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RIP, Billy Graham

Lose the battle, win the war …

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by WILL FOLKS || If you’ve never been to Montreat, North Carolina you truly are missing out on a proverbial slice of heaven.  It’s a gorgeous little village in an absolutely picturesque valley situated at the base of Lookout Mountain in the same range as Mount Mitchell – the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

I used to go to Montreat as a child in the mid-1980s – and I experienced my most blissful formative moments rock-hopping in its creeks and scaling the mountain ridges overlooking its historic stone buildings.

Even threw my first curveball at a baseball field just inside its iconic stone archway – which is barely navigable by today’s monster sport-utility vehicles.

Nonetheless, every year I try to take my kids there as we pass through nearby Black Mountain, N.C. – a rustic town famed for its antiquing located about twenty minutes east of hippy, trendy Asheville on Interstate 40.

Anyway, Montreat is best-known around the world as the home of legendary evangelist (and baseball enthusiast)
Billy Graham – and it’s where the world’s best-known, most-beloved pastor passed away early Wednesday.

Graham, 99, spent six decades preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world – reaching an estimated 2.2 billion people through his 400-plus crusades, his books and his media broadcasts.

No one has shared Christianity to more people … ever.  And no one likely ever will again.

Not bad for a kid raised in the Great Depression whose first love was baseball, not the Bible.

A defining figure of the twentieth century, Graham regularly prayed with presidents and potentates.  In fact his close relationship with England’s Queen Elizabeth II was recently featured in an episode of the hit Netflix drama The Crown.

Unlike so many other evangelists of decades-gone-by, Graham managed to avoid scandal and controversy.  He retired in 2005 as his Parkinson’s disease worsened and made his last public appearance in 2010 at the re-dedication of his library in Charlotte, N.C.

“I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins,” Graham said during his last crusade.

(Click to view)

(Via: Billy Graham Library)

His final media message to his supporters was delivered in 2013.

Graham’s official obituary noted how his career transcended racial barriers and ideological divides, citing his early support for integration and his voyages behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

“Throughout his life, Graham was faithful to his calling, which will be captured in the inscription to be placed on his grave marker: Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” his obituary read.

For all Graham’s success at delivering the gospel, though, his battle – at least on this side of the great divide – was lost.

Seriously … look around.

America is hopelessly divided and reeling from the lingering effects of a seemingly incurable economic malaise.  Technological advancements, the onset of moral relativism and the glorification of materialism and self-gratification by any means necessary have made us a nation of slaves, irrevocably chained to shifting ethics, fleeting fads and passing desires.

The gospel Graham dedicated his life to advancing has been ignored … forgotten.

Meanwhile many of its adherents have been demonized (some of them rightfully so, too).

Bottom line?  This Republic is a shadow of the nation I used to stomp around as a young kid (which itself was probably a shadow of the Republic my parents’ generation used to stomp around when they were kids).

We have advanced liberty in many cases … but we’ve forgotten what that freedom is for.  And what it is worth.

I’m not going to preach, though.  As a libertarian, I affirm government’s utter inability (and inherent unsuitability) when it comes to imposing a particular morality on its people – aside from the recognition that one human’s liberty ends at the point where it infringes upon an equal or more essential liberty of another human.

And yes, that’s a moving target …

Assuming we were all committed to “do unto others as we would have it done to ourselves,” it wouldn’t matter … but we’re not.

Not even close.

Still, there are two types of people in the word: Those who put themselves first and those who put others first. 

It is not up to me to judge the difference, nor do I pretend the theological path I have chosen is superior to the one you have chosen – to the extent you have chosen one at all.

Just know that something created you … and when your time on this side of the divide is done, you will be called to account by your creator.

Same goes for me.  Same goes for everyone.

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget we are all just passing through this existence,” I wrote a few months ago on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther‘s Protestant Reformation. “We enter it with nothing, and we leave it with nothing.  What defines each one of us is that which transpires in the space between …”

Whatever you think of Graham’s gospel, you can’t go wrong by defining yourself according to its most fundamental (and forgotten) categorical imperative: Do unto others …

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