne Graham Lotz declares that God sends hurricanes and wildfires to warn us that “the rapture is imminent.” Sooner or later, one of the two, if not never ever.

    Anne Graham Lotz fails to turn away Hurricane Harvey with the power of her prayers.
    It’s almost as if god had a plan.

    Anne Graham Lotz warns that the solar eclipse is a sign of God’s angry judgment unless it totally isn’t. Because the fact that eclipses can be predicted centuries in advance won’t stop her g(r)ift.

    Anne Graham Lotz warns that American is in its final downward spiral before being destroyed by God. How many decades have the rubes been buying that one?
    Anne Graham Lotz declares that God sends terrorists and bad weather to punish America for defying Jesus. But he doesn’t send them very often to the 2/3 of the world that doesn’t care about Jesus. Or he does. You just never know, ya know?

    Lotz of nonsense. But hey, she has ot earn a living.

  • Yep. THAT Anne Graham Lotz. THAT defiant rebellious America. THOSE wake-up calls, prior to THAT final downward spiral, and its game-changer disasters.

    Prophet Jeremiah never got any good TV ratings for saying where ancient Israel was heading. But he was telling the truth. Will America get the hint?

    I like eclipses, btw. Lotz bravely tried to help folks look past the big “eclipse party celebrations”, and actually think for a minute.

    “Jewish rabbis have historically viewed solar eclipses as warnings from God to Gentile nations. Therefore, my perspective on the upcoming (8-31-17) phenomenon is not celebratory. (Ezek. 33:1-6.) While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is.”

  • I agree that patriarchy in society and religion is as normal as the wetness of water and as natural as seeing men in paintings of the Last Supper. Mark disparaged the recently announced Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for being, as is traditional with the LDS, patriarchal.

  • So now we have a bunch of red-neck Christians running the country thanks to Billy G et. al. and his merry group of con artists!!!

  • Perhaps she bore mentioning in the list of non-Billy Graham like characters that subsequently arose.. However, I read that Graham’s death has made Benny Hinn reflect that maybe he got it wrong with promoting Prosperity Gospel.. Couldn’t ever figure why Billy Graham’s progeny fell so far from what he espoused other than they were minister’s kids (who frequently go in some other direction). That said, the OT certainly includes stories of progeny who did not follow the life lived example of the father.’

  • It’s what power and money do. It’s what privilege and soft living do. Look at what has become of our country.

    I’m not so sure that those road apples fell all the far from the proverbial horse. But then, I’m highly skeptical about religion in general, and its penchant for attaching itself to the state.

    And Vice versa.

  • We need to resist the temptation to either put Graham on a pedestal or demonize him. Like all of us, his work has produced mixed results.

    Though moderate on race, his criticisms of Martin Luther King’s efforts encouraged an escapism born from fatalism. It encouraged evangelicals to adopt an all-or-nothing approach to solutions. In addition his approach to communism and suggestions regarding fighting the war in Vietnam tied Evangelicalism to closely to nationalism, a problem his son has.

    But he also made the contributions cited in the article above. So we should look at all of his works, both what he did and said wrong as well as his contributions to form a fair opinion of him. And lest we be too harsh, we need to look in the mirror before we overstate his faults.

  • Here’s the best hope for the future of mankind. It’s a very short excerpt from the Lord’s Prayer — …thy kingdom come, thy will be done…

    Strangely, ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ is slow as molasses.

  • Mark was not simply criticizing the all-male LDS Presidency. He was criticizing the patronizing, patriarchal, and infantilizing tone they took toward the female reporters at the news conference.

  • Lotz’s statement that rabbis have “historically” viewed eclipses as bad omens is a little loose with the facts. While that was certainly true of the Talmudic era — late antiquity to early medieval— by the time of the Enlightenment, rabbis were recognizing that eclipses were natural phenomena.

  • Re: “Anne Graham Lotz declares that God sends terrorists and bad weather to punish America for defying Jesus. But he doesn’t send them very often to the 2/3 of the world that doesn’t care about Jesus. Or he does. You just never know, ya know?”  

    Look here. The Lord works in mysterious ways, ya know? His ways are not your ways, ya know? How dare you try making sense of the Lord using your worthless, mere-mortal brain!  


