Billy Graham over the years

Although Billy Graham inspired millions through his compelling sermons, he is often criticized for controversial views on women and gay rights.

Influential evangelist Billy Graham passed away last week at the age of 99.

Depending on who you ask, Billy Graham leaves behind either a storied legacy that will never be rivaled by another Christian preacher, or an enduring message of bigotry toward certain groups not favored by the Bible’s teachings. With his funeral planned for this Friday, we delve into Graham’s life, the impact of his work, and the accusations made by critics.

The Father of Evangelism

Billy Graham televangelist

Billy Graham pioneered the concept of televangelism

From the start of his career as a minister, Billy Graham had his sights set on “saving” as many people as he possibly could. Graham started out with community outreach campaigns and other traditional strategies to attract people’s attention and get them through his church doors.

However, it wasn’t until the famous Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 that Billy Graham was launched into national prominence. The speaking campaign was scheduled to run for three weeks, but ended up lasting eight weeks due to popular demand.

Naturally magnetic and a gifted public speaker, Graham captivated ever-increasing crowds of people eager to hear his message of accepting Jesus Christ.

What followed was an illustrious preaching career that lasted nearly six decades. Graham spoke before crowds in 185 countries, reaching hundreds of millions of people. Taking advantage of new mediums like television and radio, he spread his message to millions more over the airwaves.

Graham came be known as “America’s Pastor.” He served as the spiritual advisor for all 12 presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, cementing his status as an icon and a household name.

Controversial Views

Despite immense popularity, Graham’s record does have some black spots. Recorded tapes of conversations he had with President Richard Nixon revealed anti-Semitic comments (which he later apologized for). On the tapes, Graham expressed a belief that Jews had a “stranglehold” on the American media, and referred vaguely to “the synagogue of Satan.”

Graham was also criticized for his views toward women and feminism. He famously said that the role of wife, mother, and homemaker was the destiny of “real womanhood.” Graham’s daughters had aspirations to go to college and start careers of their own, but he denied them the opportunity – explaining that their role was in the home, not in the workplace.

The Homosexual “Perversion”

However, those issues pale in comparison to the flak Graham has received over his beliefs about gay people. He openly denounced homosexuality as a work of the devil, referring to it as “perversion that leads to death”. Graham famously warned that “we traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare. Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected and will be judged by God’s holy standards.” He sparked controversy during the height of the AIDS crisis when he said “is AIDS a judgment of God? I could not say for sure, but I think so.”

In many of his publications and sermons, he addressed the LGBT community directly, advising them to “reform”, urging that “you don’t have to succumb to this insidious temptation”. He was a champion of “reformation” techniques – an idea that lives on this day in the form of conversion therapy.

Given his widespread reach, critics argue that Graham’s messages had a disastrous effect on gay people. By preaching that God disapproved of their “lifestyle” and insisting they would not go to heaven without “reformation,” Graham no doubt caused great consternation among the gay community – especially those with strong Christian beliefs.

Competing Interpretations

How’s that for a complicated legacy? Although Billy Graham inspired millions of Christians through his compelling sermons, he also held some backwards views which cannot be divorced from the positive aspects of his work.

To many, he was a star – a handsome preacher doing God’s work by spreading the gospel to previously-untouched areas of the world. But to others, he represented everything worth criticizing in Christianity.

Is it possible to reconcile two vastly different interpretations of one man’s legacy? How will you remember Billy Graham?

 

71 comments

  1. John Eftimiades says:

    In the end he was just as mortal as any of us. He brought to his life and the life of others his own personal beliefs and prejudices. He is one of the big reasons politicians frequently state (if not intimidating to say), that America does God’s work and God blesses America. He started his campaign with Eisenhower and helped develop the Cabinet prayers. He has followed and influenced every president up until his death. What does Billy Graham and Hugh Jackson have in common? They have both portrayed “The Greatest Showman”

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      I bet millions of spirits of homosexual men are holding down Billy Grahams spirit right now and taking turns sodomizing him. That’s his punishment for being so ignorant, and condemning of them.

