Laborers for the Harvest
Billy Graham's Legacy Is All Around Us
The passing of the Reverend Billy Graham marks the end of an era that began just after World War II, itself a watershed event. The world's most enlightened and civilized societies, industrialized and technologically advanced, engaged in an unprecedented level of military destruction and mass killing of both soldiers and civilians. A bitter harvest of sin sickened the world. Modern technology split the atom, and the war with Japan ended with twin convulsions of nuclear destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After Japan's unconditional surrender, the psychological trauma of defeat and a loss of faith set in. In October 1945, General Douglas MacArthur urged Protestant leaders to send a thousand missionaries to Japan. In 1946, he met with two Catholic bishops, John F. O'Hara and Michael J. Ready, who later reported to the Vatican, "General MacArthur asked us to urge the sending of thousands of Catholic missionaries—at once." MacArthur said they had only a year to fill the spiritual vacuum in Japan.
Years later, MacArthur talked with evangelist Billy Graham about his efforts to get missionaries sent to Japan right after the war. MacArthur mentioned that the emperor of Japan had offered to make Christianity the state religion, but the general believed that conversions should be a matter of free choice and so rejected the offer. But, MacArthur told Graham, he did ask for 10,000 missionaries to go to Japan. That number was not realized, but by the end of America's occupation in 1952, between 2,000 and 3,000 missionaries had visited the country. There was a reported 19 percent increase in the number of Japanese Christians during that time, but this growth ended after the occupation.
Graham first related that conversation with MacArthur at a Mayor's Prayer Breakfast in 1964. According to the New York Times, Graham also
told his breakfast audience that "moral degeneration is all around us" in the United States.
Referring to the title of the motion picture "The Fall of the Roman Empire," he posed a question of whether the nation was heading for dissolution or disaster.
"We don't know," he said. "But I do know this, that periodically God must send a moral and spiritual awakening if this nation is to fulfill its destiny." (NYT, April 7, 1964)
Indeed, in the United States right after the war, an undeclared "nuclear" war was launched on the nuclear family, splitting sex from marriage, severing procreation from sex, and encouraging a sexual rebellion that spawned a culture of death. This anti-culture, like Hitler and Japan, had imperial ambitions. An evil empire, it colonized other cultures with pornography, non-marital sexual expressions, no-fault divorce, and abortion, promoting them as keys to human flourishing.
From the beginning of his ministry to its end, Graham successfully preached crusades to millions, swelling the ranks of believing Christians. While this war continued, he was a fellow-soldier of Christ with men like C. S. Lewis and John Paul II, each of whom saw the battle with modernity in the clearest terms and effectively kindled the light of faith in Christ in the hearts of millions. The Baptist evangelist, Anglican author, and Catholic pope shared a ministry pointing not to themselves but to Christ, the Savior. Graham refused to let denominational differences hinder his crusades. He did not instruct his converts on which church to attend, though he was vilified for that by many.
James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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