Billy Graham Built a Movement. Now His Son Is Dismantling It.

If you want to understand the evangelical decline in the United States, look no further than the transition from Billy to Franklin Graham.

.. in 1949, William Randolph Hearst looked at the handsome thirtysomething evangelist with flowing blond hair and famously directed editors in his publishing empire to “puff Graham.”
.. the puffery never stopped.
.. while the nineteenth-century lawyer-turned-evangelist Charles Finney must be credited with inventing modern revivalism, Graham perfected and scaled it, turning evangelicalism into worldwide impulse that has transformed Christianity in recent decades in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
.. But almost two decades ago, Graham handed over the keys of the empire to his son, Franklin. And if you want to chart the troubled recent course of American evangelicalism—its powerful rise after World War II and its surprisingly quick demise in recent years—you need look no further than this father-and-son duo of Billy and Franklin Graham.
  • .. The father was a powerful evangelist who turned evangelicalism into the dominant spiritual impulse in modern America.
  • His son is—not to put too fine a point on it—a political hack, one who is rapidly rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system marked not by faith, hope, and love but by fear of Muslims and homophobia.

..  Graham got into bed with the wrong man in Richard Nixon. And while he must be praised for integrating his revivals (which he called crusades) and for inviting the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver an invocation at his massive New York City crusade in 1957, he was missing in action when it came to civil rights legislation.

.. After King imagined in his 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech” a “beloved community” in which “little black boys and little black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls,” Graham dismissed that dream as utopian. “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children,” he said.

..  ultimately chastened by his chumminess with Nixon

.. worked hard to transcend the racism and anti-Semitism that swirled around him as a farm boy in North Carolina

.. understood (at his best) that the Christian message (at its best) is about love rather than fear, inclusion rather than exclusion.

.. When asked to join in common cause with Jerry Falwell after the foundation of the Moral Majority in 1979, Graham refused to yoke his organization to the cultural wars of the Religious Right and the Republican Party.

.. Shortly after 9/11, Franklin Graham provided the sound bite of today’s culture wars when he denounced Islam as “a very wicked and evil religion.” He later became thestandard bearer for the view that Islam is, in his words “a religion of hatred . . . a religion of war.”

.. In addition to purveying the birther nonsense

.. suggested that President Barack Obama was not a Christian and might in fact be a secret Muslim.

.. he demonstrates no awareness of the ways in which his political pronouncements are breaking down the evangelical witness his father devoted so much energy to building up.

.. During World War II era, European churches were hurt badly by the affiliation of Christianity with right-wing political movements

.. Americans witnessed a powerful religious revival after the war, thanks in part to Billy Graham. That revival is over. Religion is now declining in the United States, and evangelicalism with it

.. the portion of white evangelical Protestants in the United States declined from 23 percent to 17 percent.

.. 27 percent of Americans describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and another 18 percent as “neither religious nor spiritual.”

.. There are many reasons for this decline in religious believing and belonging. But the most important in my view is the increasing identification of the Christian churches with right-wing politics.

.. Reinhold Niebuhr, who criticized Graham for his “pietistic individualism” and his neglect of social sin.

.. stuck for the most part to his simpler message that the world would be saved only through individual regeneration.

.. mistake the gospel of Christ for the gospel of American civilization.

.. Graham had a humility almost entirely lost among the public preachers of our day, his eldest son included.

Trump Stews, Staff Steps In, and Mueller Is Safe for Now

But behind the scenes, the president soon began entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller even as his staff tried to discourage him from something they believed would turn a bad situation into a catastrophe, according to several people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s interactions. A longtime friend, Christopher Ruddy, surfaced the president’s thinking in a television interview Monday night, setting off a frenzied day of speculation that he would go through with it.

For now, the staff has prevailed. “While the president has every right to” fire Mr. Mueller, “he has no intention to do so,” the White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late Tuesday.

.. But people close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind about Mr. Mueller if he finds out anything to lead him to believe the investigation has been compromised.

.. his ability to endure a free-ranging investigation, directed by Mr. Mueller, that could raise questions about the legitimacy of his Electoral College victory, the topic that most provokes his rage

.. In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee later in the day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to answer what he said was a hypothetical question of whether he would support Mr. Mueller.

.. The president was pleased by the ambiguity of his position on Mr. Mueller, and thinks the possibility of being fired will focus the veteran prosecutor on delivering what the president desires most: a blanket public exoneration.

.. For Mr. Trump, the line between whim and will is always thin. It is often erased in moments of anger, when simmering grievance boils over into rash action ..

.. after a weekend of brooding

.. Mr. Trump was especially outraged by Mr. Comey’s admission last week that he had leaked a memo with details of his interactions with the president in hopes of spurring the appointment of a special counsel.

.. Among the aides most alarmed by the idea of firing Mr. Mueller, according to people familiar with the situation, was Reince Priebus

.. Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, has also advised against firing Mr. Mueller.

.. Melania, has adopted a more temperate tone, telling her husband that she believed the appointment of Mr. Mueller would speed resolution of the Russia scandal and expressing her view that he would be exonerated

.. Mr. Ruddy has told friends that he went public with the Mueller story, in part, to prevent Mr. Trump from making a rash decision.