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Billy Graham's Faith Mission Nears Close; N.Y. Crusade Is Geared to Young People

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

Billy Graham's Faith Mission Nears Close; N.Y. Crusade Is Geared to Young People


Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

NEW YORK CITY - The curious and the committed arrived by the thousands last night, the second day of New York's three-day Billy Graham crusade, to hear the 86-year-old evangelist preach one of his last sermons to the world.

The event, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, drew about 80,000 people, more than the revised official estimate of 60,000 for Friday night.

New York's top Democratic leaders, former President Bill Clinton, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican, appeared on the platform with Mr. Graham.

"I told [Mr. Clinton] he should be an evangelist," Mr. Graham joked. "He has all the gifts, and he could leave his wife to run the country."

Mr. Clinton informed the crowd he had attended several Graham crusades, starting 46 years ago.

"I want to tell you what an honor it is to be here as a person of faith with a man I love," he said.

The crowd gave the Clintons a stronger ovation than they did for Mr. Graham, who, because of Parkinson's disease and other ailments, is closing down his evangelistic career this year. Last night, his speech was barely 15 minutes long.

The evangelist geared the evening to young people, intertwining mentions of the rock group U2, St. Augustine and MTV. U2's lead vocalist, Bono, visited him and his wife at their Montreat, N.C., home, he said, and composed a song for Ruth Graham.

"In his song, he said we are 'estranged by sin and bones,' " he said. Young people are sidetracked by many distractions, he added, including loneliness and sex.

"Yes, there is pleasure in sex," he said. "Sex is given to us. There is no harm in sex as long as it's according to the Word of God, but you will not find answers in sex."

High-voltage performances from the South African rock 'n' roll group Tree63, hip-hop vocalist Nicole C. Mullin and the pop group Jars of Clay also were geared toward the young.

Mr. Graham's eldest son, Franklin Graham, now president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told the crowd of his wayward teenage days.

"I didn't want God in my life," he said. "I wanted to party. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to enjoy life. I wanted to experience it to the fullest."

He was 22, he said, "when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life. I went to church, but being religious is not going to save you." Gesturing with a thin, black Bible in one hand, he added, "If you're not sure where you're going to spend eternity, be sure tonight."

The thousands seated and standing in several overflow areas ringing the stage appeared to be from every ethnic and racial group imaginable. Rice University sociologist Bill Martin, Billy Graham's official biographer, said this weekend appeared to be Mr.

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