Billy Graham is dead. And it didn’t take long for social media users to either exalt him, condemn him, or say something like, “He was a good man, but…” Less than 24 hours after his death, people that never really had an opinion about the man, suddenly had an opinion about the man. I for one cherish the honest tweets and comments that went something like, “Billy Graham was still alive?”
A major theme I’ve come across regarding “America’s Pastor,” is that he didn’t take a strong enough stand against racial segregation. Some news outlets are claiming he worked closely with men like Martin Luther King, Jr., and some say he outright opposed King. A good middle-ground approach might be that Graham took some measures to support civil rights, but didn’t do enough. Over the last few days, I’ve read articles, heard audio, and have seen video evidence to support each of these view points. I suppose what one tweets about him will depend on what news outlet one follows. Fox News and CNN likely have very different views of the late pastor.
A thought came to me as I scrolled through various forms of social media. “Did these people even care about what Graham believed and taught while he was alive? Are they expressing an opinion on this platform simply because they have an opportunity to do so?” Often, it seems we aren’t as worried about being right as we are about proving the opposition wrong. If progressive Christians can paint Billy Graham as something other than a saint, it proves that conservative Christians are all bad people, right?
I’ve been reading and digesting the book of Job for the better part of 6 months now. And it seems Job’s lament was a bit opportunistic. Like Frank Costanza on Festivius, Job airs his grievances simply because the occasion calls for it. And like Job, social media users take to their platform of choice to express an opinion they wouldn’t have otherwise expressed. But given the occasion and accessibility to the platform, we see tweets like, “I’ve got a lot of problems with Billy Graham, and you’re gonna hear about ’em!” Basically, if Billy Graham were still alive, we would probably be reading fewer tweets about him today.
And that’s just it. Not much has changed. Our feelings, thoughts, and opinions are often shaped by our circumstances and the events surrounding us. We see in Job 21 that Job was concerned with the wicked prospering while he suffered. We see in Job 24 – 28 a continued discourse that easily sets the tone for a trending hashtag.
When a significant event occurs, when someone important dies, or when tragedy strikes, we are likely better off keeping thoughts and comments to ourselves. At least for a little while. There will always be more details and more to the story than we first thought. Maybe Billy Graham was a good man. Maybe he wasn’t. Or maybe, like Job, like Frank Costanza, and like most of us, he was a good person with flaws, in desperate need of some grace.