Academic journal article Theological Studies

America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

Academic journal article Theological Studies

America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

Article excerpt

America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. By Grant Wacker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2014. Pp. 413. $27.95.

This is a very smart book. As Wacker makes clear from the opening page, it is not meant to be a conventional biography. The book's focus is less Billy Graham himself (about whom many biographies have already been published) than a series of larger questions about US culture itself. W. posits that the "rise, singularity, and longevity of a lanky farm kid from North Carolina helps us understand how America constructed and experienced leadership. More important, Graham's story sheds light on the formation of a moral vocabulary that expressed the grievances and aspirations of millions of people" (5). W. reveals how Graham's career provides a useful hermeneutical lens for making sense of the complexities of American culture in the six decades since World War II (the span of Graham's career).

W.'s prose style is elegant and lucid, and he offers many interesting facts along the way: for example, Graham is the only living American to be featured in the stained glass of the Washington Cathedral; he was listed 57 times in the Gallop Poll's roster of "10 Most Admired Men"--easily defeating the next in line, Ronald Reagan, who appeared 37 times; he was called "the 13th Disciple" by a CNN correspondent; and in a 1978 Ladies Home Journal survey, the only person listed above him in the "Achievement in Religion" category was God). …

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