Graham's 'invincible innocence'

The following editorial was excerpted from the Washington Post

Many years ago, Robert Benchley, a celebrated humorist, essayist, film actor and regular at New York's Algonquin Round Table, took time in an article to reflect on misconceptions about his city, widely viewed in those days as a cesspool of sin, gin and cynical sophistication.

In truth, he wrote, the typical New Yorker goes through life sharing many of the hopes, fears and attitudes of the typical citizen of Peoria, Minneapolis or Fresno.

Billy Graham, who has died at age 99, must have had much the same insight when he launched his "crusades" into the teeming cities of mid-20th-century America: a realization that the country was a good deal less jaded and materialistic than many believed.

America has been heavily influenced, even shaped, by its preachers, from Jonathan Edwards to Henry Ward Beecher to Billy Sunday and the televangelists of today. Many of the most famous evangelists had their day and quickly faded. A few were frauds or hypocrites. But through a half-century and more, the Rev. Billy Graham maintained his standing.

From the 1950s, when he filled big-city arenas across the country with his upbeat, joyful revival meetings, through his emergence as a world figure who preached to thousands upon thousands and was consulted by heads of state all over the globe, including a series of American presidents, Graham kept his message relatively simple, which may be one reason it endured.

He was never a great hero of the political left or right, though he took a stand fairly early in this country's civil rights movement against segregation, and spoke often, if somewhat vaguely, on the need for social justice.

In 2005, Graham held his last full-fledged crusade in New York. He drew nearly a quarter of a million people over three days.

When he was young, Graham had a close friendship with Charles Templeton, a fellow evangelist. The two eventually parted ways, with Templeton going on to what he saw as a more intellectual and skeptical view of religion (he died in 2001).

Templeton recalled of his old friend, "I disagree with him profoundly on his view of Christianity and think that much of what he says in the pulpit is puerile nonsense. But there is no feigning in him: he believes what he believes with an invincible innocence. He is the only mass evangelist I would trust. And I miss him."

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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