It is not merely the absence of irony that can make evangelicals seem suspect. A flaunted humility that begins to look like its opposite; a tendency to find a convenient consonance between one's own will and God's purposes; an anti-intellectualism that parades as sublime faith--such qualities can manifest themselves with unsettling frequency in evangelical circles.
On the evidence of his autobiography, Billy Graham himself is not entirely unmarked by these characteristics. But they touch him so lightly, and he fights them so valiantly, that the occasional hints of them which arise in Just As I Am serve rather to humanize than to condemn this most prominent of all evangelical preachers.
Mainly Graham looks back in gratitude and wonder. From obscure rural roots in the American South, he has risen to become perhaps the single most respected world figure of the second half of the 20th century (a fact of which, in their invincible ignorance, most members of the intellectual elite are blissfully unaware). He has touched innumerable lives for the good, and in doing so he has remained--all necessary ambiguities acknowledged--good himself.
In Just As I Am, Graham practices the forgiveness and charity he preaches--somewhat, it must be said, to the book's detriment. A less irenic and forbearing work--and one less compelled to thank every person everywhere who has ever been of any assistance whatsoever to the author's work--would undoubtedly, for us sinners, make for more engrossing reading. But that is not Graham's way. A faithful and untiring preacher, he ends this book with still another invitation to readers who have not already done so to accept the message of the crucified and risen Christ. Even those who decline the invitation should be able to recognize the integrity and decency of the man who proffers it.
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Every year a Billy Graham crusade comes to a stadium or a television station near you, the message unchangingly passionate, though the messenger is grayer than he once was. The Reverend Billy Graham is more than just another television evangelist; he is as much a part of this country's collective consciousness as F.D.R. or the Vietnam War. Whether you subscribe to Graham's brand of ecumenical evangelism or not, Just As I Am reveals the man behind the crusade to be forthright, deeply religious, and driven to spread the Word at all costs, even his relationships with his family. Graham is characteristically honest about his failings as a husband and father, admitting that he didn't recognize his own children at a family gathering.
In Just As I Am Graham discusses the beginnings of his career, his struggle to subsume intellect to faith, and, of course, the many famous--and infamous--people he has met over the years, everyone from the Shah of Iran to the Queen Mother to mobster Mickey Cohen. Graham's ministry has extended his influence to many quarters of the world, a fact that should make his autobiography interesting reading for believers and non-believers alike.From the Publisher:
The number-one CBA, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-seller . . . now in paperback. Approaching 80, Billy Graham looks back on an incredible lifetime of personal relationships (including every U.S. president since Eisenhower), whirlwind activity, and influence. In a warm, unassuming voice, he shares the stories of his beginnings in the church, the overwhelming success he has achieved as an evangelist, and the tolls this success took on his family. In Just As I Am, Graham shares how he came from ordinary beginnings to have an extraordinary life of prestige and influence--all derived from his unshakable faith in Christ.
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