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The Revd Billy Graham departed this mortal coil on February 21, 2018, aged 99.

Only the good Lord knows how many people he converted or awakened to Christianity. If he spoke in person to 250 million people around the world during his ministry, imagine the hundreds of millions of people watching his televised Crusades and specials or listening to him on radio. What he accomplished over his 80 years as a preacher was so extraordinary that it might not be repeated for generations to come.

CBS News reported that Graham was (emphases mine):

the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history

Spokesman Mark DeMoss said Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning.

Tributes from American presidents

President Donald Trump tweeted and followed up with a formal statement later that day:

President Trump’s statement reads as follows:

Melania and I join millions of people around the world in mourning the passing of Billy Graham. Our prayers are with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all who worked closely with Reverend Graham in his lifelong ministry.

Billy’s acceptance of Jesus Christ around his seventeenth birthday not only changed his life—it changed our country and the world. He was one of the towering figures of the last 100 years—an American hero whose life and leadership truly earned him the title “God’s Ambassador.”

Billy’s unshakeable belief in the power of God’s word to transform hearts gave hope to all who listened to his simple message: “God loves you.” He carried this message around the world through his crusades, bringing entire generations to faith in Jesus Christ.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, America turned to Billy Graham at the National Cathedral, who told us, “God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.”

Reverend Graham would be the first to say that he did not do it alone. Before her passing, his wife Ruth was by his side through it all—a true partner, a wonderful mother, and a fellow missionary soul. He also built an international team and institution that will continue to carry on Christ’s message.

Melania and I were privileged to get to know Reverend Graham and his extraordinary family over the last several years, and we are deeply grateful for their love and support.

Billy Graham was truly one of a kind. Christians and people of all faiths and backgrounds will miss him dearly. We are thinking of him today, finally at home in Heaven.

George H W Bush also issued a statement:

Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world,” Bush said. “I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend. He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life. He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States. We will miss our good friend forever.

It’s true. There was never a whiff of scandal around Billy Graham. God blessed him abundantly, and the Holy Spirit worked through him until the end.

CBS News discussed the long line of past presidents Graham met with:

from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, but always denied any role in setting policy saying, “I don’t advise them, I pray with them,” CBS News reported. Lyndon Johnson looked up to his close friend, the pastor. Richard Nixon asked for his counsel during Watergate. The elder Bush called Graham to the White House the night before he launched the first Gulf War. Younger President Bush has credited Graham with turning him away from drinking and towards embracing God.

These are the names of those 12 past presidents from at least the early 1950s through to the present day: Harry S Truman, Dwight D Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M Nixon, Gerald R Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama. That’s a mighty long list.

And he met with President Trump.

That’s 13 presidents in all.

Obama was the first sitting president to visit Graham at his home in North Carolina. That was in 2010, three years after Graham’s wife Ruth went to her heavenly rest.

CBS reported that Graham also became friends with Martin Luther King Jr about a decade before the civil rights movement took root:

In 1952 he stopped segregating his crusades and began a friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“All the problems of America tonight and of the world stem from the fact that we as the human race have sinned against Almighty God,” he said in May 1997.

Such was the impact of Billy Graham’s life that flags flew at half mast in Washington DC from February 21 to March 2, the day of his funeral and burial:

Tributes from clergy

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, remembered his family’s respect for Graham’s ministry:

As anyone growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s can tell you, it was hard not to notice and be impressed by the Reverend Billy Graham,” Dolan said in a statement. “There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God. Whether it was one of his famous Crusades, radio programs, television specials, or meeting and counseling the presidents, Billy Graham seemed to be everywhere, always with the same message: Jesus is your Savior, and wants you to be happy with Him forever. As an historian, my admiration for him only grew as I studied our nation’s religious past, and came to appreciate even more the tremendous role he played in the American evangelical movement. May the Lord that Billy Graham loved so passionately now grant him eternal rest.

One of Graham’s grandsons, the Revd Tullian Tchividjian, noted his grandfather’s universal appeal:

My granddad wasn’t just Christian-famous, he was famous-famous, he was crossover famous.

