Rendezvous With Billy

The established church in Washington didn't know what to make of Billy Graham.

By "established church," I don't mean the main-line Protestant churches: They were too busy trying to convert their churches into instruments of Democratic foreign policy to care very much about religion. The only established church that counts in Washington, as everyone knows, is the Washington Post.

When Graham was last in Washington, in the early 1970's, he was clothed by the media in the tattered garments reserved for close friends of Richard Nixon. In the past decade, however, Graham's successors—Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart—had superseded him, creating vast fund-raising machines that dwarfed anything Graham had produced. In the Post's eyes, Graham was still a Fundamentalist Christian, yet there was no Billy Graham University, no Billy Graham City of Faith, and Graham had never passed judgment on whether or not God approved of the U.S. Department of Education. The Post could not damn him too heavily.

The Post's religion editor, bothered with actually covering religion instead of her usual beat of watching bureaucrats merge the main-line Protestant churches into the United Church of Everything, listlessly went to the first night's sermon and pronounced the affair "a spiritual Tupperware party." The Post's...

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