On Wednesday, the world lost a man who arguably has had a greater, larger, and more positive impact on mankind in the last century than just about anyone; a man to whom dozens of world leaders turned for guidance, hundreds of other preachers sought to imitate, and hundreds of millions came to for comfort and hope.
Reverend William Franklin Graham Jr., or, as we all know and love him, Billy Graham, has been called “America’s Pastor,” but he could more accurately be described as “The World’s Pastor.”
Through sheer passion and his revolutionary use of mass media in adapting to the budding technologies of the 20th century, he preached in over 185 countries and preached in-person to over 210 million people. He appeared on Gallup’s list of the “most admired men and women” more than 60 times, more than anyone else in history. He served as an informal advisor to every U.S. President from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush, and even as his powers were failing, he held occasional meetings with Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
He played crucial roles in both the Civil Rights movement (as a friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. he once posted his bail) as well as the anti-Communist movement, where he fearlessly took on the Soviet Union and all other oppressive atheist governments behind the Iron Curtain.
Throughout his extraordinary life, before passing away at 99, his core message was always the same: We all need God. Basic Christian values can, and will, bring us all peace, happiness, and prosperity.
One of Graham’s last major initiatives was a campaign called “My Hope America,” with the primary video being a half-hour special titled “The Cross,” released in 2013. The campaign’s core message was, yet again, a simple one: That America has become more divided than ever before, and has lost its way; but these ills can be cured by coming back to God, and the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our great nation was founded. In a world of partisanship and hyperpolarization, Christianity can be the great unifying force of our times.
Now, five years later, that message rings with more truth than ever; perhaps it is even underlined. Polarization of opinion has gotten worse, and Christianity continues to be the subject of numerous coordinated attacks and hate campaigns by the mainstream media. From constant assaults on the civil rights of Christians who stand by the Christian definition of marriage, to public shaming of prominent Christians in the media, the great religion and its millions of followers are under attack every single day.
But Christians in America, and around the world, should take heart; things already, slowly but surely, have been turning around. And they have the rise of the National Populists—what Dutch representative Geert Wilders calls “the Patriot Spring”—to thank for it. This unlikely alliance between Evangelicals and National Populists has, against all odds, given Christianity perhaps its greatest hope for gaining ground once again.
In spite of the pre-election drama with so many questioning the “morality” of Evangelicals supporting Trump, this president—certainly in his rhetoric and also in many of his actions—has proven himself to be one of the most friendly to Christianity of modern times. From his inauguration speech to his iconic Warsaw speech, Trump, arguably, has done more to remind us of the bedrock upon which the West has prospered, than any other president in recent memory. And he has translated such rhetoric into substantial pro-Christian policies, from instituting protections for health care workers who cite their religion as an objection to immoral practices, to becoming the first sitting president to address the March for Life, to his bold and historic Jerusalem declaration.
But this great revival of Christianity in our government is not just limited to the United States. Europeans, too, have begun acknowledging the crucial need for timeless Christian principles now more than ever. Many of the National Populist parties that have risen to prominence since 2015 contain Christianity as a core tenet of their beliefs: This includes the Austrian People’s Party, the Polish Law and Justice Party, and the Hungarian Fidesz Party. Geert Wilders has explicitly used such rhetoric in the Netherlands, saying that “Dutch values are based on Christianity, [and] on Judaism.” Perhaps most prominently, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of the leading figures in the fight against the European Union’s encroachment on national sovereignty via mass migration, made a bold declaration just three days before Graham’s death: “Christianity is Europe’s last hope.”
Despite the ever-increasing vitriol from the Left and anti-Christian forces, more and more people are seeing this truth every single day; that only a return to the bedrock principles of Christianity and to God can save the West, both from its internal ills and its external foes. While there may still be a significant absence of unity and civility in our political discourse, the eventual return of Christianity on a mass scale can only be a net positive for the West.
If there is one quaint feature of the second decade of the 21st century, it is the rise of a number of new socio-political movements that gained popularity only after their original leaders have fallen off the political radar. Former Congressman Ron Paul arguably laid the core foundations for the Tea Party movement, which would soar to popularity long after his time in office. Three-time presidential candidate Pat Buchanan was a spiritual predecessor to the revival of nationalist-populist thinking, which ultimately catapulted Donald Trump into the White House, over a decade after he was permanently relegated to the “fringe” of the American political scene.
In a sad continuation of this trend, it may be recorded in the history books that although Billy Graham did not live to see the full and ultimate revival of Christianity in America, he helped precipitate it. His influence will forever be an undeniable factor, in the event that this revival finally blossoms and begins to save the West.