  • Your kingdom will never come; not unless you have a couple of armored divisions at the ready and the kingdom is on the tiny side.

  • Eclipses occur all over the planet, not just in America, genius. They are predictable, and thanks to science, we know exactly when and where the next one is, and what it’s exact trajectory will be. Your magical thinking has no place in 2018.

  • It is too bad that these ‘Christians’ are so easily influenced by authority figures such as Graham. I believe people need to think for themselves lest we continue the history that indeed we do have.

    My personal faults are not those of having encouraged crimes against humanity in conversation with unhinged presidents of the u.s.a., when giving ‘religious’ advise. Or any other advise at that.

    I can look in the mirror and my ‘soul’ is not a problem. Although it tells me to get to the gym asap. Personally I think he may have been psychologically unbalanced.

    February 21, 2018
    Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear

    by Cecil Bothwell


    This may be a different kind of perspective for some readers here.

  • readyto..,
    It is too bad but perhaps not for the reason you think. Authority figures can easily be confused with the voice of God for those who are authoritarians.

    But for others, for those who judge for themselves what is right without use of God’s Word, the last verse in the book of Judges becomes a description rather than just a warning. Where the problem with authoritarianism is fear of those who are merely people, the problem of the lack of God’s authority is the total absence of fear.

    Proverbs 1:7

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

  • Indeed, the very definition of a ‘fool’ is the absence of ‘wisdom’. My heavens. A fool doesn’t even know what wisdom is, let alone be able to despise it. Sorry, but that is based on living in the world.

    Wisdom is not taught or learned through books. It comes through experience and the heart. Many assume that age brings wisdom. It doesn’t, although without deep experience and learning from experience, wisdom doesn’t develop.

    By the way, the foolishness of the great majority of Christian missionaries over several centuries is a crime against humanity in itself. They had no ability to ‘see’ the truth or validity of any culture or way of life other than their own. Fools on a criminal scale. But I digress.

    I would say that the definition of what ‘God’s Word’ is would be up for years of debate. I am not Bible knowledgeable at all. Yet I managed to be a peace and justice activist since I was in my late teens. It was coming from my Soul. And no one encouraged me at all. I call it the ability to ‘see through’ lies combined with empathy and compassion.

    Because what is ‘right’ and ‘just’ is actually an inner knowing, which is where Jeremiah said it would be found. Written in the heart. Not in stone. And I didn’t know about that until maybe fifteen years ago. I had no authority to tell me about what was ‘right’ and ‘Just’. Just my own inner knowing.

    I am not fearful except when it comes to driving a car and dealing with a society that is not heart centered, but based in the letter of the law. Which seems to be true of most “western” societies.

    In your last paragraph, where are you getting ‘God’s word’ from?

    By the way, I have never known of any human being, and I have worked intimately with thousands, who had no fear. It is a survival instinct. Unless you are speaking of people who climb Mount Everest or do extreme sports. But they have other fears. Or sociopaths perhaps. That is another story altogether.

    I do not mean to be at all insulting, but those words at the end sound impressive, but really do not have substance.
    Peace out,

  • From the comments (not mine) in Mark’s original column:

    “It’s worth noting that when Pres. Nelson told Peggy that he knew her and her parents, he also did likewise to a few other (male) reporters. He mentioned how he knew the reporters and how he knew members of their family. In other words, this wasn’t an isolated incident directed at someone due to their gender.”

    “Pres. Nelson could have just been being friendly. If this female reporter is not confident enough to talk as an adult to a fellow adult only because they were told “I knew your grandparents” then this reporter lacks an ounce of confidence.”

    “It is fascinating to me that the very victims who claim disadvantage immediately segregate the world, judging all by the factor they claim victimized them.”

    See also Isa. 29:21.
    “who by a word make a man out to be an offender…” ESV

  • “Sharper than a serpent’s tooth” comes from Shakespeare’s King Lear. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a thankless child!”

    But Mark never presented any evidence that Billy Graham ever considered Franklin an ungrateful child or that Billy disapproved of Franklin or Franklin’s ministry or that Franklin was ungrateful in any way. Mark just wanted to take a swipe at Franklin.

