A few days ago we did a post on the Billy Graham’s interview with Christianity Today in which the evangelist regretted his involvement in politics.
Randall Balmer has recently weighed-in on this story over at Religion Dispatches. Here is a taste:
Graham has had a lifelong fascination with politics and especially with politicians. He agitated to get an audience with Harry Truman at the White House in 1950, an encounter that did not go well. The president was not impressed with the brash young evangelist, especially when Graham and his associates, playing to the press, later simulated the prayer they had with Truman on the White House lawn. When the photograph hit the newspapers the following day, the president was not amused.
Graham fared better with Truman’s successor, Dwight Eisenhower, offering political advice and volunteering to undertake diplomatic missions in the course of his evangelistic travels. But Graham’s most notorious entanglement was with Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard Nixon. Graham and Nixon forged a friendship that endured until Nixon’s death in 1994.
While I was researching God in the White House, I came across correspondence in various presidential libraries that demonstrates the depth of Graham’s political ties; especially with Republicans, and particularly with Nixon. On August 10, 1960, for example, Graham sent a letter to John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee for president and only the second Roman Catholic to run on a major-party ticket. Graham assured Kennedy in no uncertain terms that, contrary to rumors, the evangelist had no intention of raising the “religious issue” during the course of the campaign.
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