Sunday, April 08, 2018

Billy, Not Bill, Graham

I have been derelict in commenting on the passing of Billy Graham. I always hated being called "Billy" myself ... proof that I lacked the humility of Rev Graham. It is fitting my Bible reading has just taken me through Joshua, so I've been reading a lot of Moses, the most humble man in the OT, having been offered the chance to be the new Abraham by God multiple times, as God sought to destroy Israel and raise up a new nation with Moses as the father. And each time, Moses talked him out of it. (which is one of my favortie things to ponder relative to God, God being willing to have his mind changed by mere man)

On the Red Rocks link, you should find the sermon that one of their ministers did honoring Rev Graham.  Red Rocks mission statement is "Making Heaven More Crowded", which was what Billy was up to as well. I'll let you know there is a really nice surprise at the end of the sermon that adds more to understanding the humility of Billy Graham -- it's your present for listening to the sermon, and I found to be a good one.

The NY Times piece is about what you would expect -- they wanted Billy Graham to be a social justice warrior for their view of what that concept might be, rather than preaching Jesus Christ crucified  to make Heaven more crowded. The NY Times mission is about creating a "heaven on earth" built to their own exacting specifications for "heaven". They closed their article as followes ...

The memory of Mr. Graham is rightly honored by those who shared his values and the goals for which he mobilized evangelical Christianity. But the rest of us can surely be forgiven if we remember him differently.
In a Christian civil society, we could honor and even love people who we disagree with while living, let alone when dead. We are admonished not to judge them while they live, and certainly once  the ultimate judge is taking care of judgement, we can honor even those who had many values that we disagreed with.

Martin Luther King Jr was a conservative Republican Christian minister who fought for civil rights, and who was a friend of Billy Graham, including joining him to speak at a Crusade in NY in 1957., The following quote is from the Washington Post, supporting MLKs conservative bonafides. I suspect even the NY Times, while they would no doubt do their best to re-write the "conservative Chrisitian, Republican" part of MLK's legacy, would still praise him more than his co-worker with Christ, Billy Graham.
“My friends,” Dr. King said in his Detroit sermon, “all I’m trying to say is that if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind. That’s the only way that we would be able to make of our world a better world, and to make of this world what God wants it to be. . . .”

Billy certainly would love to see ALL "the rest of us" forgiven, however the forgiveness that counts is from God, and that requires that we humble ourselves to God, not saying that we can "surely be forgiven". When judgemental language shows up in our DBT class, we sometimes refer to this ...

Christ also had VERY little to say about the Roman Empire, which was not all that much of a "kinder and gentler" sort of government. Christ and Dr Graham agreed that the important kingdom is "not of this world" --- eternity makes the mere lifetime of the universe ( 14 billion years so far, maybe 5 to go ) into one of those milli, micro, pico, femto. plank kinds of parts of a second that are way too short for us to register.

As a personal aside, by an odd happenstance, I stood and talked to Billy Graham's future daughter in-law as she was wearing her "slip" -- talk about "old times"!  A "slip" was a piece of women's clothing that a woman would wear over her other undergarments, basically a "white sun dress". As I stopped by the shared apartment to pick up the woman who would eventually introduce me to my wife (she was getting ready, imagine that!), one of her roommates stood and chatted with me, but seemed to be getting more and more red / flustered.

Those that know me are aware that I talk "easily" and my degree of being "observant" could be better. She finally blushingly tittered "I'm just wearing my slip" and ran off! ... not that it mattered, but this was a house of really conservative Christian women. She later went on to marry one of Billy's sons ... I'm not certain which. Sometimes memorable things happen while "waitin on a woman". In over 30 years of marriage, it is something I have some experience with ..

Many Baptist Churches were broken up by Billy Graham. The reason is because Billy was pretty much willing to stand on a stage with anyone -- no matter how liberal their theology, and all Christian churches have some level of "separation", a very tricky topic. I tend to see all of human life as having AT LEAST two ditches, and we are to seek to "drive" (live) on the road. Living in any ditch means that we have fallen into the perils of one side or the other. Being on "the way", means we are following Christ, however it is narrow.

In one ditch,  we have the problem of  separation / law  -- if there isn't anything different about Christians, then how will anyone know you are Chrisitan?  Matt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet."

In the other ditch, we have the problem of legalism -- a problem that we could quote MANY verses on, and Christ himself was WAY harder on than sin --  go read the "7 woes" in Matthew 23 for one example of just how hard. It seems the "worse ditch" is this one based on our pride, and the idea of personal "virtue". Satan fell because of pride, Judas failed to repent because of pride, and it is pride that leads to unbelief that is the unforgiveable sin.

While the essence of Christ and therefore, practicing Christians, is to love and to serve, this ditch says that "our church / tribe / world view / ideology / etc" has it "right / correct / smart / just / etc" and WE must put others in "judgement / separation / punishment / isolation / etc".

As Christ said to the rich young Jewish ruler in Luke 18:19 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone."

For Christians, this would seem to preclude our judgement of ourselves as "good". Dangerously, outside of Christ, men find their views to be superior and thus "good".  Even when those they disagree with leave this mortal coil, they still find them not worth of honor since they didn't share THEIR values.
The way of Billy Graham was one of humility, as was that of Martin Luther King Jr and Jesus. How does man find humility outside of Jesus?

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