Skip to comments.Billy Graham and The Cold War - Clash of Messianic Visions
Posted on 02/22/2018 11:54:09 AM PST by GoldenState_Rose
In July 1945, Evangelicals declared ideological cold war against world communism and began planning a spiritual invasion of Europe to restore Christianity and stop communism there. Billy Graham was among the young ministers sent to Europe, and he built upon his experience there to emerge as a major spokesman of American messianism.
The popularity of Graham's anticommunism, a regular feature in his sermons, helped propel him to national fame. By 1950 his message was reaching much of the nation in a weekly radio broadcast, and by 1952 he was serving as a spiritual advisor to presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower. As president, Eisenhower worked with Graham to orchestrate Cold War civil religion, which drew much of its animus from Soviet Communism. Graham was an important national leader in the ideological war against communism. His desire to create a big tent of American Christianity led to ideological moderation during the late 1950s, but he continued to preach his messianic vision for the United States. Meanwhile, Soviet messianism underwent major changes during the early Cold War that, because of their own ideological assumptions, most Americans missed.
Billy Graham drew from American mythology to construct a compelling messianic vision for the future of mankind that met the hopes and fears of Americans in such balance that it became something of an official Cold War ideology throughout the 1950s. However inaccurate American conceptions of Soviet messianism were, Graham's imagery resonated with the public and its policymakers, and helped keep America's messianic vision for the future of mankind robust into the early 1960s, even as Soviet messianism flagged.
(Excerpt) Read more at urresearch.rochester.edu ...
For this they hate him.
I went to a Graham crusade in the 70s in Atlanta.
I can still remember the excitement
The link requires you to download this extensive work. Below is a mere excerpt:
This study examines the Cold War ideology of Billy Graham and other prominent representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals and their attempt to implement their messianic vision within the United States and promote it abroad from 1945 through 1962. While it focuses on the evangelical Protestant notions at the core of Cold War American messianism - the notion that the American way of life was ideal and that Communism posed a grave threat to it, the study also considers the nature and strength of Soviet messianism.
In July 1945, evangelicals declared ideological cold war against world communism and began planning a spiritual invasion of Europe to restore Christianity and stop communism there. Billy Graham was among the young ministers sent to Europe, and he built upon his experience there to emerge as a major spokesman of American messianism. The popularity of Graham’s anti- communism, a regular feature in his sermons, helped propel him to national fame. By 1950 his message was reaching much of the nation in a weekly radio broadcast, and by 1952 he was serving as a spiritual advisor to presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower. As president, Eisenhower worked with Graham to orchestrate Cold War civil religion, which drew much of its animus from Soviet Communism. Graham was an important national leader in the ideological war against communism. His desire to create a big tent of American Christianity led to ideological moderation during the late 1950s, but he continued to preach his messianic vision for the United States. Meanwhile, Soviet messianism underwent major changes during the early Cold War that, because of their own ideological assumptions, most Americans missed.
Billy Graham drew from American mythology to construct a compelling messianic vision for the future of mankind that met the hopes and fears of Americans in such balance that it became something of an official Cold War ideology throughout the 1950s. However inaccurate American conceptions of Soviet messianism were, Graham’s imagery resonated with the public and its policymakers, and helped keep America’s messianic vision for the future of mankind robust into the early 1960s, even as Soviet messianism flagged.