Unfortunately, Tchividjian succumbed to temptation in his own ministry. He resigned his pastorate at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale after admitting to an extramarital affair. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed him from their South Florida Presbytery as being ‘unfit for Christian ministry‘. A subsequent pastorate and outreach ministry also failed because of more sexual impropriety. In 2015, Tchividjian divorced his first wife Kim after 21 years of marriage. He married his second wife Stacie the following year. Hmm. What a contrast to his grandfather.

Honour of lying in state in Capitol Rotunda

Billy Graham was honoured greatly prior to his funeral:

This is a good photo of the exterior of the Capitol Building from Billy’s son’s — Franklin Graham’s — Samaritan’s Purse ministry:

A memorial service took place. Pictured is one of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughters, Lynda Bird. I remember when she and her husband married in 1967:

President Trump spoke at the service:

What follows is the text of President Trump’s address. It’s very moving — probably written by the incomparable Stephen Miller — and really expresses not only who Billy Graham was but how much he appealed to his audiences. I remember watching his Crusades when I was a child. During the first one I watched at the age of seven, I approached the television set when he made his call for people to come forward!

11:21 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell. And, most importantly, thank you to the entire Graham family for honoring us with your presence here today. Thank you.

In the spring of 1934, Billy Graham’s father allowed a group of Charlotte businessmen to use a portion of the family’s dairy farm to gather for a day of prayer.

On that day, the men prayed for the city. They prayed that, “Out of Charlotte, the Lord would raise up someone to preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.”

We are here today, more than 80 years later, because that prayer was truly answered.

Billy Graham was 15 years old at the time. Just a few months later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That choice didn’t just change Billy’s life — it changed our lives. It changed our country, and it changed, in fact, the entire world.

The North Carolina farm boy walked out of those fields, into a great and beautiful history.

And I remember that, because my father said to me, “Come on, son” — and, by the way, he said, “Come on, mom. Let’s go see Billy Graham at Yankee Stadium.” And it was something very special.

But Americans came in droves to hear that great young preacher. Fred Trump was a big fan. Fred Trump was my father.

In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg, and scores of other places all over the world, Reverend Graham shared the power of God’s word with more than 200 million people, in person, and countless others through television and radio where people loved to watch and listen.

In 1978, with the support of the Catholic Bishop who would soon become Pope John Paul II, Reverend Graham went to Poland and spoke of the meaning of the cross to a people suffering under the soulless oppression of communism.

Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, as Franklin will tell you, was always in America.

He took his message to the poorest places, to the downtrodden and to the brokenhearted, to inmates in prison, and to the overlooked and the neglected. He felt a great passion for those that were neglected.

Everywhere he went, Reverend Graham delivered the same beautiful message: God loves you. That was his message. God loves you.

We can only imagine the number of lives touched by the preaching and the prayers of Billy Graham –- the hearts he changed, the sorrows he eased, and the joy he brought to so many. The testimony is endless.

Today, we give thanks for this extraordinary life. And it’s very fitting that we do so right here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where the memory of the American people is enshrined.

Here in this room, we are reminded that America is a nation sustained by prayer. The painting to my left is of the pilgrims as they embarked for America, holding fast to the Bible and bowing their heads in prayer.

Along these walls, we see the faces of Americans who prayed as they stood on the Lexington Green, who prayed as they headed west, prayed as they headed into battle, and prayed as they marched for justice, and always marched for victory.

Around us stand the statues of heroes who led the nation in prayer during the great and difficult times, from Washington to Lincoln to Eisenhower to King.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you very much.

END

11:28 A.M. EST

That evening, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted a dinner for the Grahams. Franklin Graham is sitting to the left of Mrs Trump (her right):

The funeral

Billy Graham’s funeral took place in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday, March 2.

