American Experience: Billy Graham
(Billy Graham / DVD / PG / 2021 / PBS)
Overview: Billy Graham explores the life and career of one of the best-known religious leaders of the 20th century and examines the evangelist’s extraordinary influence on American politics and culture.
DVD Verdict: Whatever your view of Billy Graham and/or Christian evangelism, if you have an open mind I think you’ll find this biographical documentary informative and worthwhile.
Graham became an evangelist in the 1940s, capitalizing on his own charisma and power of persuasion, combined with his Christian upbringing and his Bible Institute training. His success in the endeavor surprised even him.
When faced with the crossroads between fundamentalism and modern Christianity, he felt guided to retain the former, and that marked his career for the next many decades.
He began actively associating with the powerful and the influential, seeing them as further gateways to his own personal and spiritual ambitions.
But he abandoned Martin Luther King by denouncing civil protests, and his long-term joining of forces with Richard Nixon blew up in his face after Nixon resigned in disgrace following the Watergate trials.
Late in life, after travelling the world, Graham renounced fundamentalism and decried the Moral Majority movement. But his own decades of massively popular fundamentalist crusades had paved the way for the politically active Christian right to blossom.
All that and Graham received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. This medal is given to those who have risen to pinnacles of achievement in their fields. It’s a recognition of their accomplishments, hard work, and dedication for America and for humanity, Reagan said at the presentation ceremony on Feb. 23rd, 1983.
Graham was also knighted in 2001. In Washington, on Dec. 6th, 2001, Graham received an honorary knighthood from Sir Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to the U.S., on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. He is being honored for his huge and truly international contribution to civic and religious life over 60 years, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
Oh, and for the record, Graham also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989.
I think this documentary and its assorted commentators strike just the right and equitable balance in presenting and reviewing the life of this undeniably influential (both nationally and internationally) man. [AO] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.
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