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article imageOp-Ed: Billy Graham, icon of a generation of Evangelical Cold War hawks?

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 8, 2011 in World
America's most famous evangelist Reverend Billy Graham, who rose to national attention, beginning in 1949, with a Christian revival meeting in Los Angeles, turned 93, on Monday. He marked his birthday with the publication of a new book "Nearing Home."
Billy Graham's new book, according to an Associated Press report, is his 30th book. Billy Graham, who says he wants to "preach one last sermon before he dies," covers a wide variety of themes, from aging and death, to financial planning for old age.
For a man who holds fast to the traditional Christian belief in heavenly afterlife bliss, Billy Graham's admission about the experience of growing old comes as surprising and maybe even shocking revelation. Billy Graham says growing old was "...not a transition that I welcomed, and I began to dread what I knew would follow."
But Graham's frankness on the subject of growing old and dying is refreshing:
"I fought growing old in every way...I faithfully exercised and was careful to pace myself as I began to feel the grasp of Old Man Time."
Graham might have come to terms with inevitability of aging and resigned himself to the Christian hope of afterlife bliss, for he says, "We were not meant for this world alone...We were meant for Heaven, our final home."
Billy Graham, who has resigned from active public ministry, is revered by American Evangelical Christians of the Baby Boom generation, who are also approaching old age, and may benefit from fatherly advice Billy Graham offers in his new book. William Martin, professor at Rice University and author of "A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story," says about the younger generation of Americans and their country's most famous Evangelical preacher:
"I find that, talking to students and a lot of younger people, many of them don’t know who Billy Graham is...But the people who will be most interested in this are older, and they do remember and adore Billy Graham."
Martin's observation, that a lot of younger people do not know Billy Graham, is testimony to the extent that the worldview of the new generation has shifted from that of the post-World War II generation. Billy Graham is the icon of an expiring generation of Americans whose religious worldview was shaped by the anti-communist fervor of the Cold War era. For American Evangelical Christians of the post-World War II and Cold War era, anti-communism became gospel truth and a core essence of Evangelical Christian theology.
Pat Robertson's recent tirades against the youthful OWS movement and his condemnation of what he sees as "Marxist" ideological leanings of the movement that is in opposition to the capitalist establishment demonstrates the yawning divide between Americans of Pat Robertson's expiring generation for whom American style free-market capitalism is "God ordained," and a new generation of the post-Cold War era for whom the rabid anti-communist/anti-socialist "Gospel According to American free-market capitalism" has lost meaning.
The literal amalgamation of the New Testament Gospel, in its naive simplicity, with the self-serving sophistication of the American capitalist "way of life" constituted the sacred tradition to which Evangelicals of Billy Graham's generation were committed and which some continue to hold as sacred even as a new generation of ideologically radicalized youths assaults its bastions.
Professor at the Duke University of Divinity Grant Wacker, now working on a biography of Billy Graham, says the reason why Billy Graham's appeal has been durable and extended beyond the world of Evangelical Christianity is not just because of his longevity and his personal integrity untarnished by moral and financial scandal, but primarily because,
"...people outside the world of evangelical Christianity respect the evolution of Graham over his long career as someone who, for example, went from strident anti-Communism in his early days to advocating nuclear arms control in the 1970s, a position scorned by Cold War hawks."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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