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The Internet's Reaction to the Passing of Billy Graham

The Internet's Reaction to the Passing of Billy Graham

North Carolina evangelist Billy Graham in a video on his 99th birthday on November 7, 2017. | (Screencap: BillyGraham.org)

The internet's reaction to Billy Graham has been fascinating to watch. Graham has received praise from a wide variety of figures including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Joe Scarborough, Hallie Jackson, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and countless other politicians, church leaders and media contributors. They recognize his contributions to society.

The hatred directed toward Graham is primarily from lesser known social media users. They are people that have never met him. It seems that there is universal praise for Graham from anyone that has met him. Most of the charges against him can be boiled down to the charge that Graham was not perfect. Billy Graham believed he was a sinner. That is why he believed he needed God's grace and wanted to share it with other people. Graham never claimed to be perfect. He only claimed that he had God's forgiveness.

Here are some of the common unpleasantries directed at Graham:

"Billy Graham is going to hell because he is rich."

Obviously, this shows a lack of a basic understanding of the gospel that sins committed by Graham are forgiven (John 3:14-18Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-7, Galatians 2:16-21). Some are citing Matthew 19:23-24 as proof of their hypothesis. Jesus does not say that no rich people can enter the kingdom of heaven. I do not know much about Graham's financial situation. I would imagine he earned a lot of money from book sales. However, being rich does not necessarily exclude a person from the kingdom of God. Jesus was speaking to the fact that people who think they don't need God reject the gospel. Sometimes wealthy people feel their needs are met without God. God has never rejected people solely based on wealth. Examples include Job and Solomon. There are many church leaders that have abused church donations and used them for personal gain. I am not aware of any evidence that Graham was one of them.

"Billy Graham was a bigot."

The word "bigot" gets thrown around everywhere these days. A bigot is a person that is intolerant of views and opinions other than their own, so most of the people judging Graham are bigoted themselves as they vehemently attack anyone with a view different from their own. This charge is mostly since Graham believed homosexuality was sinful. He was basing his opinion on Bible verses like these: (Leviticus 18:22, 20:131 Corinthians 6:9-10Romans 1:26-28). Many people conflate judgement, acceptance, and reproof. Some are accusing Graham of being judgmental. Based on their own incorrect definition of judgement, they would be judging Graham. A common view is that pointing out one's sin is judgmental. However, reproof is commanded throughout the Bible (Proverbs 9:8, 13:8, 15:32Matthew 18:151 Timothy 5:202 Timothy 3:16) and is not the same as judgement. Saying that someone is sinful does mean that one does not accept a person. Jesus called out the sin of the Samaritan woman at the well but was accepting and had friendly dialogue with her. Graham had a blunder when he said, "Is AIDS a judgment of God? I could not say for sure, but I think so."

He later retracted the statement. In my opinion, most of the time Christian leaders declare things as judgements of God is not a good thing. However, Graham said he was not sure and retracted it. I agree that it was not a good statement to make. It's tough when people get pegged as something because of one statement, especially since Graham preached to people of many backgrounds throughout the world.

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