by WorldTribune Staff, February 23, 2018
Many obituaries which followed Billy Graham’s passing on Feb. 21 praised the evangelist who claimed over the course of his career to have preached in person to 215 million people in some 100 countries.
“But as is normal now in any online reaction, there came the backlash too,” Joseph Hartropp wrote for Christian Today.
“There’s that ancient word to the wise that our present generation might do well to heed: ‘Do not speak ill of the dead,’ ” Hartropp noted. “In the polarized age of furious Twitterstorms and instant hot-takes, we might do well not to speak too soon either.”
One writer who spoke soon was Teen Vogue’s Lauren Duca, who tweeted: “The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time. Anyway, have fun in hell, bitch…’respecting the dead’ only applies to people who weren’t evil pieces of s**t while they were living, thanks.”
Related: Billy Graham compares America to Sodom and Gomorrah: ‘Just as wicked’, Oct. 17, 2014
Fox News noted that: “It’s unclear why Duca wasn’t a fan of Graham, who was noted for consulting and praying with every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama. In the 1960s, he ardently opposed segregation, refusing to speak to segregated audiences.”
Obama had kind words for the evangelist, tweeting: “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
Several responses blasted Obama, including one which received nearly 2,000 likes for calling on Obama to “Delete this” tweet.
In its obituary, Pink News referred to Graham as an “Anti-gay evangelical preacher” in an article which included a comment Graham made that AIDS was a “judgment from God.” Graham had later said he regretted the comment.
The Advocate ran with the headline: “What the Obits Aren’t Saying: Evangelist Billy Graham Was a Homophobe”.
“The diverse, impassioned reactions to the man’s life prompt one to consider the good of our instant, intensely reactive responses to death of famous figures,” Hartropp wrote for Christian Today. “The deluge of takes on the meaning of Graham’s passing felt overdone, not because Graham wasn’t significant, but because a flurry of articles assessing a man’s legacy, be it in mourning or celebration, seems an odd, somewhat inhuman response to death. Yes, it’s a symptom of our 24-hour instant-news culture in which time is ever of the essence, where if we don’t react now, tomorrow will apparently be too late.”
But, Hartropp continued, “why the need to so passionately lionize or denigrate the dead, so immediately after their end? As many have noted, Graham was a flawed human being who lived 99 years on the earth: of course he did and said things he regretted and that we wouldn’t applaud. Of whom could we not say the same?”
Hartropp noted that “the world is full of people who disagree with you and who live complex lives that can’t be summed up in a tweet. … If you believe someone’s views were ‘problematic’, that they made grave errors in their life that caused harm to others, then what you believe is that they were human, like you.”