    The column is full of animus but without delineating any sins other than a “fundamentalist style,” whatever Mark means by that. This is taking the death of Billy Graham as an opportunity to blacken Franklin Graham’s name.

  • ready,
    this where we partially split. Certainly wisdom comes from experience, but not all experience produces wisdom. And though inner knowing can lead us to wisdom, not all inner knowing does so. And with the human propensity to exalt oneself,how we feel about ourselves should not be the sole criteria that measures how we do.

    God’s Word in Old Testament times was the Law and the Prophets. They acted as a guide:

    Your word is a lamp to my feet
    And a light to my path.

    And Deuteronomy 4:2

    2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

  • But who can ‘measure’? We are humans walking around here. And all we know comes through a human heart and voice and mind. That is the point.

    I don’t disagree with what you are saying here, Curtistan. I also said that age doesn’t ensure wisdom. Not at all. Or experience. It is just that it can’t occur without experience, etc.

    I also am not a ten commandment fan. Jesus boiled it all down and I am into that kind of physics. Unified field theory and all. The Truth is the most elegant, simple and pure in the end. But I have no problem with your quotes here.

    However, I don’t look to the Bible for my Truths. There is far more throughout the ages and civilizations that are not even technically ‘religious’. I have found other sources that speak more directly and profoundly to my soul and have in fact helped me along my own road to awareness and from which I have helped many, many others over more years than I would like to mention.

    The proof, I believe, is in the results. That is what is important. In my opinion, anyway. Don’t be destructive to yourself or others and be real and sincere. I find this to be quite helpful as an overall way of being in the world. Just as the most basic rule of thumb.

    And I don’t need to put anyone on a pedestal besides. No one who is truly connected to the ‘Divine’ , in my opinion, would even wish to be put there. And even a good guide or parent wants their progeny to go off and become their own person who thinks for themselves, rather than being dependent. Teach them how to fish and they can do it for themselves. They can even surpass their teachers and hopefully move the art of fishing forward………

    your posting pal who is outta here,

  • “What would our world be like without him?”

    There is no way to know the answer to that question. As we can’t with certainty predict the future,
    the same is true of knowing the character of an alternative past.

    He was partially responsible for melding Evangelicalism with politics. He helped to weaken the separation of church and state. He fought our traditional secularism. He caused many to believe that this was one nation under God. He supported the national motto “In God we trust.” However he preached the ideology “In God we must fear.”

    He promoted obedience to authority. He made unregulated capitalist economics part of Evangelical Ideology. He praised America’s militarism. He supported our executives as enabled by God. He promoted homophobia. He encouraged Christians to use the political system to support their values and use the government to force them on others. He taught them that the source of knowledge of the world was from the Bible, which supersedes science.

    I think it’s likely that our present government and Christian Nationalism which includes the Republican Party would not have been able to take control without the legacy of his followers.

  • As Rita says wisdom does come from experience both in the world and through human relationships. Considering the stories, experience and opinions of others, openly but skeptically is also useful. Education is also essential.

    What is called God’s word, his Law or the Prophets may have some things to consider, but they have no authority.

  • Good post Bob. I agree. And you made the point that I forgot to make here. Obedience seems to be a primary directive in all of this. It is the whole ‘original sin’ extravaganza, in fact. “Man” and “Woman” disobeyed. And then it all went down hill. So don’t ever do that again.

    We know where that thinking leads us………………….Certainly not to ‘civil disobedience’. It seems like it is always ‘vacation bible school’ and what I also see is that the goal and or outcome of this kind of religiosity is a kind of stagnation. There is no growth and in fact, no real ‘faith’. Because it is all fear based. Fear of human nature itself, so that of course, it keeps people on a developmental level that Kohler put at under ten years of age. It works against an individual’s own agency.

    As someone I knew as a teenager put it, “it is dressed up crowd control”. Because of course, if humans are sinners, we can’t trust ourselves or each other and so we need total obedience at all times……………….And so it goes.