As numerous historians have observed, when the end of World War Two left two super powers standing - the United States and the Soviet Union - a clash of some kind was probably inevitable. The United States was democratic, capitalistic, overwhelmingly Christian, and in 1945 was on the cusp of becoming an expansionist power on each of these frontiers. It was in the course of establishing and building dozens of military installations across the globe and seeking to open markets everywhere to its products while continuing to send Christian missionaries throughout the world. The Soviet Union and its Russian predecessor state had never known democracy, had consciously turned away from capitalism beginning with the 1917 revolution, and if historically Christian, had embraced with the revolution an official stance opposing religion. Although the two former allies did not share a common border, their forces were in close proximity in both Europe and East Asia, which further fueled tensions, as did Soviet designs for increased geopolitical influence. Beyond its geopolitical and economic sources was an additional animus that would decisively shape the nature of what would come to be known as the Cold War - ideology. The Cold War quickly developed into an ideological rivalry for a great number of people across the globe, perhaps nowhere more so than in the United States, where it prompted a messianic fervor. On both sides of the rivalry Manichean, good-versus-evil preconceptions inspired by fundamentalist interpretations of doctrinal scriptures - whether from the Bible or from the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin - convinced leaders and large sections of the populace that the enemy had to be defeated at all costs. Capitalist imperialism and communist totalitarianism became frightening specters within the opposing Cold War camps, and savvy leaders within each camp quickly recognized the potential benefits of playing upon fears of the enemy. The collectivist nature of Russian Communist society somewhat diffused attention away from any specific ideological leader beyond Joseph Stalin, but
American individualism produced powerful figures who competed with each other to lead the ideological Cold War. One of the most effective ideological Cold Warriors was the American evangelist Billy Graham. Beginning with his rapid rise to national fame in 1949, Graham voiced a vision for the United States that captivated American popular sentiment and helped Graham actively drum up support for the Cold War. Graham’s vision was messianic. I use messianism as the impulse to save the world from an opposing evil while attempting to recreate it in accordance with some divine plan.1 Both American Christianity and Soviet Communism, at least in their rhetoric, met this description. To use Graham’s words: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have more than an idea, we have a person; we have a living leader; we have a way of life to offer the entire world.” Our savior and our message give us “a duty to the world.”2 Graham’s exceptionalist, messianic ambition to expand the Christian American way of life was not new, but the extent to which it captured the nation’s imagination and inspired the public to support the cause was unprecedented. By presenting the Soviets as a demon-inspired force of evil and the battle against them in terms of religious and personal conversion that would help recreate the world in the image of an idealized America, Graham reframed the war. His religious imagery became the lens through which Americans understood the Soviet Union and the Cold War. The religious-ideological terrain upon which Soviet and American messianism battled to determine the future of mankind alters how we understand the Cold War. The Cold War was an amalgam of law, diplomacy, politics, and even science, all have which have received the attention they deserve, but the religious-ideological side of the Cold War - particularly as it relates to public perceptions and opinion-—has been understated.
1 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, defines messianism as “belief in a messiah as the savior of mankind,” and messianism means “marked by idealism and an aggressive crusading spirit.” 2 Billy Graham, sermon Hour of Decision, “America’s Spiritual Responsibility,” 20 April 1952, Tape T119j, Collection 191, Hour of Decision Radio Program, BGCA, Wheaton, Illinois.
This study examines how the dominant expression of American Protestantism, as voiced by Graham and others, helped establish the political climate of the Cold War. Specifically, my study focuses on the Manichean and messianic assumptions that for most of American history have been sustained by Protestantism but generally embraced even by those who were once cultural outsiders, such as immigrants and American Catholics. It argues that Billy Graham, by drawing from the capitalist, individualist, and end-of-time prophecy of American mythology, and by constructing from its underlying assumptions a compelling messianic vision for the future of mankind, contributed to the ideology for the Cold War. It shows how Graham created an extensive gospel organization that included a team of dynamic professionals who supported him in bringing American messianism to a large national audience that loved his message. Strong public support for the broad outlines of American messianism as preached by Graham affected policymakers and influenced policy; the popular conceptions that Graham preached helped shape the Cold War. Graham’s conceptions shaped public opinion, which in turn shaped Cold War policy - probably more even than Graham’s relations with policymakers.
To demonstrate the impact of American and Soviet messianism, I juxtapose their comparative developments during the early Cold War. Soviet messianism was also crucial to the Cold War rivalry. Soviets considered American capitalism antithetical to social and economic well- being, and Soviet leaders denounced American policy while advancing their own interests. But if American ideological leaders generated a great popular following, the Soviet system produced barriers that limited the appeal of Soviet messianism. Even so, American policy and ideology were based upon the assumption of a vigorous Soviet messianism. Soviet messianism as such was a significant force in the Cold War and must be examined both in its own right and for its impact on American messianism...
My project seeks to clarify the ideological content of Cold War messianism as well as the origins of that content. In doing so it shows the continuity of American and Russian mythologies; American messianism in particular proposed to take the United States backwards to a time of idealized moral clarity. My study also highlights the importance of the public in constructing a compelling Cold War narrative. Existing scholarship has focused almost exclusively on leadership, but even in centralized societies public sentiments affect policy; within democracies public assent for policy is essential. The messianic vision that Graham formulated commanded widespread public support because it masterfully blended its hopes and fears with language and symbolism that Americans understood; it was based on assumptions in which they were invested. Soviet messianism - an admixture of Russian traditions and Marxist doctrines - was less well received, which is evident in Soviet policy decisions.
