Billie: The Early Years

I saw the early biography of Billie Graham with a Protestant friend on Friday and it was enjoyable. Not deep, for sure, but a sweet, often humorous story of his faith formation, early ministry and falling in love with his wife, Ruth. It was told from the perspective of a dying friend (Templeton) who had shared Graham’s ministry until Templeton lost his faith in God over the Nazi atrocities. There was really nothing in it to offend Catholic sensibilities except for one thing probably only a Catholic would notice consciously: during a reception when Templeton, who had concluded that Jesus was not God, shocked Graham by lambasting Graham and Christian beliefs, he (Templeton) was standing directly in front of a large painting of what appeared to be the Assumption of Mary. Templeton’s beliefs were beginning to lean toward what we would today call “new age”; the producers or set designers surely meant this to be a subliminal connection between ‘Catholic’ and ‘anti-Christian’. The movie didn’t do justice to Graham’s spiritual life or to his ministry, but apparently it was meant to be light-hearted and ‘friendly’. Be aware of the single subliminal anti-Catholic allusion and the rest of the movie was sweet and enjoyable. It was sort of sad, though; we went to a mantinee on opening day but there were only 6 people in the theater, at least one of whom is Catholic…

The film wasonly released in a small number of states. We are still waiting for it in Cincinnati.

Thursday is Reverend Graham’s 90th Birthday. His website has as a link to email him greetings.

Late last night I was channel surfing and ran across a birthday celebration of his life on TBN. It looked like one of those all-evening things with bits of his crusades, interviews, etc, alternating with birthday wishes from various Christian celebrities, ministers and others. I didn’t see whether it originated with TBN or whether it will be shown again, but imagine it will.

My mom was raised Missionary Baptist and converted to Catholicism when I was 5. I’m Catholic. I have a great appreciation for Billy Graham, who has a simple, holy faith in the Word of God and has been a great spiritual leader to millions of people. He’s brought many people to Christ with his crusades. He and Pope John Paul respected and appreciated each other a great deal. When we lose Billy Graham, we will have lost the two most influential Christian leaders of our time. Happy 90th to you, Rev. Graham; thank you for saying “yes” when God called you.

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