  • I am a Humanist. My respect is for all life but especially humanity. I think everyone is worthy of respect because they have the enormous potential of human life.
    Christians are taught to have faith. Without it they will suffer, with it they will prosper. They must create this thing called faith within themselves or eventually be punished with eternal suffering. There is no way to know if the faith they must create is sufficient. Because of this fear they become incapable of independent skeptical thought about any issue that differs from their Christian teachings.

    I have recently learned a definition of faith that helps me.
    Faith = pretending to know something that you don’t know.
    You can always have more by pretending harder.

  • To my dear friend, readyto..
    You ask a very pertinent question. Only God can measure. But what does he use to measure by?

    If God doesn’t speak to us, then those who care are left floundering for what God wants. If God does speak to us but only internally, then who is to know who is right as we humans are imperfect receptors and disagreement would show that. If God speaks to us objectively by the words He gave to His prophets, then we have something objective by which we can see our general direction and whether what we sense internally is matched with what God said.

    God tells us to love but He also provides some specific instructions as to what love means and what it doesn’t mean.

    Jeremiah 17:9

    “The heart is more deceitful than all else
    And is desperately sick;
    Who can understand it?

  • I give God no authority. I also don’t despise wisdom and instruction. I don’t consider your Lord a source of such and I don’t fear him. The source of what wisdom their is in the Bible is that of the authors.

  • Although human hearts vary, there is no greater known source of wisdom.
    We are responsible for discovering our wisdom, or determining another human guide our source. We know of no higher consciousness.

  • Bob,
    If God created all that there is, I don’t think He is waiting for you to give Him authority. And if He holds accountable for our lives, your declarations of independence might come back to haunt you as everyone’s declaration will.

  • Bob,
    Verified by whom? If God makes the demands on us that are stated in the Bible, I doubt if any of us consider His existence without experiencing a conflict of interests.

  • He ignored the “11th Commandment” established by the SBC, effectively “thou shalt NOT mix religion & politics”. Both my paternal grandfather & his identical twin SBC preachers had nothing good to say about BG. They considered him a fraud as did my Dad and myself. He opened the pathway for Falwell and all the other frauds who have damaged the US opening the door for the Dominionists and other descendants of Calvin to assault our government and attack the separation of church & state. Without this separation our way of life is seriously at risk.

    BG was 99.9% right wing politician and 0.1% or less preacher. 0% Christian as he violated Christ’s teachings on hypocrisy.

  • “Graham made Evangelical Protestantism safe for the world.” I’m not too sure about that.

    I wonder if, without Billy Graham, the Cold War would have taken on a heavy religious overtone. In 1949, shortly after the Soviets successfully tested their first atomic bomb, Graham said at a rally in Los Angeles, “Communism is a religion that is inspired, motivated and directed by the Devil himself who has declared war against Almighty God.” The newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst instructed his editors to “puff Graham” by providing him with regular, favorable coverage. The popularity of the LA rally helped propel Graham into the American mainstream.

    Only the folks on the far left with claim that the Soviet Union was not a military adversary. But by the 1970s and 1980s, the Evangelical Protestants of the religious right were preaching for a global nuclear war with the “godless” Soviet Union that would usher in the Biblical Armageddon. Some of them were so obsessed with this scenario that they called Ronald Reagan — who was no liberal — a “useful idiot” of the Soviets when he signed the INF treaty.

    When the Soviet Union collapsed, they lost their main international bogeyman until 9/11, when they set their sights on Islam. Billy’s own son Franklin Graham picked up that mantle.

    So, if Evangelical Protestants have been engaged in religious wars with the outside world against Communism and Islam for the past 60 years, and engaged in culture wars on the home front, I can’t agree with the assertion that Graham made them safe for the world.

    Maybe without Graham, there would have been no Falwells, Robertsons, Swaggerts, or Bakkers who rail against the separation of religion from government, who want to use government to spread their religion, and who want to abolish individual freedoms.

    Too bad there weren’t more folks who had the guts to lampoon Graham in the way H.L. Mencken ridiculed the fundamentalists during the Scopes trial. (Mencken suffered a stroke in 1948 that left him unable to write. He died in 1956.)

  • Oh, that’s okay. No worries.
    You ‘n’ Him will eventually have an scheduled appt, and then things gonna get hashed out good (Heb. 9:27.)