Popular mythology was crucial in shaping Cold War policy, as was popular media. Graham delivered his message directly to both the public and to decision makers, and to expand his influence, he took to the air in a weekly radio show, Hour of Decision, that featured regular commentary on Cold War developments. Through this show he intended to educate the American public about the dark nature of Soviet Communism. During this period Graham took his message to Europe as well. By recounting and assessing American evangelicals’ interactions with their counterparts in Europe, this study contrasts the tone of messianism and anti-Communism among America and European evangelicals, contending that, while the Manichean tone was present in Europe, it failed to gain the widespread support it did within the United States.
The focus of my study is the Cold War ideology of American and Soviet messianism, and how those ideologies influenced popular opinion and the policy-making process from the end of World War Two through the Cuban Missile Crisis in1962. Billy Graham, who served as perhaps the most effective advocate of American messianism, occupies a commanding position. The historical development of Cold War messianism was a complex process. For much of the nation’s history American mythology had sustained a messianic impulse. This impulse was evident in the rhetoric and often in the actions of Puritans, Revolutionary founders, advocates of Manifest Destiny, and Progressives, including President Woodrow Wilson, who overtly attempted to export American virtue after the First World War. The messianic impulse, quieted during the Great Depression and isolationist period between the wars, was revived by victory in the Second World War. Yet stirrings of national greatness, virtue, and destiny remained vague in the immediate aftermath of the war. To be captured as a national messianic spirit and movement these post-war stirrings would require a respected spokesman who could articulate them with coherence from a national platform. Many American leaders attempted to craft an appealing pro-American, anti-Communist message during the formative years of the Cold War. President Truman took the lead, selling the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan to Americans as a matter of defending “freedom” against “terror and oppression.” In doing so he helped frame the Cold War, but Truman’s Manichean terms reflected his evangelical Protestant upbringing, and by 1947 evangelicals were already at war against Communism. By the early 1950s evangelist Billy Graham had established himself as the guardian of Cold War mythology, the high priest of civil religion, and a general in the ideological war against Soviet Communism. In these roles Graham took American messianism to a new height. Naturally, Graham did not conceive of or construct American messianism without help. This study follows the efforts of Graham’s mentors, particularly fellow evangelical Torrey Johnson, nine years Graham’s senior. Shortly after hiring Graham into Youth for Christ, an agency that
began by spreading revival among American youth, Johnson declared ideological war against the Soviet Union in July 1945. Johnson sent a small army of his Youth for Christ preachers into the world’s mission fields, with a special emphasis on Europe to stop the spread of Communism there. As Graham joined his fellows beginning in 1946 carrying the flag and the cross, he refined his ministry. Evangelical intellectuals, including Raymond Edman and Harold John Ockenga, also played an important role in helping Graham refine his theology and to understand Communism in evangelical terms. After Graham became a national figure in 1949, President Truman rejected his advances, but President Dwight Eisenhower and two key figures from his administration - John Foster Dulles and Richard Nixon - allied with Graham. Graham and the administration teamed to resurrect and fortify civil religion, keeping their vision in accordance with public sentiments but their relationship mostly out of public view. While Graham’s political relationships are important, they not the focus of my study.
On the Soviet side, messianic ideology had a stormy development. Its advocates ranged from violent radicals to nationalist and pacifist clerics, but it was Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin who established Soviet messianism. Nikita Khrushchev and his allies in the Kremlin modified Soviet messianism, and as such exerted significance on the Cold War. Lesser party leaders played an important role by devising and enacting policies, but perhaps the least appreciated actors in the ideological cold war were Soviet citizens, who, while less free than American citizens, influenced Soviet policymaking nonetheless. - https://urresearch.rochester.edu/fileDownloadForInstitutionalItem.action?itemId=21311&itemFileId=69350
Billy recognized the threat to Christian freedom early on and he was right on the mark. RIP Reverend Graham. I still have fond memories of seeing you at the baseball stadium in KC in 1967.
My sons and I worked the 2004 Thanksgiving crusade at the Rose Bowl.
About 312,500 attended over the course of the four-day crusade, marking the 55th anniversary of the L A revival that propelled Graham to national fame in 1949.
There is no one to take this great man’s place.
I bought 6 dvds of the movie, “Billy, The Early Years.” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. You will see Billy’s amazing conversion when he was 16. God rest his soul in the arms of Jesus.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.