Did a politically shrewd and theologically sophisticated Polish pope trigger the collapse of communism? Did an energetic and telegenic southern evangelist foster the resurgence of evangelical Christianity in the post–World War II era? These are extreme claims to make for any person. The fact that they can even be considered in the case of John Paul II and Billy Graham is a measure of these leaders’ visibility and impact.
Mainline Protestants—and writers in this magazine—have not always had good things to say about John Paul or about Graham. Many have found Graham’s social-political alliances dubious, and are wary of the mass evangelistic meetings that remain his signature ministry. They have been disappointed by John Paul’s enforcement of his church’s stance against women’s ordination and birth control.