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Billy Graham and the Gospel of American Nationalistic Christianity

March 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Anthea Butler, Religion Dispatches

It's time to reconsider his racist legacy.

Billy Graham’s death on the same day as the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X is an interesting postscript to the life of America’s premier evangelist of Americanism. It would take an outsider to deftly articulate Graham’s mission. In his speech, Message to the Grassroots, Malcolm X said: “I have watched how Billy Graham comes into a city, spreading what he calls the gospel of Christ, which is only white nationalism. That’s what he is. Billy Graham is a white nationalist; I’m a black nationalist….”

I’m sure that Billy Graham did not like being called a white nationalist back then, and many evangelicals will bristle at this quote even now. With Graham’s death, it’s time to reconsider how his promotion of a nationalistic version of Americanized Christianity has influenced evangelicals today. Graham’s proximity to the office of the presidency and government since the Eisenhower administration is part of why we see scenes of eager evangelicals embracing President Trump. It’s also responsible for a large cohort of evangelicals who are actively supporting Islamophobia, isolationism, and America first policies.

Billy Graham may have been “puffed up” by William Randolph Hearst newspaper reporters in his first crusade in Los Angeles, but the more important event in Graham’s ministry was his Washington, D.C. crusade in 1952. It was there that he would begin what was part of his lifelong work: fusing Christianity and Americanism together to create a potent cocktail of Evangelical Christian Nationalism. Graham was allowed to lead an Evangelistic Service from The Capital Steps and Plaza on February 3, 1952. Graham’s permission to preach from the capital at the time had to be given by three different governmental officials: Vice President Barkley, Speaker of the House Rayburn, and David Lynn, Capital Architect. That service was reported in the AP newswire as follows:

Evangelist Billy Graham Reports “Hunger For God in Washington” (AP)~Evangelist Billy Graham told a crowd from the steps of the United States Capitol yesterday: “If I would run for President of the United States today, on a platform of calling the people back to God, …read more


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