Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

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

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

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 BELKNAP, 448 PAGES, $¿7-95

Unlike many accounts of Billy Graham's life and ministry, Grant Wacker's America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation does not construct a heroic fable, nor does he deconstruct the evangelist as a lumbering proselytizer. Rather, we read of "a lanky farm kid from North Carolina" who is a uniquely charismatic and humble human being, dedicated to sharing the Gospel with anyone who will listen.

Wacker's analysis of Graham's strengths and weaknesses is thorough and fair. He does not shy away from theological disputes or personal shortcomings, and he rightly acknowledges that the evangelist's great skill has been "to set traditional theological claims in a setting of national and world crises."

Graham did so by blazing an entrepreneurial trail rooted in conservative Protestant theology, while refusing to rest on self-congratulatory affirmations. In 1951, he denounced his own community's deplorable approach to civil rights, chastising the "Southern Baptist Convention for their discriminatory admission policy in Baptist schools. …

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