America’s Pastor

Collin Hansen | November 17, 2014

Grant Wacker. America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2014. 448 pp. $27.95.

For two of the three most influential Christian ministers of the 20th century, manner of death became central to their legacy. Felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. (b. 1929) became a martyr to the cause of civil rights. Pope John Paul II (b. 1920) suffered publicly through various ailments until death ended his tenure in 2005. We cannot underestimate such open agony at the end of life, considering that his successor opted to retire in 2013.

The oldest of the trio, Billy Graham (b. 1918), recently turned 96. Unlike King, he will not likely die a martyr as he lives out his days in the family cabin near Montreat, North Carolina. Unlike John Paul II, he retains only nominal leadership responsibilities. Since the end of his public ministry in 2005, Graham’s influence has waned to the point where many 20-something evangelicals can’t identify him or else view him solely as a figure of distant history.

I don’t know how many of these young believers will pick up Grant Wacker’s new book, America’s Pastor: Billy Graham

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