Remembering Billy Graham, evangelical leader whose preaching felt personal to millions

Randall Balmer:

I think he will go down in history as the dominant religious figure of the 20th century, certainly in American religion.

I suppose some people would say that various popes might argue about this. But I think it’s also very important for two reasons. First, he brought evangelism out of the shadows in the mid-twentieth century.

In the early decades of the 20th century, evangelicals felt quite mistreated, as if the larger culture had turned against them. And Billy Graham, from about 1949-1950, begins to bring them into the public spotlight and begins to make evangelism acceptable to a wider audience.

Part of that was because of his personality, the strength of his personality, but partly because he used the media successfully and brilliantly in so many ways to get that message across to the general public.

I think Billy Graham’s second legacy is — and it’s really quite remarkable — that in a career that spanned more than half a century, he was never seriously accused of any scandal . That’s not to say he hasn’t slipped up from time to time. He certainly did.

But, in comparison to other televangelists, for example, Billy Graham emerged with his integrity and character intact.

Barry F. Howard