City’s biggest event dramatizes irony of Billy’s outspoken, Bible-believing opponents
The great irony of Billy Graham’s career is that his most vehement opponents are fellow Bible-believers. The rift was dramatized last month when Graham conducted a ten-day evangelistic crusade in Greenville, South Carolina, home of hard-shell Bob Jones University.
Although the Graham team has grown from BJU origins like honeysuckle along a Carolina fence, school President Bob Jones, Jr., 54, blackballed Graham the night before the crusade opened. He charged on local TV that the evangelist “is doing more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man.” Jones Jr. then left for a month in the Holy Land but left behind longtime Graham foe G. Archer Weniger as campus chapel speaker. Graham was also boycotted locally by a dozen fundamentalist ministers and statewide by fifty-seven independents in the South Carolina Baptist Fellowship.Other non-sponsors: Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventists, Unitarians, Christian Scientists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The evangelist expressed bewilderment at this opposition, but Jones Jr. had made his reasons clear in a famous chapel speech a year earlier. Nothing personal, he said, but Graham sups not only with publicans and sinners but also with Roman Catholics and leaders of the National and World Council of Churches; co-operates with churches that do not believe in biblical inerrancy and other basic doctrines; and refers converts to these “modernist” churches.
Another worry, specified by the clergymen but not by Jones Jr., was that Graham’s crusade was the first important racially integrated meeting in the city’s history. It also proved to be the biggest public event the city had ever seen. Down the road a piece from Bob Jones University, the overflow crowds at vast, warehouse-like Textile Hall forced Graham to expand to two services a night, the first time this has happened in America. The ten-day attendance was 278,700. The 7,311 who made decisions for Christ included five among pre-release prisoners who sat in a special section at several meetings.
Graham stressed repeatedly that in the South, churchgoing is as automatic as eating a meal, and that often people get “inoculated with just enough religion to keep them from getting a good dose of Jesus Christ.”
No BJU partisan could have criticized Graham’s preaching of the old-fashioned Gospel. He waved his Bible aloft repeatedly and called the Book an “instrument panel” necessary to prevent “spiritual vertigo.”
This doctrinal accord was one reason Graham turned the other cheek and avoided answering BJU criticisms. Other factors were the support he gets from the school’s alumni in many cities, and his acknowledged spiritual debt to Bob Jones, Sr., now 82, who founded the college in the midst of a long, illustrious career as an evangelist.
Graham went to Bob Jones College in 1936, when it was in Cleveland, Tennessee, but left after three months because of the restrictive atmosphere. In 1948, Jones Sr. invited Graham down to Greenville to get an honorary doctorate and take up his evangelistic banner. Several years later the Joneses broke with Graham over what they call “ecumenical evangelism,” and the war reached its height during the 1957 crusade in New York City.
Graham’s team includes two BJU alumni, Cliff Barrows and T. W. Wilson. Barrows was so “separated” when he went to BJU he wouldn’t darken the door of a Southern Baptist church, Jones Jr. recalls, but “now he goes anywhere to any kind of church—orthodox or heretic.” Barrows, crusade song-leader and broadcast-film director, lives in Greenville. Wilson was BJU student president and almost got shipped home. Years later his brother Grady was expelled a few months before graduation. Graham’s crusade arrangements are handled by Willis Haymaker, a veteran who did the same for Jones Sr. during his evangelistic career.
Jones Jr. charges that the only reason Graham chose such a small city (66,100) for his sole U. S. crusade this year was to attack and embarrass BJU. Graham says Greenville has the biggest indoor arena in the Deep South, and Barrows was anxious to bring a crusade to his home town. It was Graham’s first Carolina crusade since Charlotte (1958), and things had a homey atmosphere, with his family getting a rare chance to watch the breadwinner at work.
BJU students were told they would be expelled if they attended the crusade, and Jones Jr. also warned in his basic sermon against Graham a year ago, “I say to anybody who attends a church in Greenville that supports this crusade that he ought to get out of that church.”
Although most of the students agreed with the school’s anti-Graham stance, there was some unrest on campus. Fearing reprisal, the minority expressed their feelings in knowing glances, quiet conversations with trusted friends, and letters to the outside world.
Jones Jr. created quite a stir locally by suggesting that a Graham supporter recite the following mock prayer:
“Dear Lord: Bless the man who leads Christian people into disobeying the Word of God, who prepares the way for Anti-Christ by building the apostate church and turning his so-called ‘converts’ over to infidels and unbelieving preachers.… Bless this man who has the heretic Bishop Kennedy as the Chairman of his crusade in Los Angeles, who shares his platform with men like Martin Luther King and World Council church leaders.
