Billy Graham’s 95th birthday party last week was a heartwarming event—and a media spectacle. Most accounts of the celebration emphasized the star-studded guest list. Even in his golden years, Graham has not lost his golden touch: an aura of wholesome Christian patriotism that appeals to entertainers looking to transcend showbiz as well as to culture warriors on the make.
The reporters who covered the party provided a window into Graham’s lasting power as a cultural icon, but they largely missed his significance to American Christianity.
In 2006 Charles Roberts walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania, shot and killed five schoolgirls, injured another five and then took his own life. The Amish community immediately declared that it forgave Roberts for his heinous acts, and some of them reached out with compassion to Roberts’s mother. Roberts’s brother Zachary is now working on a documentary called Hope, focusing on his mother’s journey since the shootings. “How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward?” he asks. Forgiveness and faith have been the key ingredients in her life (Huffington Post, November 17).