      1. Alan Gates says:

        Ridiculous! I don’t agree with Graham’s beliefs but your comment is offensive!

        1. Carl Elfstrom says:

          Thankyou, Alan. I was hoping to be offensive. Try your luck again. I bet I’ll be a lot more offensive about that perverted, old fool.

      2. Doug Barron says:

        Well now! There’s a real grown up reply to conviince people to your view!

        1. Rev paul says:

          I agree with billy grahams beliefs he was a great man of god

          1. Carl Elfstrom says:

            I’m glad his god isn’t one of my gods.

        2. Carl Elfstrom says:

          I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of anything, but was only seeking to offend his supporters. And now it’s going to get a lot worse.

      3. Michael Potvin says:

        your coment is only valid if Billy Graham was wrong!
        One thing I do know about Heaven, there is NO revenge mentality. Why you may ask? Because revenge is a human earthbound emotion.Based off the preception (right or wrong) of some misdeed done to you or someone around you. Additionally, there is no sexual activity in Heaven either. Again, another earthbound drive. Just something to ponder.

        1. Carl Elfstrom says:

          You must be of the mistaken impression that Billy Graham is in heaven.Do you think all bad people go there? I seriously doubt that idiot even tried to cross over to the other side of the light. When he saw the demons coming for him he confused them with angels since they resonate similar vibrations as himself, and they took him straight to hell where he feels like he’s at home, and feels good to finally be working off his karmic debt by being sodomized by those of whom which he persecuted in life.

  2. James says:

    He was a great “man”. If any of us could livelthat life and have as few so called spots….. Show me! Devorce does cause issues, the homosexual life style does too. So does every other sin. Funny how they are all weighed the same. To point out faults of your bothers is fine, calling down judgment on a dead man. That’s rough. I believe many of us should learn not to dig up pasted sins of the past generations. It would cause much more peace, to study and not blame the living for what the dead may have done. God bless the ones that learns instead of picking a fight.

    1. Zhi Shan says:

      He happily called down judgement on many dead men. He deserves all the ire he’s reaping.

      1. John Owens says:

        What do you mean, “happily called down judgement?”

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Look at the way some loudmouthed, prolific christians are starting to run and hide, afraid of being condemned by people after their deaths.

      1. jean says:

        It is always interesting when a person announces he is a Christian but does not honor Jesus’ directive to love one another and love your brother as your self. It is a pick and choose Christian who decides what God’s law really is and forgets about the “LOVE” part and “judge not.” Ultimately he has to face his own prejudice.

        1. John Owens says:

          Just an observation: Only God decides what God’s law is. It is not judging to tell another person what the commandments of God say. It is love, even if they do not like it. Love for God, love for humanity. It is not our duty to judge each other, but we are supposed to judge ourselves, using the law of God as a measuring rod. If people do not know the law of God, they cannot perform this kind of introspection.

          Prejudice is not always bad. You realize that you can be prejudiced toward people in a positive sense, too, right? I mean, you might expect the very best out of someone based on the way they are dressed, or the way they speak, or even their ethnicity, because you have been told “those people” are very honorable.

          When the hypocrites drug the woman taken in the act of adultery to Jesus and he squatted and wrote in the dirt until they all walked away, he asked the woman, “Where are those who condemn you?” She said there weren’t any, He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now, and don’t do that any more.” He told her to stop doing that– committing adultery. He didn’t condemn her, but He did tell her to stop. People now want to call that hate, or judging, but it is not. It is love.

          1. Minister V says:

            The commandments of god say “do not bear false witness” – don’t lie. And yet, many of these charlatans parading themselves around as so-called christians lie all the time.

            And it’s funny that you mention adultery. Because myriad of those same so-called christians are guilty of that too.

            They’ve broken at least 2 more commandments than a gay man has – lying and adultery – whereas there’s no commandment against being LGBT.