His grandson Roy provided the story behind the evangelist’s simple wooden casket. Recommended video:

This was the scene under a tent at the Billy Graham Library before the funeral:

The Trumps and the Pences walked together:

The Charlotte Observer reported:

His funeral service under a massive tent at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte drew more than 2,000 guests, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, governors, senators, religious leaders, celebrities and longtime Graham family friends. It was the kind of star-studded turnout that would have made Graham blush, suggested some of the speakers, who lauded this pastor to presidents and everyday people for always trying to steer the attention away from himself and toward Jesus Christ.

Family members escorted Graham’s plain wooden casket into the 28,000-square-foot tent, which was meant to harken back to Graham’s 1949 crusade in a “canvas cathedral” in downtown Los Angeles that shot him to national attention.

The service lasted the planned 90 minutes. Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — BGEA — as well as his own Samaritan’s Purse, gave the address:

My father’s greatest longing has been granted,” the younger Graham said. “He’s in the presence of God” …

Franklin Graham recalled his father’s love of his late wife, Ruth, his sense of humor and joy in his grandchildren. “The Billy Graham that the world saw on TV, and in the big stadiums, is the same Billy Graham we saw at home,” he said. “There weren’t two Billy Grahams.”

But Graham said the late evangelist also believed in heaven and hell, and in the Bible as the infallible word of God: “He didn’t understand it all, but he sure believed it all.”

In an era of political correctness, he added, some “want you to believe there are many roads to God. It’s just not true.

“Daddy, I won’t see you on this earth again,” he ended, gazing at the casket before him, “but I will see you again, and maybe soon.”

The article concludes by stating that the Graham family and the BGEA consider the funeral to be the Last Crusade. They hope it will stimulate new interest in the Gospel.

The videos of the funeral service follow:

More on Billy Graham to follow.

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Sixty-one years ago, President Harry S Truman (1945-1953) gave a speech to the Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement Problems concerning organised crime.  H/T to I Took the Red Pill (and escaped the Matrix).

The speech is dated February 15, 1950, and the President delivered it in the Department of Justice Auditorium in Washington, DC.  Although he discussed the prevalence of organised crime, you can make it relevant to the present day by thinking of the message in terms of ‘gangs’ and ‘drug dealers’.

President Truman was known for his ‘plain speaking’.  He told it like it is, which is the way I like my politics, too.  It should be noted that he didn’t wear his Christian faith on his sleeve, which makes the following remarks all the more distinctive.  You might also find the historical aspects worthwhile.

Below are excerpts from the address, helpfully provided in full by the Truman Library.  Emphases are mine.  This concerned America’s youth and law enforcement officers at the time — the message still holds true today.

There has been a substantial postwar increase in crime in this country, particularly in crimes of violence. This is disturbing, but it is one of the inevitable results of war, and the dislocations that spring from war. It is one of the many reasons why we must work with other nations for a permanent peace.

I might remind you that after every war this country has ever been engaged in, we have had exactly the same problems to face. After the Revolutionary War we had almost exactly the same problems with which we are faced now, out of which came the Alien and Sedition laws, which we finally had to repeal because they did not agree with the Bill of Rights. Then, after the War Between the States, or the Civil War, we had all sorts of banditry. My State [Missouri] was famous for some of the great bandits of that time, if you recall. We had the same situation after World War I. We had a terrible time then with the increase in crimes of violence. We managed to handle the situation, and I am just as sure as I stand here that we will do it again …

It is important, therefore, that we work together in combating organized crime in all its forms. We must use our courts and our law enforcement agencies, and the moral forces of our people, to put down organized crime wherever it appears.

At the same time, we must aid and encourage gentler forces to do their work of prevention and cure. These forces include education, religion, and home training, family and child guidance, and wholesome recreation.

The most important business in this Nation–or any other nation, for that matter–is raising and training children. If those children have the proper environment at home, and educationally, very, very few of them ever turn out wrong. I don’t think we put enough stress on the necessity of implanting in the child’s mind the moral code under which we live.

The fundamental basis of this Nation’s law was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.

If we don’t have the proper fundamental moral background, we will finally wind up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the state

I think every child in the Nation, regardless of his race, creed, or color, should have the right to a proper education. And when he has finished that education, he ought to have the right in industry to fair treatment in employment. If he is able and willing to do the job, he ought to be given a chance to do that job, no matter what his religious connections are, or what his color is.

