In most ways, the Central Valley Billy Graham Crusade in Fresno, California, was like Graham's other evangelistic meetings. There were the special services for kids and teens, the testimony and music from celebrities (like Charlie Daniels, the bearded country singer of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"), the humorous anecdote from Graham about the moth that flew into his mouth while preaching (Graham was preaching, not the moth).
But this was also Graham's first crusade since September 11, beginning exactly one month after the attacks. Attendees had questions and fears—and so did non-attendees. Only 40,000 or so showed up on Thursday, October 11: not enough to fill Fresno State University's Bulldog Stadium. But by Saturday's youth night, Graham was back to his usual breaking of attendance records, with more than 47,000 at Bulldog Stadium and another 15,000 at a nearby stadium. Weblog hasn't yet seen numbers from last night's meeting, but by Saturday night, 13,430 had responded to altar calls. At Graham's last crusade, in Louisville, 10,500 came forward over four days.
Graham has always used current news stories as sermon illustrations, but in Fresno he emphasized that's there's more going on in the world than terrorism. "Much of the world is feeling the effects of terrorism and war right now," he said Thursday night. "But there are other things that are bothering us: disease, poverty, racism, hate, loneliness, AIDS, unemployment, divorce, psychological problems, boredom, murder statistics—the world didn't stop sinning or getting bored after September 11."
One very specific way that Graham and his organization are feeling the effects of September 11 is in language: the Central Valley Crusade ...1
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