          2. Carl Elfstrom says:

            I don’t care if your christian god likes it or not, I’m condemning Billy Graham anyway! Besides that my gods and goddesses don’t like your god of that worthless, evil bible, far outnumber him, and will kick your sorry excuse for a god’s ass, who gets sodomized daily by Jesus Christ, anytime they want to. So there, try topping that with your goofy biblical bullshit!

    3. Pepe says:

      Poverty causes issues, and violence, and hate. Sin is a man-made concept, attempting to DIVORCE us from our natures

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        The dictionary simply states that sin means missing the mark, and the dictionary is the only authority for definitions of words of the English language. No god can argue with that, without missing the mark Himself.
        .

    4. Doug Barron says:

      You know..you are correct, James!
      How many of Graham’s criticizers preached night and day the gospel?
      Before they bitch about Billy Graham; they need yo put up, or shut up!
      If one does not like the message that he preached; then get yourself out there and correct it.
      Quit your whining.
      And don’t reply about you are just voicing your opinion.
      Graham devoted his life to his calling.
      Have these ones?
      Do you; the criticizer; sacrifice your career and home to go into hostile lands, and share your convictions?
      Do these ones here even know their calling?
      Have these ones even sought the face of Father about their calling?

      If one is going to criticize a person, and invite criticism, one must have a better answer and arguement/answer than the preacher and evangelist that they have criticized.

      Then go into all the world..and preach it.

      They must put up their stuff now.

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        I’m correcting it right now by informing you that the gospel, as well as the rest of that bible, totally sucks, and is nothing but a pack of lies, and schizophrenic delusions!

    5. Carl Elfstrom says:

      God bless the ones who ignore your bull shit,James.

  3. Lee Conner says:

    I plan on not dwelling on his life or death. He was good and bad. May he rest well with God.

    1. Diane Baum says:

      as we all are! May you have a blessed day!

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      I’d rather only think of his more prominant bad side, and hope his soul never rests.

  4. Diane Baum says:

    Every person needs to lead their own life in their journey towards God. Whether or not Graham was “right” or “wrong” depends upon whose eyes you see his life with. We are all human and far from being perfect. Our obstacle comes when we see someone who is “supposed to be” perfect “just because” he is a “person of the Lord” and then come the judgments of “he shouldn’t be doing THAT!” Well, what SHOULD we be doing then? We SHOULD be doing the work of Jesus, whose example was, “love others as you would want them to love you.” Once you have realized that and lived it to perfection, then you will have understood the full message. Do gays have rights? “LOVE OTHERS.” Is AIDS caused by sin? “Love others.” Are you a different religion/color/creed/gender from me? “Love others.” See, it is a roadmap that always comes back to the same place. Billy lead people to Jesus. Jesus said to “love others.” Maybe Billy didn’t see or understand the FULL message, but at least he pointed people to the One who does!

  5. Wanda Houchin-Campbell says:

    He and his bunch were nothing but HATERS and the Jesus I know was not that, SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!!

      1. John Owens says:

        Sounds bigoted and hysterical. Just saying.

    1. Val Jester says:

      Wanda, breath in… breath out… both thumb and index fingers together… mmmmmm. Now do you feel better? All that live and let live Christian love you are writing about may be affecting your quality of life. Time for a trip to your cardiologist.

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        And put your middle finger in another special place, and go up and down, up and down.

  6. gerrydiamond says:

    As a gay Christian it can be difficult to reconcile attitude , beliefs and values which denigrate you as an individual who believes that Christ came for all people and that includes those of LGBT orientation. Some state that their hatred towards LGBTs is bible based, but slavery was also in the bible but no one would argue today that it is a Christian belief to practice slavery. That said, as society re-evaluates its attitudes, beliefs and values then it recognises acceptance, respect, legitimisation and support for equality for women and members of the LGBT community thankfully in law and a general consensus among society.

    For those who hate gay or LGBT community, we must forgive them and pray for them while doing all that is lawful and proportionate to work towards equality for women and the LGBT community.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      I think a lot more people are starting to realize that Jesus and his twelve merry men weren’t exactly straight, maybe even far from it.

