Susan D. Harris
On finding warnings for America from Rev. Billy Graham
By Susan D. Harris
February 26, 2018

(Previously published in American Thinker)

The old dresser holds my prized possessions; no jewels or money or a key to a safe deposit box...just simple things that hold a place in my heart.

Today I've opened its weathered drawers to look for an old dress pattern – a memory that was jogged by a conversation with my elderly mother. I opened the drawer and carefully started sifting through the contents – a 45rpm of John Lennon's "(Just Like) Starting Over" I'd bought before he was killed; a personal letter from Phyllis Schlafly on being Conservative; People magazine's tribute on the death of Sir Lawrence Olivier, "Goodnight Sweet Prince." Then I pulled out a theater program for "Camelot" signed by Richard Harris; a paperback titled, "Dark Shadows;" and the last issue of George magazine published before John F. Kennedy Jr. flew through the clouds to eternity.

"Ah," I always say with a smile – one of my favorite old snapshots of me posing in the lobby of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in front of their giant "Gone with the Wind"/Margaret Mitchell exhibit. I don't think they could even have that on display today without threats or protests.

Then I ran across it. Something I didn't even remember: A copy of Billy Graham's Decision magazine from March, 1976. The subscription was actually in my name – I was a small but precocious child. Why I saved this particular issue, I'll never know...or maybe it explained itself.

It's the day after the death of Rev. Graham, and I feel like I've run across this for a reason. Though he was 99, his death felt like the passing of an era; and as I'd told my mother the news the day before, she began to cry. My father and she had been married for 62 years; she was a widow now. The summer they married, they'd driven to one of Billy Graham's largest crusades and rededicated their lives to God. What a different world we live in – most young people don't even bother to get married anymore, let alone go to revival meetings!

Decision wasn't even really a magazine yet; it was more of a glossy newspaper format. A small side banner read, "Two Billy Graham TV Specials from Rio de Janeiro and Brussels: consult your newspaper for times and channels." Back then it seemed like everyone in America tuned in for a Billy Graham Crusade. The front cover began an article by Graham himself titled, "The Shaping of America." In it, Graham critiques Life magazine's "100 Events that Shaped America." Graham notes that only one or two of the events mentioned by Life could be considered "religious" in any way; certainly not Sigmund Freud's visit to the U.S., nor Babe Ruth and the introduction of big-money sports. Instead, Graham has his own ideas of what should have made the list.

He begins with the Mayflower Compact, which began with the words, "In the name of God, Amen." (The document goes on to say the pilgrim's voyage to this new world was in large part "for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.") Graham argues that document set the course for the entire colonial period, and that the ensuing immigrants from Europe fleeing religious persecution "were influenced by the pattern of religious self-government under God, established in the Mayflower Compact."

Next he mentions the birth of the American Bible Society in 1816 that facilitated millions of copies of said holy book being distributed around the world.

He continues by mentioning the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which had, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1976, "probably made the greatest single contribution toward arousing antislavery opinion in the United States." It was well-known that the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was inspired by her family's Christian faith, abolitionist writings and personal experiences.

Graham then points to the founding of our greatest universities: "Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Dartmouth" and "many other schools ...established to train students for Christian leadership in America."

He explores the 1806 "Haystack Prayer Meeting" in which five Williams College students, seeking shelter from rain, dove under a haystack and there prayed and conceptualized the "first documented resolution ever made by Americans to begin foreign missionary work." (One of those students was Samuel Mills, who also "played a role in the founding of the American Bible Society and the United Foreign Missionary Society.") Graham contends that Christian missions had done "as much as anything else to bring about the emerging 'third world.'" An African prime minister had recently told him that missionary outreach had largely contributed to the "struggle for freedom that has come to fruition in Africa (over) the past two decades."

The many Biblical references to the disciples "speaking with boldness" are, according to some Biblical authorities, translated to "freedom of speech." With this point, Graham's article seems to make it clear that Christianity was instrumental not only to our country, but to America's global influence for freedom and democracy. That's not the kind of democracy Any Rand or George Soros want to hear about – but it's the only kind of democracy that can truly flourish – democracy with a Christian soul.

Also of interest is the paper's editorial titled, "1984." It warns that the nations of the West must change their ways or they will lose their freedoms including, "freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, of movement; economic freedom, ballot box freedom – everything. It will all be swept away with the trash; and a lot of people will be glad about it! Yes, they will say, 'Thank God, decency has come back.' And it may so appear, but the democratic experiment will be over." Predicting the loss of freedoms was one thing, but predicting the death of freedom as something that would be hailed and celebrated – that was spine-tingling. Few people in 1976 envisioned the kind of world we live in today where the death of freedom is openly threatened or begged for.

One entire page of Decision was dedicated to a man's struggle with drug addiction. It could have easily been a message for 2018.

This magazine came out 23 years after my parents attended a Billy Graham crusade, and 21 years after his historic crusades at Madison Square Garden where nearly 2 ½ million flocked to hear him preach over a 16-week period.

For nearly 70 years, Billy Graham seemed to have his finger on the pulse of America. Of course, his legacy will live on through his son, the Rev. Franklin Graham, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; but there is a deep, almost mysterious foreboding that lingers after news of his passing. The man who preached Jesus Christ and biblical principles to more live audiences than anyone else in history is dead. That should give us pause.

For those who believe in 'no God' or the 'new god' the world has created that loves everyone and judges nothing – everything still feels okay. For the rest of us believers, there is a palpable sense that whether the Christian Second Coming is near or not, the world is well overdue for a good sound Judgement Day thrashing; we can run from our sins no more. A small gasp escapes as we're overcome with the uneasy feeling that mankind's day of atonement has passed – along with Rev. Billy Graham.

Susan D. Harris can be reached at

© Susan D. Harris


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


Stephen Stone
The most egregious lies Evan McMullin and the media have told about Sen. Mike Lee

Siena Hoefling
Protect the Children: Update with VIDEO

Stephen Stone
Flashback: Dems' fake claim that Trump and Utah congressional hopeful Burgess Owens want 'renewed nuclear testing' blows up when examined

Linda Goudsmit
CHAPTER 8: Constructivism Impedes Reality-Testing

Tom DeWeese
The transportation highway to dystopia

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Revelation Chapter 22: Finding comfort in Heaven’s promise

Michael Bresciani
A country without a border, a president without a backbone, a political party that runs on hatred: the new America?

Selwyn Duke
Smartfood gets dumb: Bud Lights itself with 'LGBTQ' Glaad Bag

Stone Washington
The political failings of ESG: Why 2024 is the year for policy reform

Jerry Newcombe
Do manners matter anymore?

Victor Sharpe
Passover's gift: The promised and undivided land

Linda Goudsmit
CHAPTER 7: Politicized education

Pete Riehm
Often the dumbest are the most dangerous

Matt C. Abbott
Taking secrets to the grave: Father Kunz murder, 26 years unsolved

Rev. Mark H. Creech
Revelation Chapter 21: A narrative of two cities, exploring the heavenly city
  More columns


Click for full cartoon
More cartoons


Matt C. Abbott
Chris Adamo
Russ J. Alan
Bonnie Alba
Chuck Baldwin
Kevin J. Banet
J. Matt Barber
Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
. . .
[See more]

Sister sites