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.
- great book, hard terminologies.
great bio, shows that he was very human, but he loved to preach the gospel. A little abstract due to the use of hard terminologies. Had to consult the dictionary on a number of occassions
- boring with some parts worthwhile
Terribly boring. I could not wait for it to be over. A lot of the book consists of: This pundit said this about Billy Graham, and this pundit said that, and this magazine said this, without any insightful opinion by the author. There are 3 worthwhile sections: 1) Billy Graham and race relations including his relationship with Martin Luther King 2) the short section of letters from children to Graham 3) the short description of Wacker's personal visits to Graham. I think these were the only parts Wacker enjoyed writing. My recommendation is to just listen to these 3 parts and spare yourself the monotony of listening to the rest.
This book was scholarly but warm, and well read. It was very comprehensive, in my opinion - felt like three or four books' work. This is my first book review here - just had to stop and share of its merits.
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- Most boring biography of the year!
I love biographies but this was the most boring one I have ever read or heard!
- Billy Graham and Evangelicalism, how they shaped each other and how Billy Graham shaped today's culture
This is an excellent book, Grant Wacker has done an excellent job of providing a historical and social analysis of Billy Graham, but has also provided a lens through which the current phenomena of the Evangelical subculture can be understood. Billy Graham has done much to influence and direct the passage of North America and shape the hearts and minds of conservative middle-class evangelical Christians.
America's Pastor provides a possible reason as to why America feels so conflicted about the role of Christianity within politics and Government. Wacker on numerous occasions pointed out that Graham too often seemed to enjoy having close relationships with the men in power, most notable of all being his disastrous relationship with Richard Nixon that did much to tarnish his (Graham's) name. Graham's also played the part of being the King Maker, commanding a great number of votes through his channels of influence upon the evangelical conservative subculture.
As a Millennial growing up in New Zealand within a non-denominational christian tradition influenced by Southern Baptist and Brethren denominational traditions, I have found this book to be a fascinating analysis that explains a great number of the things that define my tradition. For example, Billy Graham's emphasis on making a decision for or against Christ explains why many consider making a profession of faith so important.
Billy's influence also goes beyond his preaching. I was unaware that Christianity today was started by Billy Graham.
I felt that Grant Wacker was fair in his analysis, being both critical and complementary of Graham wherever criticism and compliments were due. For someone wishing to understand why Evangelical Christians are the way we are today, this book provides a key piece of the picture.
I enjoyed the writing style that Wacker employed, it is evident he carefully chose his words so as to be as precise as possible. This book is written at a higher level though, employing complex words and phrases, however if you can get through it, you will be much enlightened having done so. It would have been an injustice to the topic to use less complex and descriptive language.
I love Mr Graham and his messages.
- The Great Evangelist
America's Pastor by Grant Wacker is a fascinating look into the life of one of the great evangelists of the last hundred years. He has spoken to millions of people, seen many people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord, influenced many US presidents and changed the lives of many through his amazing ministry.
It is a very thorough look into his sixty year long ministry with plenty of highs and several lows. It is not just a puff piece as it examines his mistakes and the distinct doctrinal beliefs that were quite different from many of his fellow believers.
Unfortunately I never got the opportunity to hear Billy Graham live as his last crusade in Australia was before I was born but I have heard his son, which was a great experience. Also he still holds the record for a crowd in Australia at the MCG where the reported figure is about 130,000 people with thousands waiting outside who couldn't get in. I know people that were saved at his Australian crusades who are still serving God today, so he has had quite a major impact on many people's lives.
The narration was quite solid as the narrator sounded authoritative and presented this biography with a lot of heart and energy. It is quite a long book and it didn't seem like an effort to listen to it.
This book is a great insight into this amazing man of God and would be great for anyone interested in Billy Graham or learning more about evangelism.
This audio book was gifted as a part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. More information can be found about this and other Christian audio books at christianaudio.com.
- An analytic approach to Bill Graham's success.
With tens if not hundreds of books written by or about Billy Graham, this book offered an interesting insight that is different from biographies or Dr. Graham’s autobiography. It tries to analyze why Billy Graham was so successful.
The author studied both positive and negative aspects of Billy Graham's life to try and determine factors within his personality and his organization that allowed him to become the world famous figure that he is.
After reading the book and the various possibilities, I came to the conclusion that we don't really have a very good understanding of exactly why this one man and his organization became such a world-wide force for God. A couple of factors which seem likely are the fact that he came along at the right time and the fact that he maintained a personal set of rules and principles for both himself and for his organization. I believe that it is these principles and rules that were in the long run that protected him from falling as many other nationally famous pastors and Christian leaders have over the years.