  • “…an opportunity to blacken Franklin Graham’s name.”

    And to blacken Evangelicalism in particular and conservative Protestantism in general.

  • I realize that promoting fear is one method used in evangelical indoctrination. This selection you gave from their Bible seems to give them that authority: Proverbs 1:7
    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

    I was fortunate enough to not accept that belief as a child. I refused my parents attempts for me to attend church after age 11. I spent some years later practicing a Japanese form of Buddhism. The difference was very refreshing. Their moral instruction did not provide rules. Their philosophy taught the how and why of moral values with encouragement. No terror or fear. No one fears the Buddha. Some of their belief system requires faith which caused me to stop the practice when I realized that faith is incompatible with reason.

    I consider using fear to indoctrinate children to believe, as true, a world view that is not compatible with natural reality, to be child abuse. Fear induced stress is detrimental to child development. Also, as has been known for ages, teachings and beliefs taught by respected adults at an early age often become the un-reasoned beliefs of an individual for life. This causes difficulty in skeptical thinking, which is necessary for making decisions in this rapidly changing modern world.

  • Your Jeremiah quote is really ……………..No comment. I guess I rita now declare myself to be more aware and wise than good old Jeremiah! Too bad anyone who can’t deal with that. Your quote is the opposite of anything I have ever read or heard. But I sincerely don’t care. I know what I know. Sounds like Calvin was busy rewriting some of the prophets. 🙂

    As a psychologist I know better. The bible is not psychology nor is it even much wisdom. Many on this planet have known this for years.
    You and I have profoundly different basis of reality. But I will bet that I have more ‘faith’ than you do. Have you travelled alone to foreign countries, not speaking the language, because you ‘knew’ you could count on Life itself and the goodness of strangers on your journeys? Why, Rita, the Jewess has done this many , many times.
    And far more……………………………………

    Many people live courageous and creative and compassionate lives and don’t know squat about the bible.

    Fundamentalism is the most primitive of all belief systems. The concept of basic symbolism came from the evolution of human brains and is often cited as a separation from other animal consciousness. But fundamentalism can’t conceive of anything being symbolic and quite frankly, it makes God into a two dimensional, American father from the Midwest.

    It has not helped the world at all and has caused regressive politics and politicians. But heck. Better dead than red. And Billy Graham knew how to play the game. Although he was evidently too ‘liberal’ for the fundamentalist Christians.

    But whatever cult/club gets you or anyone else through the night is fine with me. Or it would be except that the problem is that those of your persuasion have so much freaking hubris that they screwed up the country and a big part of humanity with the small minded obedience nonsense. Go Puritans!

    Don’t be insulted personally, please. However, It is like trying to have a rational conversation with a flat earther. I know you enjoy debating, etc., but honestly. You have no idea how silly and even destructive I see your ‘religion’ as being. Talk about a lack of wisdom…………….I know of none more foolish and anti human.

    And because it has caused such reactionary social/political realities, I do feel I have a right and even a righteous obligation to call it out.

    over and out.
    Yours truly,

  • Sure. I don’t cross the street when I see a car speeding by me. What are *you* afraid of, based on your religious beliefs?

  • Readyto..,
    If you want to assume that you are wiser than what was written through Jeremiah, it’s a free country. My point in quoting the Scriptures is to present the reality of God’s Word.

    Yes, we have some disagreements, and yet we also have agreements in other areas. Imagine that.

    And as for your faith, I’m happy that you have more faith than I do. In Christianity, it isn’t the believer who is most important, it is the object of one’s faith. And I imagine that I have passed through some tests that you couldn’t just like there are tests you can pass through that I couldn’t. Life isn’t a competition. Making life into a competition leads to a spiritual death.

    You write as if fundamentalists are a monolith. Having been a fundamentalist for most of my life, I can assure you that such is not the case. Though how you describe fundamentalists fits many fundamentalists today, the question becomes whether today’s Christian fundamentalism is more a product of syncretisms formed from associations than of Christian theology. For that, I would refer you to the article linked to below:


  • readyto…,
    God’s judgment. Outside of trusting in Christ, that is what exists. All my other fears are from life experiences and how they have affected me.

