Billy Graham, the longtime spokesperson for American evangelicals, died on Wednesday, at age 99.
Graham is 30 years old when he first takes the national stage in 1949. And until his retirement in 2005, he never left it. He was an enduring presence for evangelicals, according to Andrew Finstuen, dean of the Honors College at Boise State University and editor of the book Billy Graham: American Pilgrim.
"Billy Graham mainstreams evangelicalism," explained Finstuen. "He gives a face and a name and a message to it, through radio, through television, through his crusades. He helps Americans understand what it means to talk about being born-again. This group that takes the Bible seriously, often to the point of literal interpretations. That’s all new stuff to America in the 1970s and ‘80s . And Billy Graham helped make that transition."
At this time, Graham came to Boise, speaking on the Boise State campus at the Pavilion, the present-day Taco Bell Arena. Preaching from the podium, Graham called on those attending to come onto the main floor to join together in prayer. "You just can’t come to God anytime you want to," he said. "You only can come when the Holy Spirit is drawing and He is speaking to you tonight in answer to the prayers of thousands of people in Idaho."
Finstuen said that visit marked an eventful year for the preacher. "Graham comes to Boise in 1982," he said, "amid a tour across the country of various universities. The other interesting thing is that he travels to the Soviet Union in 1982 to try to advance nuclear disarmament. It’s an issue that he’s very concerned about. In fact he’s asked to not go by members of the Reagan administration."
But it was inserting himself into international debates like these, Finstuen said, that gave Graham such an elevated profile.
Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael
Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio