We are reproducing this essay from New York Post because of the excessive presence of Billy Grahamites in our end of the world. We even had a Shillong preacher Rev. R. R. Cunville praying at Graham’s funeral.
In life and in death, Billy Graham has been depicted as a benign counselor to presidents. On Wednesday, he became the first religious leader to lie in state at the US Capitol.
Now, we owe ourselves a reckoning with Graham, who spread his brand of evangelical Christianity around the world while having unfettered access to the Oval Office for decades.
Graham first rose to prominence after World War II, pitching tent revivals and crusades all over the country. He was propped up by William Randolph Hearst, and by 1951 Graham was well in the pocket of Texas billionaire Sid Richardson. It was Richardson who dispatched Graham to Paris to convince Dwight Eisenhower to run for president.
As recounted in “The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House,” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, Graham had more of an issue with Eisenhower’s “salty language” than his lack of religious belief. In fact, once Eisenhower agreed to run, he openly sought Graham’s help in selling himself as a man of faith; he told Graham that the country would never elect a non-churchgoing candidate.
Eisenhower, a lapsed Presbyterian, asked for Bible quotes to cite in stump speeches and for churches Graham could recommend. A 1953 photo-op shows Graham and Eisenhower reading the Bible together — a photo Graham later reproduced in his own literature.
Just before the election, Graham issued a press release. “Mr. Graham is not taking sides in the political campaign,” it read. “He is remaining neutral.”
Despite lifelong claims that he was uninterested in power and profit, Graham was gravitationally drawn to both.
In 1960, Graham mobilized evangelicals against John F. Kennedy, maintaining Kennedy’s Catholicism rendered him unfit. (The irony!) Lyndon Johnson reportedly wanted Graham to join his Cabinet.
“I almost used the White House as a hotel when Johnson was president,” Graham told his biographer Marshall Frady. “He was always trying to keep me there. He just never wanted me to leave.”
Graham was also close to Richard Nixon — so close that Graham took it upon himself to draft a secret 13-page plan to bomb North Vietnam. In his book “The Golden Age Is In Us: Journeys and Encounters,” Alexander Cockburn cites a declassified 1969 memo Graham wrote after meeting with missionaries in Bangkok. Graham’s plan, he wrote to Nixon, “could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam.”
Had Nixon followed through, that strike could have killed an estimated million people.
A recorded 1972 Oval Office conversation between Nixon and Graham, released by the National Archives in 2002, revealed Graham made multiple anti-Semitic remarks.
Graham called Jews “Satanic.” He agreed with Nixon that they controlled the national media. “They’re the ones putting out all the pornographic stuff,” Graham said, and their “stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.”
But not to worry, Graham told Nixon — Jews had no idea what he truly believed. “I go and keep friends with Mr. Rosenthal at The New York Times and people of that sort, you know,” Graham said. “And all — I mean not all the Jews, but a lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me because they know I’m friendly with Israel. But they don’t know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country.”
Graham strongly denied ever having such a conversation in 1994, nor holding such views, but upon the tape’s release in 2002 issued an apology.
“I don’t ever recall having those feelings about any group, especially the Jews, and I certainly do not have them now,” Graham said. “I humbly ask the Jewish community to reflect on my actions on behalf of Jews over the years that contradict my words in the Oval Office that day.”
According to a 1993 report in Time magazine, Nixon offered Graham the post of US ambassador to Israel — at a meeting with Golda Meir! (He turned it down.)
Bill Clinton used Graham as window dressing during the Lewinsky scandal. At a 2005 event in Flushing Meadows, Queens, with his “wonderful friends” Bill and Hillary on stage, Graham told the crowd that he’d exhorted the former president to “become an evangelist, because he had all the gifts.”
What an endorsement for the evangelical profession.
Graham was in the Oval Office on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War and deployed to sell it. The day after bombing began, at President Bush’s urging, Graham gave a speech declaring a war of choice was actually a “fight for peace” that would grant us “a new world order.”
Graham’s presence in American life and politics diminished with age and illness, yet it somehow became tradition for every US president to convene with Graham — the last was President Obama. By the way, Graham still believed a woman’s place was in the home, hell was a real destination for non-Christians and Mormonism was a cult (until Mitt Romney ran). He refused to fully denounce his son Franklin — his heir to the crusade — when he called Islam a “wicked” religion.
“Let’s say, I didn’t say it,” the elder Graham told The New York Times in 2005.
It’s now time to ask how Billy Graham’s permanent place in governance came to be and why. A man who rejected evolution and science. A fundamentalist believer who deigned himself an expert on foreign policy — guided by the infallible spirit of God, no doubt. A man who taught himself oration by preaching to oil cans and lawn mowers — this man wound up a hallowed advisor to the most powerful men on Earth. Is this a rational outcome? (Harry Truman was not a fan. “Counterfeit,” he called Graham.)
Let’s also ask: Would America have countenanced a rabbi? A mullah? A shaman? Our nation was founded on the separation of church and state, yet for decades a for-profit preacher — worth a reported $25 million at the time of his death — was a backroom political power broker agitating, at least twice, for war.
It’s not heresy to question Graham. It’s necessary — because the tradition of an installed White House spiritual adviser, and our unblinking acceptance of one, should die with Billy Graham.