  • Bob, it is good to hear that you were able to ‘see’ at an early age and think for yourself. Personally, I believe we are all at different places in our own evolution of consciousness, and obviously you, at an early age, had the insight that told you how limited your parents were. You weren’t afraid to think for yourself and not obey them.

    Many other civilizations are more sophisticated than Christian fundamentalists. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find one that isn’t.

    Even the intellectual Catholics I have known are very steeped in arts and literature and have a deep appreciation of many different philosophies. Although I disdain that church on so many levels. But fundamentalists in general are quite provincial and insular. I would call it being beige.

    What is the fear? I suppose it is of going to hell. God the father will punish them for being disobedient. I have talked to some who did grow out of it in their teens or twenties and told me about the fear of questioning because that was also being disobedient. Plus, the fear of being shunned by the others in their churches.

    I could write chapters on this subject and have written a lot on these matters. By the way. One thing I want to say to you personally.

    There is far more to human consciousness than strict analysis. If that weren’t the case, Einstein would never have gotten anywhere and there would be no breakthroughs in any areas of arts and science or creative endeavors. Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Insight itself transcends the rational mind. The goals is to use all of our capacities. And I have found that when I get deep insights, they are always deeply rational as well.

    I hope you find this interesting, Bob.
    Peace, rita

  • Rita,
    I find your insight into human consciousness very much in agreement with mine. Though I am not a scientist, I disagree with the reductionist perspective of those neuroscientists who claim we are our brain. They deny free will and search for consciousness by analysis of the brain. Fortunately there are scientists who consider consciousness “the hard problem” and disagree with that position.

    Your statement “Insight itself transcends the rational mind” agrees with Mahayana Buddhism. It’s a very un-Christian concept, but they speak of finding the wisdom within yourself. This doesn’t mean neglecting the study of nature, society, politics etc. The emotions and reason must also be involved.

    Thank you I found your post very interesting. Rita

  • Thank you Bob. I am finding this exchange to be enjoyable. And refreshing. I have also said that Judeo/Christian religions as they are traditionally practiced are actually pre Newtonian. 🙂

    Oh, emotions are so very primary and important. I have been a psychologist for about twenty five years now and the emotions are the most terrifying force for people. In fact, that is the basis of all imbalances and problems I have seen in people. Fear of feelings. People are terrified of being out of control. I work on those levels with people. Even the most simplistic people. It works.

    And you can take that as far as the whole western idiocy of ‘man vs nature’. The disconnect which Christianity really get into. The whole fear of the ‘feminine’. Fear of being out of control and the powers of nature. The emotional, intuitive, etc. You know. Eve was a ‘bad woman’ and led Adam astray.

    And so passion is evil, unless it is a pastor who sounds like a lunatic preaching about hell and the devil. I only know that from televangelists I have seen, but I have been told it is real in many churches. And Billy himself I believe was one of those.

    So, the whole problem with destroying the environment, for me, can be traced back to these basics. Since nature is separate from ‘man’. In fact, it is the enemy that needed to be controlled and raped, etc.

    If you want to check out an amazing woman. Vedanta Shiva. A physicist who became an activist environmentalist in India. Amazing. Very profound. Eco Feminism. I am speaking about ‘feminism’ on a very deep level of course. Not as someone like an American politician would describe it. But the interconnectedness of it all.

    Actually, I have always found the bible to be very unreadable. Not that I have done that much of it. But I do find a lack of wisdom. Wisdom was not the goal. But that is a whole other discussion. I am pleased to have run into you.

  • The word “fear” is mistranslated especially in the KJ version. It should read in English “respect” or be “in awe” of the Lord. The word fear has been used for centuries to manipulate the uneducated parishioners by control freaks in seats of power.

  • Stan,
    It seems that some suffer from a fearphobia. When Jesus talked about not being afraid of those who can only kill the body but be afraid of the one who can destroy both the body and the soul, He is including in His definition of fear the concept of being afraid. And I think that should be included, along with what you wrote, when talking about the fear of the Lord.

  • This is really quite well done. I have not known how to differentiate B. Graham from the likes of Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, et al, even if I sensed he was different – to my mind, less offensive and strident in pushing religion into politics.