“Anoint him with the Holy Spirit to disobey the Holy Spirit’s clear instructions in the Word of God. Increase his power to deceive good people and deliver them to the Apostasy and the Church of Anti-Christ under the pretext of winning souls.
“Bless the man who flatters the Pope and defers to the purple-and-scarlet-clothed Anti-Christ who heads the church that the Word of God describes as the ‘Old Whore of Babylon’.…”
Jones Jr. won’t forgive Billy for having Bishop Pike on his platform once in San Francisco, even though this was before Pike’s wholesale denial of Christian doctrines. Gerald Kennedy is labeled “a rank, unbelieving, agnostic, Christ-denying Methodist bishop”; but the official dossier against him has only one religious point, a twelve-year-old quote playing down the Second Coming. The other data concern such political issues as Kennedy’s opposition to the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
Graham’s camp claims he is like Jones Sr. and other great evangelists of the past in seeking wide support. Although the city-wide scope is similar, Graham has gone much further in cooperating with those who do not share his conservative beliefs, so long as they give him complete freedom to preach the Bible. But critics are wrong in charging that he refers Jewish converts to rabbis and fails to attack Protestant liberalism.
Graham has two other distinctions: his strict financial and auditing system, and an elaborate follow-up and counseling system that Haymaker considers a major improvement over the good old days.
The fundamentalists in Greenville who oppose Billy felt left out because they were not invited to the breakfast meeting a year ago where the crusade was set up, although they would not have supported the crusade anyway. The Rev. Harold B. Sightler, whose robust independent Baptist church is one of Greenville’s biggest, said “the fundamentalists were just as carefully segregated as the colored were integrated.”
Sightler, who has been in town twenty-six years, said many churches backing Graham never cared about revival and would never again support an evangelist. Asked what churches he could not work with in the crusade, Sightler ruled out all Pentecostalists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Churches of Christ. He admits many Methodists preach the Gospel, but they are in the National Council of Churches and “I can’t mess with that crowd.” Sightler also charged that the city’s racial “peace and harmony” were endangered by Graham’s integration, and said “many colored pastors sitting on the platform are civil rights agitators.”
The experiment in interracial Christianity was harmonious as far as it went. Harrison Rearden, Negro life insurance man and crusade secretary, said Negro participation was slight because of apathy, lack of spiritual dedication, and “suspicion, which is understandable due to one hundred years of repression.”
At the final committee meeting, Rearden said that after Graham left town “I would like to see God enacted in practicality. We have a racial problem in this community. If the crusade does not change this community, it can’t be changed.… We must take that bold step before men.…”
In one sermon Graham came close to mentioning the BJU issue by saying, “the consuming passion of a true believer is love. The Bible says the sign of believers is that they love one another, which includes a willingness to believe the best about the other Christian.”
‘Drive Unto Others …’
“Highway safety is a spiritual problem,” says evangelist Billy Graham. “Most people do not associate careful and safe driving with spiritual living, but there is a definite connection.”
In a forceful radio address coinciding with the opening of his Greenville crusade, Graham called attention to the staggering automobile accident toll: nearly a thousand people killed and more than 75,000 injured each week in the United States alone.
“An automobile is one of the most deadly machines of destruction ever invented by man,” he said.
The evangelist told his “Hour of Decision” audience that the underlying cause of highway accidents is the breaking of the Golden Rule. He recalled that a few years ago a new highway slogan was coined, “Drive unto others as you would have them drive unto you.” As specific causes of accidents he cited selfishness, the urge to show off, anger, carelessness, neglect, and drunkenness, which he called “a national disgrace.”
Graham prescribed the new birth as the cure for slaughter on the highways: “Then and only then will the old things become new. Then, because we have the mind of Christ, love will replace selfishness, humility will replace pride, peace will replace anger, and we will live and drive as Christians should.”
The ‘Most Unusual University’
Bob Jones University has long called itself the “world’s most unusual university,” and few would dispute the claim. That’s not “world” in the Pauline sense, though, since BJU stands for strict separation from the secular world and from a large chunk of Christendom.
But fine arts are not included in this separatism. BJU has an exquisite museum of religious art, perhaps the finest in America,Included are some very unbaptistic church icons and vestments, and paintings by such masters as Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Titian. puts on lavish operas and Shakespearean plays, runs one of South Carolina’s better radio stations, and offers good instruction in cinema.
Other elements of the Greenville campus chemistry are tight control of students, racial segregation and right-wing politics generally, and an evangelistic, Bible-based Protestantism.
“The Founder” is Bob Jones, Sr., one of the century’s great evangelists, but Bob Jr. became acting president (with an honorary doctorate) in his early twenties and formulated academic policy and artistic awareness (he is an accomplished actor). Now he is away from campus a lot, leaving day-to-day operations to son Bob III, 26, who also holds an honorary doctorate.
