By now, everyone has heard about Billy Graham. My memories of him are colored by the many crusades that he hosted; since I lived in NC as a child, mention of a Billy Graham crusade meant a week’s worth of terrible prime time television. Why? Our local on-air stations simply had to air the week’s worth of Graham in a stadium, speaking about Jesus, because the “good” reverend had been born in my home state. Unless your household had cable television, you were going to be bored for at least a solid week.
I remember spending a lot of time out in our front yard, playing with the cats, whenever those specials aired. His soul-winning streaks were dull to me, just a lot of words that I didn’t care about.
Graham was known as “America’s pastor”, so there are plenty of people out there singing his praises, whitewashing whatever ill deeds he may have performed. The most surprising voice among them happens to be Hement Mehta of the Friendly Atheist, who posted a glowing obituary of the man.
It’s easy to paint the man in such a way, but that would be a half-truth. The reality of Billy Graham lies elsewhere. It was he who helped to lay the foundation for christian patriarchy, and it was he who started that odious rule Mike Pence follows. He placed soul-winning over his family, and was vehemently anti gay. He claimed that AIDS was the judgement of god, among other things.
He was not a saint. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But as of right now, that fact is being forgotten, hand-waved away by those who don’t wish to speak ill of the dead, or wish to only concentrate on the positive aspects of his life. Those omissions don’t tell the entire story; instead, they sanitize it, whitewash it.
Speaking the truth about someone, even after they have passed, is not speaking ill of the dead. If they had wanted glowing obituaries, they should have behaved decently while they were still alive and when it mattered.