Today I happened to hear a radio interview with Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham. She was introducing her book entitled, "Wounded by God's People". In the course of her description of this book, she spoke passionately about how mean spiritedness within her church experience had effectively driven her away from the church for a time. She proclaimed quite forthrightly that, in her opinion, the problems in our country are a result of a misguided animosity within the church.
Hearing this conversation simply reinforced what I see as an extreme irony in relationship to Billy Graham, his family, and his ministerial legacy. Anyone who has paid much attention has noted that, in his senior years in particular, Billy Graham has said things which challenge some basic tenets of Orthodox Christianity. A simple Google search of his many quotes will illustrate the many statements for which he has been vilified by others in the evangelical community. The primary complaint by his detractors concerns his apparent ecumenicalism, his tendency to redefine those who are accepted by God in much broader terms than many other "Christians" feel comfortable doing.
In contradistinction to Billy's apparent religious evolution, we routinely witness his son, Franklin vehemently insisting on the old, restrictive, Orthodox definition of God's accepted people. In fact,
One can assume that Billy has simply been misunderstood in some his controversial statements about his beliefs, and I suspect that is the way many dismiss any suggestion of change in his theology. Others likely see the mental deterioration of the aging process as explaining some of his perceived contradictions to Christian Orthodoxy. Personally, I like to believe that Billy has simply grown spiritually over the years, coming to see a better picture of God in Christ.
What we witness in the differing views of Billy Graham and his children is a microcosm of the conflicted beliefs which arise from those who attempt to embrace Christian Orthodoxy. Such practitioners are constantly whipsawed by the various currents and countercurrents within present day Christian theology, some of which promote love and benevolence and others favor conflict and mean spiritedness. Try as they might, every person who tries to adhere to the church's definition of Christianity cannot be both benevolent and condemning. Of the two options, we all recognize which is vastly more natural and therefore easier.