      1. Diane Baum says:

        Carl, are you enjoying your comments? Jesus had many women friends, Mary of Magdala being one of them. She who followed Jesus to the bitter end. She who stayed with his “Merry men”, as you so blithely called them, even after the crucifixion. Jesus, many times, taught by example that women had value and worth during a time when women were thought of as nothing more than mere chattel, property that could be used and abused. Maybe instead of spewing out hateful comments, you would just keep quiet or else, build UP others, we’d all be better off.

        1. Carl Elfstrom says:

          Diane Baum, I never doubted that Jesus thought highly of women, or that he and other bi-sexual or even gay men didn’t have female friends. I’m not straight, but love women immensely. My favorite Texas Governor was Ann Richards.And women like you really turn me on! Will you marry me?You’d be the only woman I’d ever sleep with. But who were Jesus and his twelve merry men sleeping with when the girls weren’t around? So get off your high horse Miss Thing, and humble yourself before me.

          1. Carl Elfstrom says:

            I’ve read the Bible as many times as any christian, and have a protestant Bible sitting directly across the room in front of me. On the wall next to that is a large framed picture of The Last Supper. Above that is a quote by Mother Theresa that says something about forgiving them , for it had nothing to do with you and them anyway. On the wall behind me is a large picture of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna. Next to my bed is one of St.Michael the Archangel vanquishing the powers of evil beneath his feet, by Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo. I have a quote by Pope Francis on my frige which states “Resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good.”I have a silver an d gold crucifix around my neck, and the latest CD I bought is called Luciano Pavarotti’s “Oh Holy Night”,and “Sanctus” from the Requiem, accompanied by the Wandsworth Boys choir. So, you don’t like my method or style of ministering, my fine Lady. Well, I hope you don’t expect me to bow down and kiss your feet, figuratively of course. Although if you ever give me the divine honor and privilege of doing so literally…

      2. Val Jester says:

        Your source please? I don’t want crickets, I want your source.

        1. Carl Elfstrom says:

          I guess you already have enough crickets up your ass, don’t you Val?

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      You can pray for them and forgive them all you want Gerry, but don’t expect me to join you. That might be a sign of self – defeatism. Do you also like getting spanked?

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        Don’t bow down to intolerance. Fight for your rights. To quote a famous Queen “We are the CHAMPIONS of the world!”

    3. Val Jester says:

      Why do you describe a difference of opinion as hate?

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        Jester is definitely a good name for you, Val.

    4. Michael Barnett says:

      No person can be a true Christian or a true believer in Jesus and be or support homosexuality, it is wrong.

      God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Rom 1:26-27).

      1. John Owens says:

        That took courage, Michael. Good for you.

      2. Carl Elfstrom says:

        I hope you receive the same karmic retribution as Billy Graham.Try to remember to beg the demons to spit on it first.

      3. Carl Elfstrom says:

        So Michael, if your god said he wanted to sodomize you would you tell him you couldn’t because it was against his son. Of course, Jesus isn’t homosexual, but bisexual. There’s a big difference. Of course, if you were homosexual in Jesus’ name it would then be a christian act. All things done in his name. Then you could do it with your god.

  7. Lynn Gideon says:

    Touch NOT God’s anointed. ByitnoJ

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      If you do touch God’s anointed Lynn, drill them like a jackhammer until they beg for more, and you will receive a special blessing for it, Amen and Halleluia!!!

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        Then again, who knows, maybe he was only practicing auto – felatio.

  8. Carl Elfstrom says:

    I hope I’ve helped wake y’all up and gotten y’all to look at things in different ways. If I’ve said anything that gave you a resentment (as I hope I did) pray for me. Doing so will only make you feel better. I have other things to do now, and must go. However, I will return soon, so don’t get upset about it.

  9. angel722 says:

    “Send God your prostitutes!”

