Billy Graham passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Paul M. Walsh/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)

‘America’s pastor’ Billy Graham leaves behind a controversial legacy

He was America's pastor, in the best and worst ways possible.


Ana Valens


Posted on Feb 21, 2018   Updated on May 22, 2021, 12:08 am CDT

American minister Billy Graham, 99, died today in Montreat, North Carolina. Throughout his life, Graham had been a controversial figure, yet he gained an enormous following among American Christians, with his preaching essentially giving birth to the modern evangelical movement.

Graham, who preached to at least 215 million people in his lifetime according to NBC, used everything from radio to television to the internet to preach a broad, colloquial Christian message without a denomination in mind. He served as both a minister for U.S. presidents and even became a close friend and ally for Martin Luther King, Jr.

Graham has since received glowing praise from Vice President Mike Pence and other Republican politicians, who see his ministry as a cornerstone of American life.

Even President Donald Trump joined in on commemorating Graham’s life, calling him “a very special man.”

But the reality is much more complicated, and Graham was notorious for his questionable opinions. During the Nixon administration, he reiterated an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that claimed Jewish-Americans had a “stranglehold” on the media that “has got to be broken,” according to leaks from the Nixon tapes. In more recent years, he had condemned gay marriage, and his website even targeted transgender people.

So while many Republicans continue to treat Graham as “America’s pastor,” others are urging others to acknowledge the scope of Graham’s deeply troubling and bigoted opinions that have since given birth to things like conversion therapy.

Maybe that means Graham really was “America’s pastor,” after all.

H/T The New York Times

Share this article
*First Published: Feb 21, 2018, 9:56 am CST