Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

Grant Wacker
Harvard University Press
Published Year: 
Billy Graham

Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History at Duke Divinity School, has written a cultural biography on the Rev. Billy Graham that analyzes how the Southern fundamentalist became a central figure to millions of Christians around the world and helped shape the nation.

Harvard University Press is expected to publish the 448-page book, America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, on Nov. 7.

“The book argues that Graham's success is at least partly attributable to his extraordinary ability to appropriate trends in the culture and then apply them to his purposes of personal evangelism and moral reform of the nation and world,” Wacker said.

Wacker’s book is an interpretive study of Graham’s 60-year career in which the evangelist reached millions of Americans through televised “crusades” across the nation and world bringing a message of personal transformation through God’s grace to become known as “America’s pastor.”

In Wacker’s extensive analysis, the enduring meaning of Graham’s career is found at the intersection of the North Carolina evangelist’s own creativity and the forces shaping modern America.

“Beginning with tent revivals in the 1940s, Graham transformed his born-again theology into a moral vocabulary capturing the fears and aspirations of average Americans,” the publisher stated.  “He possessed an uncanny ability to appropriate trends in the wider culture and engaged boldly with the most significant developments of his time, from communism and nuclear threat to poverty and civil rights.”

The book paints a portrait of Graham as “a self-deprecating servant of God and self-promoting media mogul, a simple family man and confidant of presidents, a plainspoken preacher and the ‘Protestant pope.’’’

Wacker joined the Divinity School faculty in 1999 after teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1977 to 1992. He specializes in the history of Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, World Missions, and American Protestant thought.