In his obituary for Ruth Bell Graham, Marshall Shelley writes: "Ruth provided a measure of grit that complemented Billy's more diplomatic style." Marshall edits Leadership, CT's sister publication for pastors, so it is only natural that he then provides three telling illustrations of Mrs. Graham's grit. Go read them.
From 1981 to 1983, Ruth Graham wrote a column for this magazine. Called "By the Way," it was brief, pithy, and often quite pointed. I re-read the lot of them, and they confirmed Marshall's use of the word grit.
One example is her column from September 18, 1981, titled "Needed: Incompatibility." Mrs. Graham made it clear that "incompatibility" was needed in every marriage and was hardly a reason for divorce. Then she did a preacherly turn and exposited the key words her dictionary used to define incompatible.
About conflicting, she wrote, "I once knew a man who refused to let his wife disagree with him on anything. Now, every man needs to be disagreed with occasionally. This poor man's personality, his ego, and even his judgment suffered."
Having established that everyone needs to be disagreed with, she concluded the column with a curious tale about having lunch with several friends while their husbands played golf. One "older companion" offered her friends the secret to her happy marriage: "We never do anything together," the woman said. "Except," she added with an irrepressible laugh, "sleep together."
When their husbands rejoined them, Mrs. Graham couldn't help noticing the obvious affection the other woman's husband displayed. "Three cheers for incompatibility!" she trumpeted in conclusion.
If Mrs. Graham didn't hesitate to disagree with her famous husband, she wasn 't slow to disagree with CT's editors either. In a column titled, "Love Covers-or Discovers?" (May 21, 1982), she addressed the debate over reporting the failings of Christian leaders.
It was not a sharp disagreement. Both sides, of course, saw the question as a prudential judgment. Sometimes the health of the church dictates the need to report failings publicly, and sometimes the same concern dictates that matters be dealt with privately. But Mrs. Graham was confident that more times than not, "investigative reporting" should be set aside in favor of love that "covers."
What was memorable about this column was her key metaphor. She began her commentary by writing about the death of her pet bunny when she was eight years old. Every day, she would dig up her deceased pet "to see how he was getting along." The last time she saw him, "he was green."
Scandal, like the bunny, is often best left buried, she wrote. Well, except for those other times.
If you are a regular visitor to CT's website, you not only read Marshall's obituary when Mrs. Graham died, but you also saw up-to-the-minute postings of related news and reactions on the CT Liveblog. A sampling of Mrs. Graham's writings for CT appeared, along with a slideshow of historic photographs. You also saw Wendy Murray's 2000 tribute, "A Living Birthday Letter," and Susan Wunderink's interview with actress Joan Winmill Brown.
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The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a memorial site for Ruth. The press release above is from A. Larry Ross and Associates, Billy's longtime personal publicist and spokesman, has photos, video, and more information.
Christianity Today coverage of Ruth Bell Graham is available in our special section.
RuthBellGraham.com expired in 2005 and is now a cybersquatter's site, but its content is still available at the Internet Archive.
Obituaries on Ruth Bell Graham include those from the Associated Press, Asheville Citizen-Times, Charlotte Observer, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, News14 Charlotte, and other sources.
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