Billy Graham was the most significant religious presence in American life from the late 1940s until well into the current era. Graham brought the revival movement and evangelical Protestantism into the modern world. His repudiation of segregation and his retreat from fundamentalism and moves toward a more complex view of the relationship between the Bible and contemporary thought helped reshape the American cultural landscape. Wacker’s engaging, comprehensive, and sympathetic (although not uncritical) study of Graham’s multifaceted career is an admirable introduction both to Graham and to the evangelical movement he worked so hard to build. A product of fundamentalist Christianity during the Jim Crow era in the rural South, Graham transformed himself into someone who could reach a much wider audience: in 2005, at the last of his open-air religious “crusades,” in New York City, the majority of the more than 100,000 attendees were people of color. Graham, now 97, no longer hits the revival trail, and the religious synthesis he helped popularize does not seem to be reaching younger Christians. Nevertheless, the individualistic religious tradition that shaped Graham’s worldview remains a potent force in American culture.
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