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America's Pastor : Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation
Author: Grant Wacker
During a career spanning sixty years, the Reverend Billy Graham’s resonant voice and chiseled profile entered the living rooms of millions of Americans with a message that called for personal transformation through God’s grace. How did a lanky farm kid from North Carolina become an evangelist hailed by the media as “America’s pastor”? Why did listeners young and old pour out their grief and loneliness in letters to a man they knew only through televised “Crusades” in faraway places like Madison Square Garden? More than a conventional biography, Grant Wacker’s interpretive study deepens our understanding of why Billy Graham has mattered so much to so many.
Beginning with tent revivals in the 1940s, Graham transformed his born-again theology into a moral vocabulary capturing the fears and aspirations of average Americans. He possessed an uncanny ability to appropriate trends in the wider culture and engaged boldly with the most significant developments of his time, from communism and nuclear threat to poverty and civil rights. The enduring meaning of his career, in Wacker’s analysis, lies at the intersection of Graham’s own creative agency and the forces shaping modern America.
Wacker paints a richly textured portrait: a self-deprecating servant of God and self-promoting media mogul, a simple family man and confidant of presidents, a plainspoken preacher and the “Protestant pope.” America’s Pastor reveals how this Southern fundamentalist grew, fitfully, into a capacious figure at the center of spiritual life for millions of Christians around the world.
Let it be said at once: this is the best book ever written about Billy Graham. I found this an absolutely captivating book and have read every word…One of the nation’s most accomplished historians of American Protestantism, Wacker aims to clarify Graham’s significance as a historical figure by taking into honest account every aspect of his public career. (David A. Hollinger Christian Century2014-10-15)Wacker examines not so much what Graham did as how he did it—a matter of manners and management as much as of vision and talent… Wacker’s procedure allows appreciation of how Graham affected the image of the modern southerner (he desegregated his crusades in 1954); helped shape the new evangelicalism out of fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and the older evangelical churches; and much more, primarily through embodying at their best the middle-class American culture and mores in which he was raised. Wacker doesn’t shrink, however, from showing how Graham’s fascination with presidential politics led him astray repeatedly while allowing that he was a genuine spiritual counselor to the presidents—Lyndon Johnson, in particular. If a great subject deserves a great book, Billy Graham has one. (Ray Olson Booklist (starred review) 2014-10-15)A scholarly, analytical and sympathetic biography of the evangelist Billy Graham…We emerge with a more complete, nuanced understanding of Graham’s personality and ministry…Also shows us a profoundly authentic Graham, a true believer, a man who was not mercenary, who practiced what he preached, whose principal weaknesses might have been his name-dropping and hobnobbing with the rich and the powerful. (Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 2014-10-15)Wacker’s analysis situates the salient elements of Graham’s remarkable success and longevity in the chaotic American social and religious consciousness of the 20th century…In the intersection of ego and message, Wacker excels at examining Graham’s complex public/private persona…A valuable look at the pastor of 20th-century American religious consciousness. (Sandra Collins Library Journal 2014-11-01)In this elegantly written and compulsively readable account, Wacker…probes the ways that Graham touched so many so deeply while aiming to provide the moral voice for a nation. Interweaving biography with social and intellectual history, Wacker suggests that Graham’s brilliance shone brightly from his many facets—preacher, pastor, Southerner, and entrepreneur, among others—and so his hearers had many ways to see themselves reflected in him. In the end, Wacker points out that Graham’s pragmatic vision of an America that’s true to its ideals enabled him to adapt trends in the wider culture for his own evangelistic and moral-reform purposes. (Publishers Weekly 2014-10-20)A striking and authoritative account of one of the most influential Americans of recent times. Wacker writes gracefully and offers a fund of astute insights. By exploring Graham’s background, his character, his beliefs, and his work, he reveals how Graham could move so comfortably among the powerful and at the same time always be able to speak effectively to so many ordinary people. Both Graham’s admirers and his critics will come away from America’s Pastor with a fresh appreciation of the man and his world. (George M. Marsden, author of The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief)Grant Wacker has given us a superb—and richly detailed—portrait of Billy Graham, presented in the context of a solid cultural and historical analysis of the era in which Graham served as the kind of religious leader we are not likely to see again. And all of this from a marvelous storyteller. Wacker's deeply moving epilogue can stand alone as a model of inspiring prose! (Richard J. Mouw, Professor of Faith and Public Life and former President, Fuller Theological Seminary)America's Pastor is a masterful study of the life and influence of Billy Graham. With power and grace, Grant Wacker explains who Graham was, how his message and organization developed, and why he came to exercise such extraordinary influence in America. It is the most incisive—and accessible—study of Billy Graham that has been written. (Nathan O. Hatch, President, Wake Forest University)Billy Graham has finally gotten the book he deserves. Written by one of the finest American religious historians of our time, this book is as captivating as Graham himself: eloquent, incisive, witty, and empathetic. I couldn't put it down. (Catherine A. Brekus, author of Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America)Grant Wacker brings his incomparable historical skills to illuminate an icon of American Protestant life. His treatment is at once deeply humane and extraordinarily learned, and he examines Graham’s foundational status with a breathtaking range and savvy. In these pages we come to know Graham, but more importantly, we gain profound insight into the broadest contours of U.S. religious life in the last half of the twentieth century. (Laurie Maffly-Kipp, author of Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories)
Related Product: 9780674052185
Publication Date: 20140201
Subject: BIO018000-BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Religious,REL108020-RELIGION / Christian Church / History
About The Author:
Grant Wacker is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History at Duke University Divinity School.