Nov 15, 2003
Moments before receiving an award at a Muslim dinner last month, Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore turned in his seat to watch, along with nearly 400 other people, some clips from his documentary Bowling for Columbine and from his provocative acceptance speech at the 2003 Academy Awards. At the Oscars, Moore had asked fellow nominees in the “nonfiction” film category to join him onstage. Then Moore railed against a “fictitious president” who was launching “a fictitious war” against Iraq. Jeers erupted from the audience and the orchestra tried to drown him out.
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. For Billy Graham in 1957 to invite participation at his New York City evangelistic campaign from representatives of all willing churches—thereby opening up a wide array of ecumenical possibilities for former fundamentalists, new-style evangelicals and many mainline Protestants—was indisputably an important action.
The forceful, athletic and charismatic man who became pope in October 1978 is now an old man, unable to walk and debilitated by Parkinson’s and other diseases. At his installation, the pope heard these words proclaimed three times: Sic transit gloria mundi—thus passes away the glory of the world. John Paul II has always recognized that he too will pass from this world, but in the meantime he has exercised an extraordinary influence on both the world and the church.
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. Soon our first family vacation to the Northeast was over, and we headed back to the bucolic quiet of southwest Missouri. I couldn’t figure out what the big whoop on Graham was all about.
In Out of Time, Matt Whitlock (played by Denzel Washington), a police chief in a small Florida town, is sleeping with Ann Merai (Sanaa Lathan), his high school girl friend, now unhappily married to a local brute (Dean Cain). Ann can't catch a break: she learns that she has cancer, and she can't afford the only treatment that might save her life. So Matt lets her have a suitcase full of cash--the gleanings from a drug bust that his office is babysitting for the federal drug officers.
As I sat in a South African retreat center, I was struck by the differences between the two church leaders who were speaking. One is a well-known retreat leader, a contemplative person who stresses the importance of the deep, inward journey of the soul with God. The other is a leader in the social witness against apartheid, an activist who stresses the importance of the church’s wide mission of engagement in the world. These two friends and colleagues in ministry were talking with our group from the United States about Christian faith and life in South Africa.