To the editor ...

While I would not dispute a word Strakon has written here, I think he missed one trick in playing this hand.

For present purposes let us assume, without making a commitment one way or the other, that Billy Graham is what he often seems to be — a man prepared to stand by the truth no matter the cost to himself.

At 83, his life is near an end — though he continues to work and preach his crusades — and he has personally almost nothing to lose. He could easily have stood by what he said and hardly noticed any punishment that might be inflicted. His fortune is secure, and it is entirely possible that he cares nothing for his own reputation in the eyes of men.

However, the son who bears his name is an evangelist in his own right, in addition to being the CEO and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. A promising career and a financially strong ministry (it has net assets in excess of $250 million) could easily be derailed by any major stain on his father's reputation. Graham may well have figured that "Paris is worth a Mass," i.e., that it was better to go through the necessary penitential motions for the sake of his son and the organization. It is they who will pay the price for Graham's unguarded comments, for of course no apology for "anti-Semitic" remarks is ever completely accepted or effective.

The same is true for any big-name preacher who hopes to see his ministry survive him, either institutionally or in the person of a son. There are reasons they are so univocal in their support for Israel, and they are not all based on tortured theology and misreadings of Scripture. And the power of the Israel lobby is by no means hidden from them.

The fundamentalist evangelist Dale Crowley Jr. once told me that his father — an important evangelist in his own right — had warned him not to discuss Israel or Jewish power in this country. The younger Crowley has not heeded that advice (his broadcast "Focus on Israel" can be picked up on the Internet at, and he has indeed paid a heavy price for it over the years.

It would be informative if Dr. Graham would answer Strakon's questions, but so long as he has children (indeed grandchildren and great-grandchildren) with prospects or a ministry he hopes will survive his death, I think we can be sure we will never hear them. And the same goes for every other big-shot Christian (from James Dobson to Mother Angelica) on the air.

As for that excellent question at the end of the column — Don't you wonder what other public men are sitting in private offices right now, chattering freely about certain inconvenient truths? Knowing all the while that those truths must remain publicly unmentionable? — it certainly applies to men of the cloth as well as to holders of public office, entertainers, tycoons, and opinion molders. I hope Strakon asks it frequently.

Ronn Neff

Senior editor, TLD
March 10, 2002


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