    I do, however, agree with the last sentence: “The movement Graham led out of the wilderness has been taken over by the very forces he rebelled against. They are now leading it back whence it came.” Yep. It all comes in cycles, doesn’t it? But, it is time for the current version of Evangelicalism to fade away and, hopefully, any future awakening will be different. Can fundamentalism change? Or is that an oxymoron?

  • Billy Graham strode the world like a Colossus in his day, but that day has gone. Now it’s much more multi-faith and secular. Religion of all kinds has lost prestige and preachers of any faith today would find it much harder than Billy Graham did to appeal to the people.

  • While he may have become swayed by the very success of his organization (and making that organizational success his primary focus), there seemed to be a sincere element in his belief that changing hearts would indeed change the world. Later in life, he remarked that he was surprised to see that the large numbers of conversions he saw in his crusades had no corresponding effect on the improvement of society.

    Nevertheless, the die had been cast. He was bound by his very success to hold on to the notion that his evangelistic association must continue to garner more souls. Did he persevere more for the Kingdom of God or was it to justify his own efforts and career?

  • Uh oh. Does that mean he may go to ………………………..you know where? He had better appease you know who. Because it doesn’t matter how much good Bob does in the world. God wants people to pay homage unto him. That is what matters in the end.

    I have a feeling that Bob doesn’t really think there is a hell, as in certain other religions. Thank heavens I was spared that one as a child.

  • readyto…,
    And? I think many of our problems with God’s judgment is that we look at God as peer. And that independence from God is like independence from people in that they should have the same consequences.

  • What do you trust in Christ? I think what I know of his point of view and radicalism is all good stuff. He didn’t need to be tortured and die for me. In fact, I find that quite ……………………..no comment. I guess God works in the same ways as empires do. How convenient for Rome and all the way to Billy Graham and the u.s of a.

    Too bad that none of what Jesus actually was about would matter at all if it weren’t for crucifixion. I guess that todays ‘faithful’ wouldn’t have listened to him when he was still alive.

    In fact, now that being a ‘believer’ is the most mainstream thing possible, and it is accepted as dogma, it takes no courage at all to be part of the club. No risk factor at all. And.

    People are afraid of being punished in the end if they use their own minds and hearts. My God loves creativity and discovery and taking big risks. I also find it deeply childish, not child like, to live in fear of being punished by my father. In fact, it is deeply dysfunctional when people never grow past that kind of childhood fear.

    You should read Kohler’s stages of moral development.

    Typo alert. Here is the link to Kohlberg.


    I hope this discourse gives this site something new.

    Your truly, me

  • I don’t even get what that means. And you have the right to believe that the Bible is God’s word. But lots of others have the right to not believe what you believe. No? Or is your way the only way? Boy. I guess God is not exactly open minded or even very liberal.

  • Curt, I agree. I am sure that is true. And I am not a particularly competitive person, btw. I don’t care about any kind in fact. Never even went to a ball game of any kind. I was pointing out that I actually have deep faith, since I have been working without a net most of my life, quite frankly. In fact, I believe Jesus tried to get his peeps to have that kind of faith. Not fitting the traditional mold and trusting that they will be alright.

    And I never even knew any of this. It is just the way I naturally roll.

    I do think it would be good for you to also find out about other traditions in the world, such as Zen Buddhism for example. Just to get outside the bubble and ‘see’ something different, and rather far more sophisticated. But it isn’t from the ‘west’.

  • I am not sure I ‘get’ what you are saying here. Independence from people and consequences? Do you mean being anti social? Actually, it takes inner strength to not need the approval of those around you. It is no sin to not be pushed into group think.

    I personally feel quite connected in with ‘God’. It is not in the way I think your church would affirm, but I have nothing on my conscience except what I would like to accomplish more and haven’t regarding my own writings, etc. my ‘sins’ in a sense, are against myself, if you want to use that term. I don’t. Although certain times, very rarely I have been moved to use it. When it comes to something like torture.

    I don’t believe in a God that wants homage paid like a king or like Trump. That is one thing I think we disagree with. Thousands of years ago, that was the only reality in that part of the world, so of course that was the story line. I also don’t think you are going to stone a ‘sinner’ or decide on how many slaves you may hold or sell. Or how many wives you can own. That was in the bible as well.

    idolatry is when something is in stone and is lifeless and stagnant.