Both from a financial and from a moral standpoint Billy Graham appears to have lived as close to ideal Christian life as possible. One of Billy Graham's assets which I believe has been misinterpreted by many is that Dr. Graham was willing to meet and be associated with those outside conservative Christianity and therefore was thought by some to be too liberal. Jesus chose to live among sinners. Dr. Graham believed that if we do not associate with those who are not yet Christians we will have no opportunity to share Christ with them. In this, I believe Billy Graham succeeded more than any other Christian leader.
The narrator did a wonderful job of keeping the listener engaged.
I was given a free audio version of this book for my agreement to review it but this has not influenced my personal impressions of the book.
- Very good look at Graham's impact and legacy
I have been reluctant to read biographies of living people recently. Sometimes it just feels like we need more distance to be really able understand a person's contributions, and when that person is beloved, their weaknesses as well.
So I was not planning on reading America's Pastor. I have read Billy Graham's own way too long and detailed without being all that interesting autobiography(-ish) Just As I Am and I figured that was probably enough for the next decade or so. But after two pretty positive reviews by Mark Noll and Ted Olsen and then the same day being offered a review copy, I decided to pick it up.
And I am glad I did. America's Pastor is not a biography. There is a fairly short overview of Graham's life at the beginning, but the rest of the book is chapters focused on different aspect of Graham's work, image or legacy. The eight chapters are: Preacher, Icon, Southerner, Entrepreneur, Architect, Pilgrim, Pastor and Patriarch.
Grant Wacker is a real historian and uses all the academic historian tools. But this is an eminently fair evaluation, if anything I agree with Noll's assessment that the very fact of Wacker's grace toward some of Graham's weaknesses make those criticisms more real.
There is no white washing here. The more known mistakes around politics, especially with Kennedy and Nixon are dealt with well and the end result is that Wacker believes that political interest and the access to power is just one of the weaknesses that Graham had, despite is awareness of it in later years. But there are also a number of missteps that I (being too young for really knowing Graham as anything other than icon) did not know about.
Despite (or maybe because) of those missteps, Graham became trusted, more trusted than almost any person in history. And that trust was based in large part on Graham's character. He made mistakes and admitted them, he did not claim to be more than he was, his humility behind the scenes and in front of cameras, his willingness misunderstood for the sake of spreading the gospel makes him someone unique.
It is this uniqueness that I think Wacker best captures. Billy Graham could not have come to existence in any other age. He was a creature of his generation and made by the events of his generation. This is not to minimize what he did or who he was, but Wacker spends some time talking about who his mantle should pass to and comes to the conclusion that it is the wrong question. There will not be another Billy Graham because we will not live in a world that gave rise to Billy Graham again.
There was a few pages that dragged in the last quarter because part of the weakness of the topical view of Graham meant that there had to be some repetition, but I think this is going to be the best thing written on Graham for quite a while.
If you are looking for a straight biography, this is not it. But if you really want to look at Graham's impact and legacy, and how he shaped both American and American Evangelicalism, this is well worth picking up.
- I applaud Grant Wacker’s research, structure, and the overall cohesiveness to this title.
While Billy Graham was a household name for many it was not so in my home. As a child of the 80’s raised in a non-evangelical denomination I knew very little about Graham prior to listening to this audiobook. Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation by Grant Wacker was both academic and inspiring. Wacker’s approach was neither flattering nor terse – it walked the fine line of being both honoring and honest.
Readers, or in this case audiobook listeners, gain a better understanding of Billy Graham as a man, a leader, a servant of God, and an impact maker on American culture. From his humble beginnings as a dairy farmer Graham built and empire of influence through the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA). Wacker attributes his success to his natural charisma, careful image management, connections to people in power, and perhaps most importantly his passion for taking the gospel to the lost. Although the author doesn’t forthrightly state that God is the reason for Graham’s success, to this listener it was clearly the case.
Finishing this title, I have a great appreciation for Graham. I admire how from the outset, Billy and his crusade leadership team resolved to be financially transparent, to avoid perceived improprieties with members of the opposite sex, and to admit when they were wrong – all potential pitfalls for Christian ministries. His life illustrated to me that when you have a plan you are far more likely to overcome the schemes of the devil.
I applaud Grant Wacker’s research, structure, and the overall cohesiveness to this title. However, had I been reading instead of listening I probably would have fatigued and left the book unfinished. Despite the pleasantness of Bob Souer’s narration, the language tended to be overly verbose. During the 12.5 hours of listening, I took frequent, sometimes prolonged breaks from listening. For this reason I believe this title would appeal more to the academic than the casual reader. As the latter, I award this title a good – 3/5 star rating.
**I received this book for free as a member of the christianaudio reviewers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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