Graham and King on Civil Rights
— Saturday, April 18th, 2009 —
On my bedside nightstand is a book I’ve been anticipating for a long time, Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South by Steven P. Miller (University of Pennsylvania Press). I’ll be giving attention to it soon, but, in the meantime, I was interested to read a review by Ross Douthat in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review.
Douthat notes the way Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. used the idea of the kingdom of God in different ways. “Where Martin Luther King used eschatological language as a spur to political change, Graham used eschatology to emphasize the limits of politics.”
Of course, a Christian eschatology ought to both spur change and limit the possibilities of such change. Of such is the biblical tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the Kingdom of Christ.
Still, though, I think Douthat’s assessment of Graham (especially as it relates to personal regeneration) is perhaps less complex than the reality. For my thoughts on Graham (and others) on civil rights, see this article from the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. For a different perspective, see this article by Duke University Divinity School theologian Curtis Freeman.
I’ll look forward to reading the book, to see how Miller fits Graham and his theology into the big questions of the twentieth century.