Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Billy Graham Monument . . . Really?

When I first heard that the BGEA (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) was building The Billy Graham Library, I was a little confused. The idea of a Billy Graham Monument just didn't sound like something Rev. Graham would support. It simply doesn't fit the character of the man. Obviously, Rev. Graham couldn't be behind this.
So, I did what any normal person would do -- I got paranoid -- Oh, no. It's finally happened. They have finally taken advantage of the man's age and ill-health. Those corporate wienies who run the business side of the ministry, no longer restrained by the humility of Billy Graham, are going to unleash a wave of religious opportunistic capitalism the likes of which the world has never seen. I can see it now: BillyLand theme parks, a chain of Billy G's Righteous Ribs restaurants, Billy Graham trading cards, Billy Graham the Musical, and yes, a cartoon where Billy Graham uses the gospel in a MacGyver like fashion to take down the bad guys.
But then, I watched the dedication.
Whew. Order was restored. The first thing Franklin Graham said was that the library would not be a monument or a shrine. His father wouldn't allow it. Only after he assured his father that the library would serve as an ongoing evangelistic ministry did he actually get Rev. Graham's support. In fact, Billy Graham's name is not even on the building. What dominates the building: A Cross. When Billy Graham spoke, he said "This building behind me is just a building. It's an instrument; it's a tool for the Gospel. The primary thing is the Gospel of Christ." When he toured it, he remarked that it had too much Billy Graham in it.
I believe Billy Graham's greatest strength is his humble nature. His entire career has been built on the idea that it's not about him, it's about the Gospel of Christ. He has gained the trust of millions because he has never become a brand. That is why he is so revered - because he would be the first to say that he doesn't deserve it. Did you know that Billy Graham once said that he considers himself a failure. That he could have studied more, gone further in school, spent more time with his family. If only I could be such a failure.
Why do we admire Billy Graham? Because it never got to him. The fame, the accolades, the admiration of millions, the millions upon millions of dollars of donations. How many of us - given the chance - could prove so trustworthy?
The best quote regarding the character of Billy Graham that I've ever read came from someone who doesn't believe in God. In Lee Strobel's wonderful book, The Case for Faith, the first chapter tells the story of Charles Templeton. In the 40's, Templeton traveled and preached with Graham until he rejected the Christian faith and became agnostic. He wrote a book with the title Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. When speaking of Billy Graham he said:

"Billy is pure gold. There's no feigning or fakery in him. He's a first-rate
human being. Billy is profoundly Christian-he's the genuine goods, as they say. He sincerely believes--unquestionably. He is as wholesome and faithful as anyone can be."
Of course, Rev. Graham would disagree.


Mike Duran said...

I'm with you, Dayle -- a huge Billy Graham fan. Still, I'm disappointed there will be no BG theme park. Just think of it: A roller coaster that flies through Pleasureworld before descending into the Abyss, climbing the mountain of Reason, pausing at the Throne, and then plunging into Baptismal Bay. Oh well, I guess a library will suffice.

dayle james arceneaux said...

Hey Mike, I'll start lining up some investors - you keep coming up with great ideas for the rides and attractions.

In the meantime, I'll guess I'll just have to go to Charlotte and check out the library.

Anonymous said...

No kidding. Those rides sound fabulous!

I love true humility, seeing it worked out in the everyday. It's like my soul longs to gravitate toward those who live it. Which explains why my soul sometimes repels from me! : )