Billy Graham was the most famous Christian preacher in the world for more than half a century. He was so famous, people felt like they had to have an opinion about him.
Graham died last week at 99. The evangelist lay in state at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, and the country is debating his legacy.
Was he “America’s pastor”? Should we think of him as the last bipartisan evangelical or a tool of partisan politics? Was he critical to the success of the civil rights movement or a white nationalist? Was he on the “wrong side of history”? Did he focus just on Jesus, or was Graham preaching a “hyper-nationalistic, militaristic and xenophobic” gospel?
Graham is a cultural inkblot. Different people see different things. In death, as in life, he is the kind of famous figure who people define themselves by how they feel about him.
This was never clearer than in Graham’s crusades in Cold War Germany. The Germans even invented a word for “someone who likes Billy Graham.”
Read my latest piece at the Washington Post.