  10. Mike L says:

    He was a Christian, ipso facto a bigot and racist. Easy peasy.

    1. John Owens says:

      That’s about the stupidest thing you can say. It sounds bigoted and prejudiced. Easy peasy?

      1. Dr. Ramona says:

        Graham speculated AIDS was punishment for homosexuality. Sounds pretty bigoted to me, John.

  11. Ronaldos Magnus says:

    Follow the money. Take a look at a Graham family enterprise called Samaritans Purse.
    https://www.samaritanspurse.org

  12. Michael Barnett says:

    Billy Graham was a great preacher, may his soul rest in peace with Jesus.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Then may Jesus be in hell with Billy Graham!

  13. Steve says:

    I can’t believe the hate and negativity on this website. I understand that we all have opinions but if we’re supposed to be Ministers, what are we Ministers of? Some of these points of view are so non-religious and full of hate!

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Don’t confuse Christianity with religion. This is not a christian ministers blog.

  14. Robert G. says:

    to die at 99 with $25 million cash in the bank instead of giving it to God, is greedy example of God not needing the money!

    1. John Owens says:

      So, let me get this straight– if a man works all his life and gains celebrity status and has the largest crowds and TV covers him, when he dies, he is not supposed to have any money left to leave for his grandchildren, or he is greedy. Is that what you are saying? What if my dad worked all his life and left each of his kids $75K when he died. Was Dad greedy? Even though he actually paid a full 10% to his church all his adult life and secretly helped neighbors in need? Did you know Billy Graham tithed all of his adult life?

      I would point out, God does not need money, but, do YOU tithe, Robert?

      1. Carl Elfstrom says:

        I can’t argue with that.

  15. NATHANIEL J. LOMAX says:

    I would never question that Pastor Graham inspired many people in his life, and regardless of what anyone thinks, helped many. At the same time, given his beliefs, many were hurt and many died. He had influence over presidents, a heay responsibility. His advice lead to President Regan to take the stance he took on AIDS, he would not mention the word and neither of them helped any of the young men women or children from suffering horrible deaths. They both carried out their belief in AIDS being the “rath of God.” Thousands of young gay teens have taken their lives based on these beliefs. More often than not, it is not what you believe, it’s what you do or don’t do. If we learn from his life what not to do, and to contemplate how our beliefs might hurt and possibly kill before we act on them, then his life has given us something valuable. Let’s look at his life for lessons we can learn from for a positive future.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      But like you just clearly stated his evil outweighed his good. So let’s also crucify him for that.

  16. Bill Fox says:

    As institutional Christians go, Billy Graham was a top performer. He was an advocate for the “personal” relationship with God and Jesus, which many advocate today. However, the “personal” relationship is not a scriptural concept. God is not a “person”. Jesus, though resurrected and alive, is a man. So, a personal relationship is deceptive to reality.

  17. SeekerOfTruth says:

    > How will you remember Billy Graham?

    I saw him in 1959 when he was younger and a firebrand. I came away thinking about how manipulative the whole nighttime revival was.

    Later, I learned how his early success was as a result of William Randolph Hearst (and others) seizing on him as a tool to attack socialism and New Deal policies (which they called communism). This eventually wound up resulting in Ronald Reagan, the destruction of the American economy and the middle class, and the terrible state of the US now with Trump (who is the 2nd Reagan).

    “The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this country – the party dedicated to conserving all that is best, and building solidly and safely on these foundations. The Republicans, by contrast, are behaving like the radical party – the party of the reckless and the embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric…”

    — Adlai Stevenson, 1952

    http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/The%20Conscience%20of%20a%20Liberal.htm

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      I also heard that Billy Graham went down on all the presidents he knew, and did it in the name of Jesus, so it became a christian act.

  18. Shane Lowrey says:

    I shed no tears.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      No More Tears. That’s a great song by St.Ozzy

  19. Carl Elfstrom says:

    And along with Judas Priest,who incidentally was named after a saint, I’m “Screaming For Vengeance”, and won’t ever quit!

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