Heroes of War, Politics, and Faith: Guess Which One Lasted?
U.S. Army Lt. William Calley, President Richard Nixon, and Rev. Billy Graham once held equal places of honor on my bulletin board. Each one had been on a recent cover of a national news magazine. I considered all three of them personal heroes, and I prayed for them daily.
In 1969, Lt. Calley had been charged with the deaths of 109 South Vietnamese civilians in the Vietnam War. He was later found guilty of murdering 22. A true tragedy. Lt. Calley contended all along that he was simply following orders. While he lost hero status, it still was my judgment that he himself was a victim of a war that rained chaos, confusion, and division on the U.S. at large. War gives birth to tragedies, the details of which may never be fully revealed.
President Nixon? I believed him to be a man of integrity, a gentleman, and a statesman who would honor the sacred trust placed in him by the American electorate. Of course, he resigned from the presidency in 1974, disgraced and discredited by his role in the Watergate scandal. Like war, politics is such a gargantuan and unmanageable entity that it spawns stories about which we may never know the whole truth.
Billy Graham (William Franklin Graham Jr). Well, what can I say? Integrity. Compassion. Grace. Depth. Wisdom. Perseverance. Committed to Christ. Burdened for the world. At least one of my heroes has survived unscathed and untouched by scandal or rumor. And I’m excited about what I’m discovering as I learn more and more about the Graham family.
Earlier this year, I read Rebel With a Cause, the autobiography of Franklin Graham (William Franklin Graham III). It reinforced my growing respect for this man who is taking a stand for righteousness everywhere I turn these days –social media,Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,Decision magazine,Samaritan’s Purse, and every public platform that will allow him a voice. I can’t get away from him; I’m busy clicking “Like” and “Share” to his insightful, strong statements on Facebook.
In these culturally divisive days, the secular media and politically correct crowd charge evangelical Christians with being “against” everything and “for” nothing. They say we care nothing about the poor and the disenfranchised, we don’t care about the rest of the world – only ourselves. Franklin Graham is Exhibit A to disprove their hollow claims. For example, in a recent interview, he told me about Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry he has headed for 36 years.
“Last year we collected about 10.4 million boxes,” he said. Millions of boxes? Boxes of what? He was referring to Operation Christmas Child, a part of Samaritan’s Purse. The 10.4 million boxes were filled with clothing, toys, school supplies, and goodies for 10.4 million children in Third World Countries. Tell me, what U.S. liberal group has reached out to 10.4 million with gifts and toys?
But wait. There’s more.
Will Graham (William Franklin Graham IV). Will Graham is following in the footsteps of his noted father and his world-renowned grandfather. In an interview with AFA Journal earlier this year, Will addressed some of the social ills facing our nation and the church today.
“We have allowed two things to come into the church,” he said. “One is that we got spiritually lazy and fell asleep on our watch as a church. Second, we allowed liberal theology to come in and plant seeds that have now grown and led us so far away from the gospel that we don’t want to evangelize. We don’t tell others about Christ.”
He is encouraged that, as he preaches around the world, people in many countries eagerly respond to the gospel. He contrasts that with the resistance to the gospel in the U.S., and explains what must happen here.
“We must have bold preachers now because it’s not going to be a fun time in this anti-Christian world,” he said. “We need bold preachers to stand up and preach God’s word when it’s not fun, when it’s not politically correct, when it’s not sought after.”
The younger Graham is executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina, and an associate evangelist with BGEA. Over the past weekend, I took some vacation time to drive to The Cove and hear Will teach for two days on 1 Samuel Chapters 8-11. Phenomenal. Encouraging. Challenging. With wit and wisdom, he plumbed the depths of the Scriptures to bring to light principles that I would never have seen on my own.
In Will’s own words, “Even though it seems bleak out there, what a great time to preach the gospel. When it’s darkest outside, light shines the brightest.” I came away confident that the next generation of leadership at BGEA is in good hands.
Looks like I’ve found two new generations of heroes.
Editor’s note: Randall Murphree’s interview with Will Graham appears in the July-August issue of AFA Journal.Graham will be teaching at Truth for a New Generation apologetics conference September 18-19 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Murphree’s interview with Franklin Graham will appear in the upcoming September issue of AFA Journal.