So, imagine this: you're in your eighties, in failing health, and you know that you will literally have the eyes of the world on you as you give your last public sermons. What do you tell the world? What message do you bring, by your choices, your actions, and your words?
Here's one of the things Billy Graham chose to tell the world about Bill and Hillary Clinton, who he had sitting on-stage next to him as he preached about a Savior their lives show no hint of having embraced:
"They're a great couple," he said. "I told an audience that I felt when he left the presidency he should be an evangelist because he has all the gifts and he'd leave his wife to run the country."
I may or may not post more fully on this later. For now I'll say that the decades have taken me, very reluctantly, from being a Billy Graham admirer to one who feels mostly disappointment and a degree of horror for how he compromised the Gospel and damaged "evangelicalism" (whatever that means, anymore) over the years.
For a very well-documented presentation his and others' contributions to that sad process, leading to the mess we're in today, see Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided. It's not a happy read, but it is a good, informative, and bracing study.
And so Graham's long, long and steady decline prevents me from blaming either his age, his health, or his staff. So do James 3:1, Luke 12:48, and a host of similar Scriptures.
Billy Graham is a cautionary tale for all who would make an impact on the world for Christ.
UPDATE I: NewsMax reports that at least one evangelical leader and former supporter of Billy Graham's walked out on the meeting, shocked and appalled at Graham's allowing himself to be cynically used by the Clintons.
UPDATE II: Anyone think I was harsh? Andrew Longman in the Illinois Leader makes me look like a creampuff in his hard-hitting, truthful essay Please, Please Let Goodness Rub Off On Me? (thanks to Marilyn Niccum of Mind & Media for pointing me to this). Longman cites the perfectly apposite verse: "But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one" (1 Corinthians 5:11).
UPDATE III: Rob Schenck, the pastor who walked out, writes on his thoughts and actions, in walking out on the crusade in spite of his great enthusiasm for being there. One could wish for a rewrite; I can easily see how more negatively-inclined readers will find hubris in his own stance ("I'm not leaving Dr. Graham off the hook... I'm simply giving him a little slack for being 86 years old..."). Still, his feeling of shock and revulsion, and the reasons for it, comes through loud and clear. I'd say he certainly did a right thing.
UPDATE IV: Billy Graham's son Franklin has made something of a response to concerns about his father's endorsement of both Clintons. It amounts to, "Jus' keedeen!" See if you're convinced and reassured. And, as they say, if you think the Democrats/Clinton's won't use this, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. (Hint: they already are.)