I am particularly anxious that we should do everything within our power to protect the minds and hearts of our children from the moral corruption that accompanies organized crime. Our children are our greatest resource, and our greatest asset–the hope of our future, and the future of the world. We must not permit the existence of conditions which cause our children to believe that crime is inevitable and normal. We must teach idealism–honor, ethics, decency, the moral law. We must teach that we should do right because it is right, and not in the hope of any material reward. That is what our moral code is based on: do to the other fellow as you would have him do to you. If we would continue that all through our lives, we wouldn’t have organized crime–if everybody would do that

As law enforcement officers you have great powers. At the same time you must never forget that hand in hand with those powers go great responsibilities. You must make certain that these powers are not used for personal gain, or from any personal motive. Too often organized crime is made possible by corruption of law enforcement officials.

But, far more than that, we must always remember that you are officers of the law in a great democratic nation which owes its birth to the indignation of its citizens against the encroachment of police and governmental powers against their individual freedoms.

Now there isn’t any difference, so far as I can see, in the manner in which totalitarian states treat individuals than there is in the racketeers’ handling of these lawless rackets with which we are sometimes faced. And the reason that our Government is strong, and the greatest democracy in the world, is because we have a Bill of Rights.

You should be vigilant to enforce the laws which protect our citizens from violence or intimidation in the exercise of their constitutional and legal rights. The strength of our institutions depends in large measure upon the vigorous efforts to prevent mob violence, and other forms of interference with basic rights–the right to a fair trial, the right to vote, and the right to exercise freedom of speech, assembly, and petition.

It is just as much your duty to protect the innocent as it is to prosecute the guilty. The friendless, the weak, the victims of prejudice and public excitement are entitled to the same quality of justice and fair play that the rich, the powerful, the well-connected, and the fellow with pull thinks he can get.

Moreover, the guilty as well as the innocent are entitled to due process of law. They are entitled to a fair trial. They are entitled to counsel. They are entitled to fair treatment from the police. The law enforcement officer has the same duty as the citizen-indeed, he has a higher duty–to abide by the letter and spirit of our Constitution and laws…

I believe that as President it is necessary for me to be more careful in obeying the laws than for any other person to be careful…

And every one of you has that same responsibility. You yourselves … must be intellectually honest in the enforcement of the Constitution and the laws of the United States. And if you are not, you are not a good public official.

I know that it would be easier to catch and jail criminals if we did not have a Bill of Rights in our Federal and State constitutions. But I thank God every day that it is there, that that Bill of Rights is a fundamental law. That is what distinguishes us from the totalitarian powers

Let us pray that it may remain so.  Recent elections, family breakdown and the lack of proper history teaching in schools puts the Great Republic — the United States — in grave danger.

We face the same challenge in other Western countries, where public indifference and corrupt ambition have overtaken the personal morality and public fairness which once characterised our free societies.

As we have seen, it only takes a few years for a foundation to crumble and the cracks appear in the edifice of liberty which our ancestors painstakingly built with their blood and sweat.

Proper instruction begins in the home and should continue at school.  As President Truman said, a solid moral foundation and a good education turns out upstanding citizens nearly every time.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s worth noting that in 1958 crime writer James Ellroy‘s mother was brutally murdered when Ellroy was only 10 years old.  A divorcée, Jean (Geneva) was thought to have had some dubious  connections in her love life.  Unfortunately, the case was never solved.  You can find out more about it in Ellroy’s My Dark Places (1996), which I read one long weekend shortly after it was published.  It is a powerful memoir of his childhood and a gripping exploration of his mother’s case.  At that time, divorced women — outside of film stars and socialites — carried a social stigma.  Although many had masculine street smarts, they often lived on the margins of society with low-paying jobs and little practical support.  Many had children to raise, and money was hard to come by.  My Dark Places recounts his early family life, state education, corrupt police and organised crime. It seems that Harry Truman might have had this type of scenario in mind when he delivered this speech.

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