Billy Graham's legacy: Even our heroes were too silent here
Wednesday night I, like lots of other people, went to see Billy Graham's casket inside the US Capital. I went at the very end so there was no line and I was there when the police began to clear everyone out. No fanfare; just a closed casket and about 100 people standing around looking at it in silence. Someone had circulated around the room and passed out copies of Amazing Grace. Right before the end we all started singing, and completed three stanzas before leaving. Like so many other moments I've had the chance to experience in Washington, it was kind of surreal. I don't how to express the feeling.
For about 3 hours prior to going inside, I had stood across the street from the Capital entrance and, with a loudspeaker, preached to the crowds going in. My friend Victoria and her father, and later my friend Joel, all showed up to help me hold the sign you see in the pictures above.Unlike some people I know (and respect) I think Billy Graham is in heaven, and God used him to rescue many thousands from eternal damnation. He probably deserves most of the accolades and honor that everyone is showering upon him. So why in the world would I stand outside his memorium and do what I did? It's not easy to explain. It's not so much about Billy Graham as it is about the rest of us.
During the 50+ years that Billy Graham traversed the nation preaching, America didn't get better. It got worse. Among many other problems our families are in ruins and we're still killing babies like it's going out of style. Maybe all that was inevitable, but i don't think so. I think Christians have let it happen. Even if only 10% of us are legit, that still leaves a huge remnant that God could have used to prevent these disasters had we been willing to obey. And since James 3:1 says that "we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" it follows that men of influence, like Graham, bear more of the blame for our failure to do so. He was, after all, "America's pastor".
I know I'm only 36 and I haven't seen everything, but when I look at the church in this country I see a bunch of people who are not living up to their potential. We do marginally better than the world, avoiding the most obvious sins of commission. But the worst sins are often the sins of omission (parable of the Sheep and Goats) and there we come up short. We've spoken out against sin loudly enough to be annoying and hateful to those who love it, but not loudly enough or consistently enough to invite their persecution. And we almost always fail to follow up words with action. We tolerate evil. We might not embrace it like the world and the 'fake' church does, but in the end we've tolerated it all the same.
Billy Graham, I think, was enigmatic of this fault in us. As I said, I'm sure many people trusted in Christ because of his labors. Granted, it was probably only a fraction of those who made a profession of faith (Living Waters estimates less than 20%) but still, that's a sizable number of people joining the body of Christ. The real trouble is that they joined a body which was in many ways paralyzed, and they settled right in.
My conclusion is that Graham, like all the rest of us, truncated the Gospel. He got the core right but he left out a lot about what the Christian life entailed. Of particular interest to me, he left out the part about how a Christian should behave in a society that commits genocide. Many this shouldn't surprise us. When a nation that hates the Gospel so honors a man who spent his life preaching it ... perhaps something is lacking in that Gospel.
Billy Graham was one of the greatest Christians of the 20th Century. To end abortion and turn the nation back to God, we must do better.
To date, this is probably the hardest Facebook post I've ever written, and maybe not everything I wrote is correct. But I couldn't let the moment pass without making an attempt. Billy Graham is in heaven and nothing I say here is going to hurt his feelings. Meanwhile we have to do better.