In the official school history Fortress of Faith (Eerdmans), loyal alumnus Melton Wright pours praise on BJU like honey over biscuits. He says the school would be accredited but the Joneses fear outside controls. Others reading the catalogue might wonder whether BJU would make it, since intellectual ingrowth runs high (nearly one-third of the faculty members have studied only at BJU) and only 16 of 158 teachers hold earned doctorates. But BJU products have proved successful at many graduate schools.
Like Fortress, the catalogue has a few omissions, such as the fact that Negroes need not apply for admission (some Orientals are accepted), the strict rules, the demerit system, reporting on classmates, and the possibility of dismissal at any time without specific infractions for harming campus “spirit.”
Tales of turnover abound in circles where BJU lore is perpetuated. Recent graduates estimate that 5 to 10 per cent of the student body leaves during each year. Of an entering freshman class of about 1,200, one-third remain four years later, although many students are encouraged to transfer for specialized training.
Physical contact between the sexes is forbidden, and the always-chaperoned dating is mostly restricted to a block-long room that looks like a department-store furniture display. Bob Jones, Jr., believes he has “the most contented group of students on the American continent.”
Faculty pay is low and is based on need rather than ability, a curiously communistic tenet for a school that holds “Americanism” conferences where speakers urge income-tax repeal and impeachment of Earl Warren.
BJU is now on its third campus, a modern, $26 million plant that draws aid from many loyal supporters, reportedly including the late Sophie Tucker. BJU people are quite courageous in criticizing whatever and whomever they please. Over the years, shafts have been aimed at the press; most denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention; most of the better-known evangelical organizations; and Greenville (during a zoning fight in recent years). The status of BJU board member and U. S. Senator J. Strom Thurmond is in doubt, since he appeared on Billy Graham’s platform and even praised the evangelist.
Arresting The Restless Ones
Promoters of the most recent Billy Graham film, The Restless Ones, say it is attracting much larger audiences than any of the previous evangelistic pictures. The film was first shown last October and by the end of March had been viewed by nearly 1,000,000 persons. More than 70,000 decisions for Christ have been counted.
In a marked departure from previous practice, The Restless Ones is being shown in theaters and public auditoriums rather than in churches, and a one-dollar admission fee is being charged. Spokesmen say it is drawing many from the black-jacket and beatnik crowds and confronting them with the claims of Christ. In San Marcos, Texas, some 2,500 Job Corps trainees saw the film.
Trained counselors follow up all inquirers, who are also given the opportunity to take elementary Bible study courses.
Toronto Fish Net
The church coffeehouse movement seems to have become less evangelism than a means for church people to get together without a high cover charge.
But Toronto’s latest, The Fish Net, is a $500-a-month evangelistic project of a youth group from Avenue Road Church (Christian and Missionary Alliance). Each night, from its basement location, the Net belts out the Gospel, mostly in music, to high schoolers and the college crowd, together with some academic dropouts.
The locale is Yorkville Street, known for other coffeehouses, art galleries, boutiques, beatniks, groups of roving teen-agers, and liquor and sex mingled with reefers and drugs.
Space in The Fish Net is tight. It holds forty comfortably, but people often jam in seventy strong, from 8 P.M. to long after midnight, and a doorman has to turn people away. The main room, in Palestinian decor with a palm tree and (of course) fish nets, holds a dozen tables, a piano, and an organ. Christian films are used occasionally, along with the staple diet of professional-quality, Christian musicians.
The music is the show, but the main attraction is conversation over a (free) cup of coffee. Young people talk to young people, not simply to indulge in some subjective dialogue, but to win souls for Christ. The church young people who run the place consider it a training ground in learning to communicate with the world.
Plans for The Fish Net began twenty months ago with the church’s slightly controversial pastor, Kenn Opperman, successor to the late Dr. A. W. Tozer. “The young people in the area are curiosity seekers—not nearly as rough and tough as we anticipated,” Opperman said. “The outstanding lesson we’ve learned is this: When you get people together who are not religious, and people who are religious, around a common table and a cup of coffee, they find they have more to communicate than they ever realized.”
Opperman explained one of the main problems was selling “some of our own people on the idea that this was an important outreach for our young people.” Another was getting a lease in Yorkville, since landlords feared the Christians might scare away trade.
The skepticism of a few “isolationists” has been matched with high praise, the minister said. “I’d rather be criticized for doing something good than for doing nothing.” When someone charged that the management encourages smoking by providing ash trays, Opperman ridiculed the criticism. “It just keeps them from burning holes in our tablecloths,” he laughed.
KENNETH G. WARES
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