Tell Billy Graham ‘The Jesus People love him’
Christian youth culture has become such a prominent, pervasive fixture on the American scene-witness the multi-million-dollar Christian contemporary music industry-that it may be hard to think of it as even having an origin. Yet, as we saw in last week's newsletter, not only is the idea of a distinct, youthful way of "doing" Christianity now over half a century old, but it owes much to the energies and advocacy of the now-venerable Billy Graham.
Last week we caught a glimpse of Billy in the mid-1940s, with pastel suit and pomaded hair, delivering the gospel in between swing-band instrumentals and girl-trio numbers to crowds of bobby-soxed and zoot-suited teens. We also saw him as one of the central personalities and energetic promoters of the influential Youth for Christ organization.
This week we follow Graham into the late 1960s as, disguised in dark glasses, old clothes, ball cap, and a false beard, he joins with demonstrating youth at City University in New York. And as he sits with his wife, Ruth, at their family home in Montreat, listening intently to a collection of rock albums. And as (again disguised) he mingles and raps with the audience at a 1969 Miami rock concert, to the strains of the Grateful Dead and Santana. And as (undisguised) he takes that same stage, by invitation of the concert promoters, to tell the partying masses how to "get high without hang-ups and hangovers" on Jesus.
During those years marked by youthful unrest, we can also peer discreetly into Graham's home life, where, much to the distress of his famous father, the teenaged Franklin Graham smokes, drinks, and flouts authority. Though Billy has his "human" moments as he confronts this rebellion (he once candidly ...