- .. 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.
The German press nicknamed him “God’s machine gun” for his aggressive, staccato preaching, but the name also fit for deeper reasons. Mr. Graham described these trips as “crusades” and saw West Germany as ground zero in what he called “Battleground Europe,” a Cold War fight to redeem the “land of Luther” from its Nazi past and secure its future as a stronghold for American-style democracy, capitalism and evangelicalism.
.. Billy Graham’s culture wars are inseparable from his role as an international Cold Warrior. He wasn’t just America’s pastor; he was God’s Cold War machine gun.
.. “Berlin is prayed for in the world more than any other city,” he declared, calling the city “a battleground, a continent for conquest” — not for earthly power, as the world wars had been, but a new battle “for the hearts and minds of the people.”
.. he affirmed that West Germans were his “brothers in arms” literally as well as spiritually. To strengthen a Christian democratic West against a godless Soviet East, he cast his weight behind German rearmament.
.. Mr. Graham portended a similar Americanization of German religion with its emphasis on conversion and its use of modern communication technologies for evangelism.
.. Some Germans deemed Mr. Graham a Hollywood huckster who, as the German news media put it, “advertised the Bible like toothpaste and chewing gum.” Others sensed an unnerving parallel between his mass gatherings and Germany’s fascist past.
.. “Religion for Mass-Consumption,”
.. argued that Mr. Graham’s real goal was to steer souls away from Communism more than toward God
.. German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller and the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr .. protested Mr. Graham’s equation of Christianity with America, anti-Communism and free-market capitalism
.. After the Watergate scandal, Mr. Graham withdrew from political debates and returned to his early focus on simply “preaching the gospel.”
The basic idea of his “gnostic medicine” was that we’re sick only because we think bad thoughts. Illness and death are an illusion.
.. The Word of Faith movement was largely the brainchild of E.W. Kenyon (1867-1948), who blended Quimby’s Emersonian transcendentalism with his more evangelical “Victorious Life” beliefs. “I know that I am healed,” he wrote, “because [God] said that I am healed and it makes no difference what the symptoms may be in my body.”
.. Kenneth Hagin, revered as “granddaddy” in Word of Faith circles, gave the faith-healing movement its theological core. It included odd teachings about us all being “little gods.” Those who are born again, Hagin said, “are as much the incarnation [of God] as Jesus of Nazareth.” “You don’t have a God living in you,” says Hagin’s student Kenneth Copeland. “You are one.” Creflo Dollar adds, “[The] only human part of you is the flesh you’re wearing.”
.. In the 1950s, American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr described Peale’s message as a false gospel: “The basic sin of this cult is its egocentricity,” he said. “It puts ‘self’ instead of the cross at the center of the picture.”
.. the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.
.. God spoke and created the universe; you have creative power to speak life and death! If you believe God, you can create anything in your life.”
.. Of course, to be a “little god,” you have to do your part, often involving a financial commitment. It’s what they call “seed faith.” White even gives her viewers the words to tell themselves: “So I’m going to activate my miracle by my obedience right now. I’m going to get up and go to the phone.” When you do that, she says, and “put a demand on the anointing,” you’re “going to make God get off His ivory throne.” “Don’t you miss this moment! If you miss your moment, you miss your miracle!”
.. In fact, one gets the impression that God isn’t necessary at all in the system. God set up these spiritual laws and if you know the secrets, you’re in charge of your destiny.
.. But it is striking that Trump has surrounded himself with cadre of prosperity evangelists who cheerfully attack basic Christian doctrines. The focus of this unity is a gospel that is about as diametrically opposed to the biblical one as you can imagine.