”America’s Preacher” Was Laid To Rest, but How Did He Feel About the President?
Billy Graham was laid to rest today in a ceremony attended by over 2,000 people and multiple U.S. Presidents. WRN has reported on the man who brought Christianity to millions of people, dozens of countries, and gave counseling to every president for decades.
But Billy Graham was quite different than the contemporary image of the evangelical preacher. His sermons focused on love and cohesion, instead of attacking different groups. While he was a constant figure in American politics, he stated that he regretted being involved in politics and thought that religious leaders should stay outside of the political realm.
His funeral had demonstrations of his lifestyle. As his son mentioned during the eulogy, there was no different side of Billy Graham. He was exactly the same privately as he was during his sermons. He believed in a frugal lifestyle. His coffin was simple with a plain cross on it. He did not have multiple private planes, nor did he live in a gigantic mansion. He tried to live the way he dictated others should live.
One wonders: how would he feel about Trump attending his funeral? Both President Trump and Vice President Pence attended the funeral together. It is unusual for them to attend an event together, but it makes sense. The Trump administration leans on the support of white evangelical voters. Over 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump and they remain his most dedicated base.
But Billy Graham never directly showed his support for Trump. Franklin, his son, who is more politically active than his father, has often declared his support for Trump. Billy Graham did speak to Trump during his campaign, but never directly gave support, including not saying who he voted for in the election.
It could be hard for a deeply devout man to support Trump. He seems to have multiple violations of Christian ideals: divorce, adultery, sexual assault, greed, avarice, pride. He has never shown any real religious convictions. In fact, Christianity Today, the magazine created by Billy Graham, had an editorial attacking evangelical voters for sacrificing their values to get their political agenda passed. Billy Graham, who had the ability to influence policy at the highest levels, regretted his involvement. How then would he feel about individuals who believe, in terms of violating Christian doctrine, the ends justify the means?
Even when speaking about Billy Graham on Wednesday, Trump focused on how important the preacher was for his father, rather than himself. Twitter, the social media device that gives us a glimpse into the president’s mind without a filter, shows an interesting contrast. Vice President Pence, a devoted Christian, wrote an emotional message about being at the funeral. In fact, Vice President Pence follows the “Billy Graham Rule” where he does not have any meeting solo with a woman, especially if alcohol is being served. On the other hand, Trump wrote a generic message with pictures that feature him in the center, which has been a criticism of him, that every tragic event most makes him the center of attention.
Emotional and inspiring service for Reverend Billy Graham. He will be missed. As @Franklin_Graham said, "I can only imagine what it was like for my father to step into heaven. And there was the Lord Jesus Christ there to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'”
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 2, 2018
REST IN PEACE BILLY GRAHAM! pic.twitter.com/2qMoUccVC2
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
This is not to say Billy Graham would have denied anyone at the funeral. But it does beg the question: How would he feel about the motivations of Trump attending? President Trump has to do more than pass policies to prove the Billy Graham lesson. Billy Graham was about living religious ideals. President Trump would have to make radical character changes in order to prove he is the religious figure that would truly honor the memory of Billy Graham.