Mar 5, 2018
Upon his death, Billy Graham became the first religious figure to be “laid in honor” at the U.S. Capitol. President Donald Trump said that the “legendary Billy Graham” had “helped lift the American spirit.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, sounding like a preacher himself, called Graham “a happy instrument in the hands of his creator.” And House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed that Graham had helped the country to “find our grace and our strength.”
If the U.S. political establishment was putting on such a show to honor a preacher, it’s because this preacher was in fact one of their own. Over a span of more than 60 years, almost every U.S. president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama either invited Graham to the White House or visited him, “prayed with him,” and called him a friend and a “spiritual advisor.” And it’s easy to see why all these presidents and other politicians from both big parties were so eager to be associated with Billy Graham. For many decades, Graham was able to fill stadiums for his sermons and presided over a big religious organization, which collected tens of millions of dollars in contributions each year.
But Graham’s rise to fame and fortune was not necessarily his own making. Young Billy Graham may have been a skillful and charming orator; but he still did not find much success throughout the 1940s, until newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst threw his weight behind the young preacher. Hearst wired all his newspaper editors across the country to “puff Graham,” and Hearst newspapers began to publish favorable front-page stories about Graham. Other publishing bosses followed suit, and all this publicity paid off for Graham, when his “tent crusade” in Los Angeles drew 350,000 people over three weeks in 1949. Billy Graham now was a superstar, and national media outlets never stopped promoting him. Over the preacher’s long career, Time magazine alone featured Graham in more than 600 stories!
So it was U.S. capital, the ruling class of this country, that gave Billy Graham his lucrative pedestal, effectively engaging him as a spokesperson. And Graham paid back the favor by putting himself in the loyal service of U.S. capital. Graham always stood by U.S. imperialism, supporting every war the U.S. has fought since the 1950s. During the Korean War he telegraphed President Truman, urging a “Showdown with Communism” in the name of Christianity. In the 1960s and ‘70s, he cheered the U.S. bombing of Vietnam and opposed the anti-war protests. He claimed to have been with President G.H.W. Bush in January 1991, when the U.S. began bombing Iraq in the Gulf War. In domestic politics also, Graham backed every move the U.S. ruling class made to silence opposition. During the Red Scare of the 1950s, Graham gave his support to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt. And during the Civil Rights Movement, he criticized “some Negro leaders” for “going too far and too fast.”
And yet, the same Billy Graham more than once said, “I don’t think politics is part of my work.” A true politician!
Oh yes, politics was very much part of Graham’s work, and he always was a staunch, unwavering spokesperson for U.S. capital. That’s why, today’s political mouthpieces of the U.S. ruling class are so enthusiastic about honoring and praising the preacher Billy Graham.