and as the news has spread that his wife Ruth is near death, I am reminded of my lifelong admiration for this man who, though his theology is much different from mine, has lived a life of integrity and conscience. I remember attending Billy Graham crusades in the 50's with my parents, both Graham fans, and thrilling to the sound of that prophetic voice, testifying to his love of Jesus Christ and inspiring thousands to come forward and seek a relationship with God.
We attended every crusade that came to Portland, Oregon, and listened, rapt, to George Beverly Shea singing "How Great Thou Art" and "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" and "My God and I". I saw him on TV a few days ago, at the dedication of the Graham library, quite by accident, and I was gripped by the same powerful feelings I had then, that religion could be something transformative and transcendent. And Billy Graham's preaching underscored that understanding of religion as a powerful positive force.
Billy Graham will not live much longer and with him may die a conservative Jesus-centered theology that has been swept overboard in a tide of phony Christianity. I hope not. We need conservative Christians like Billy Graham.
I have been disappointed in his son Franklin, who offended me deeply at the Columbine High School massacre public memorial in 1999, by praying such a doctrinal prayer that any listener who was not conservative Christian was left out. I doubt that Franklin Graham is anywhere near the man his dad has been. He seems too patina-ed over with the gloss of make-a-buck conservatism, not the genuine, deep in the heart love of Jesus that his father and mother have shown.
I grieve for the loss of that Christianity of deep integrity and conscience as exemplified by the lives of Billy and Ruth Graham, far removed as they are from my UU theology. We need men and women like the elder Grahams.