Bearing "The Gospel
The Mass Meeting
SHORTLY before King embarked on the Albany campaign, he dispatched two of his closest aides to confer with members of the evangelist Billy Graham's staff. Even though the two preachers were worlds apart on political questions, King had long known and admired Graham, trusted his goodwill, and had once played a small part in one of the evangelist's crusades. Now King's people wanted to know how their man could win the approval of the American public and how the scLC could run its operations as smoothly and successfully as Graham's. Graham's recommendations were carried back to King but never implemented. The bottom line was that King was spreading himself too thin. Graham's team spent thousands of hours preparing for a few, carefully orchestrated appearances each year; King was dashing in and out of every little church and hamlet that wanted him, answering and inspiring Macedonian calls wherever he went. His model of evangelism seemed designed eventually to exhaust the evangelist.
It is significant that Martin Luther King turned, however briefly, to Billy Graham, for with that gesture King was acknowledging the possiblity of translating an evangelistic tradition the two men shared into a method of social transformation. Evangelism and politics had never been strangers to one another in American life. Their entanglement dated back to the hegemony of the Puritan pulpit over every social institution in New England. In the nineteenth century, evangelism and politics separated