    By the way, you haven’t addressed my very first comment regarding the topic of the article. It is about Graham having made some mistakes just like we all do. And I challenged you and said that I don’t think that running a stop sign is equivalent to advising presidents to make war and kill millions of ‘non Christians’. You seem to feel there is a moral equivalency here. I couldn’t agree less.

    So there you have it and I think I shall take my leave , however, I would like you to respond to my last paragraph here.


  • readyto…,
    Galatians 3:10-14 addresses your first two questoins:

    10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    You can find the Christian faith childish all you want. But in today’s society, I find self-exaltation and self-righteousness to be the most mainstream religious practice and dogma around. In a sense, you are not different from those Paul talked about in vs 10. Where you are different is the code you use to evaluate yourself. Whereas Paul used the Law that came from Moses, you use a different law. In the end, you have not behaved any different from the Pharisee from the follow parable that Jesus told. And, btw, you are not alone. For whenever we look down on others we behave like this pharisee. And we have all looked down on others.

    9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    15 And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. 16 But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

  • ready..,
    IN terms of society, you are absolutely right and I agree with you: people have the right to not believe what I believe and to believe what they think or want to be true. But that is in society.

    And what I meant in my previous comment is that our desire to think of ourselves as being good conflicts with God’s own existence. Think about the stories of Moses when God appeared to him.

  • readyto…,
    BTW, I have explored other traditions when teach World Religions at Penn State. That includes several forms of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and alike.

    When covering Christianity, I had to cover much of a tragic Church history. And yet, I am still a Christian though my some of my students could not tell by how I covered Christianity and the other religions.

  • readyto…,
    Think about what you think about my Christian faith and Christ. You believe he is merely a person and you exhibit independence by feeling free to disagree. You have no problems with agreeing with some of what Christ represented as you see it, but, in your independence, you also feel free to disagree.

    And we should feel free to find both areas of agreement and disagreement with our peers. And the only negative consequences that should result from any agreement or disagreement with them should come when we employ wisdom in our choices.

    But disagreeing with God is not like disagreeing a peer. This is especially true if God created and sustains all things, including us, for a purpose. And the difference between Trump and God is that Trump is a peer, a fellow human being. To not pay homage to Trump means nothing. But to not pay homage to God who has given us all things and sustains all things is to declare independence from the source life.

  • Tis all about the money:

    Christian Economics and Greed 101:

    The Baptizer drew crowds and charged for the “dunking”. The historical Jesus saw a good thing and continued dunking and preaching the good word but added “healing” as an added charge to include free room and board. Sure was better than being a poor peasant but he got a bit too zealous and they nailed him to a tree. But still no greed there.

    Paul picked up the money scent on the road to Damascus. He added some letters and a prophecy of the imminent second coming for a fee for salvation and “Gentilized” the good word to the “big buck” world. i.e. Paul was the first media evangelist!!! And he and the other Apostles forgot to pay their Roman taxes and the legendary actions by the Romans made them martyrs for future greed. Paul was guilty of minor greed?

    Along comes Constantine. He saw the growing rich Christian community and recognized a new tax base so he set them “free”. Major greed on his part!!

    The Holy Roman “Empirers”/Popes/Kings/Queens/Evangelicals like Billy G. et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today’s richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies. Obvious greed!!!

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

    “Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God’s hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus’ failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing.”
    Some of Paul’s money gathering activities some of which resulted in buying the Gentile entry into the then mostly Jewish version of Christianity:
    Paul claimed almost total independence from the “mother church” in Jerusalem.[12] and yet was eager and diligent to bring material support from the various budding Gentile churches that he planted to the mother church at Jerusalem.

    When a famine occurred in Judea, around 45–46,[24] Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Jerusalem to deliver financial support from the Antioch community.[25] According to Acts, Antioch had become an alternative center for Christians following the dispersion of the believers after the death of Stephen. It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.”[Ac. 11:26]. This act basically “greased” the entry of non-circumcised Gentiles into Christianity.