Continuing to preview his renamed The Passion of the Christ movie to people expected to praise it, actor-producer Mel Gibson got plaudits from Billy Graham, who was moved to tears, and reportedly secured favor from Pope John Paul II.
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.
Billy Graham and John Paul II are indisputably great men. However much of what they accomplished should be attributed to their own actions and however much is due to other factors, these two must be considered significant actors in 20th-century history.
Billy Graham and I hit New York City at the same time, the summer of 1957. He was 38 and about to clinch his reputation as the premier evangelist in Protestant history. I was 12 and about to taste freedom. But not yet. Night after night my parents packed themselves and me into a steamy subway to go down to Madison Square Garden to hear the Great Man preach.
As the whole country knows, evangelist Billy Graham said some things to President Richard M. Nixon—caught on the Oval Office taping system—about American Jews that he now regrets. The whole country does not know that on that same day in the Oval Office, February 1, 1972, the two went on to say some uncomplimentary things about this magazine.