Shuck and Jive

Monday, December 03, 2007

Billy Graham: Prince of War

I am about half-way through a recently published book about Rev. Billy Graham entitled, The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire by Cecil Bothwell. Bothwell is an investigative reporter from Asheville, North Carolina and has a weblog at Bothwell's Blog.

While Billy Graham has been described as the pastor to the presidents, according to Bothwell, he was much more. Bothwell has gathered what Billy Graham has actually said throughout the years, as well as words from his biographers, news accounts, historians and presidents. From his preface:

"It reveals a Billy Graham who has been an unabashed nationalist and capitalist and advocate for American empire. The picture that emerges is decidedly not that of a disinterested man of the cloth. Rather, Graham often appears as a well-connected covert political operative....You may be as surprised as I was at the picture that emerges in these pages. It is not the story of a man of peace." (p. 12-13)

According to Bothwell, Graham not only fully supported the Vietnam War, but encouraged Nixon to increase the bombing. In April 1969, he sent a thirteen-page letter to Nixon titled, The Confidential Missionary Plan for Ending the Vietnam War. Graham wrote:

"There are tens of thousands of North Vietnamese defectors to bomb and invade the north. Especially let them bomb the dikes which could over night destroy the economy of North Vietnam." (p. 109--From Richard M. Nixon Presidential Materials, National Archive)

Bombing the dikes would have resulted in the deaths of a million civilians and destroyed the nation's agricultural system. Bothwell points out that according the Crimes of War Project that this would have amounted to a war crime. Hardly the suggestion of a man of peace.

Graham advised presidents on everything from foreign policy to selection of vice presidents to legislation.

Bothwell's book is an important one. It will not be popular as it reveals the darker side of religion in the political sphere.


  1. It makes one wonder how much of the same mentality is fueling Bush and his neo-con buddies at this very moment?

  2. This would explain a lot of things, but it would be appalling as well.

    I sure hope this is wrong.

  3. I've spent much of my spare time over the past five years researching this book. I traveled to the Billy Graham Archives at Wheaton College, used resources from the relevant presidential libraries, employed three interns and otherwise did my homework. I expect this book to raise some eyebrows, but not due to my documentation which is pretty thorough. The big publishing houses wouldn't touch it which makes distribution and publicity quite difficult. Fortunately, a few reviewers in a few publications have stepped forward, including The Beat, the Asheville Citizen Times and CounterPunch. Several indymedia outlets have reposted the reviews and, luckily, some thoughtful bloggers have picked up on it as well. As an investigative reporter and biographer, I believe the public has a right to know the backstory on politically influential figures, no matter what their reputations or professions might be.

  4. Thanks for the comment Cecil. I will most certainly be reading your book.

    It sounds like your book puts practical examples (meat/proof) on the following abstract statements:

    "Christianity suffers under a great handicap because it has become identified in the minds of all the world as a part of the social system, the industrial life, and the moral standards of Western civilization; and thus has Christianity unwittingly seemed to sponsor a society which staggers under the guilt of tolerating science without idealism, politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without restraint, knowledge without character, power without conscience, and industry without morality."

  5. I remember when Nixon was bombing the dikes in North Vietnam. It was a matter of controversy and moral outrage at the time.

    It is bad enough to stay silent in the face of war crimes, but to actively support them is unconscionable.

  6. Rob--think james dobson

    Jodie--I hear ya

    Cecil--thank you for visiting and for the research and for writing this book.

    Seeker and Monkey--we have great fun with a bible and a gun.

  7. Since Billy Graham is our brother in Christ, it seems to me that it would be wise to hear his explanation and reasoning before rushing to judgement.

  8. John said,

    "Rob--think james dobson."

    Gosh that is spooky ;-) Just earlier today I voted on Cecil's site that the next phoney spriritual leader he should focus his expose on is James Dobson!

    Guess like minds ...

    I bet you will enjoy this John ;-)

    Its official, acadamia now has:

    bullshit studies.

    I love the way you cut right through the BS John and get to the point!

  9. This post is to highlight this book. The author has sourced all material. This isn't to say that Billy Graham has not done great things. I would say that he has. This book points a fuller picture, of what happens when clergy get access to political power.

  10. I think it's even deeper than that. What are the clergy doing giving specific advice to the president concerning matters about which they have no training or expertise at all.

    I mean we have clergy giving counsel about everything from global warming to tactical moves for the military. (laughing)

    Don't get me wrong. I think as Christians we should always speak out for peace, and justice, for the poor. But, let's face it, alot of these issues are incredibly complex, and even the most committed Christian people do not always agree concerning the best solutions.