I was reminded of ‘74 this past week with the release of more Nixon tapes from the Watergate-era. Some of the tapes released were recordings of President Nixon and Billy Graham talking about the unfolding Watergate debacle. If you’re old enough …
I was reminded of ‘74 this past week with the release of more Nixon tapes from the Watergate-era. Some of the tapes released were recordings of President Nixon and Billy Graham talking about the unfolding Watergate debacle. If you’re old enough to remember, Billy and Richard Nixon were extremely close; Billy was a spiritual confidant to the president and became a friend and personal supporter.
It’s a little awkward to hear the president tell Billy “I love you” and Billy reciprocate; I say awkward only because, at that point, any prophetic element had been totally compromised. But the “I love yous” were nothing compared to hearing Billy tell Nixon that he wanted to “slash” throats at CBS for the way the network responded to the president’s Watergate speech, the one in which Nixon avowed his innocence, an innocence Billy Graham believed because the president convinced him it was so.
We’re told Billy Graham became physically ill when the truth about Watergate and Nixon’s role in it came to light. The whole thing came perilously close to pulling the prophet down with the politician. I’ll never forget seeing and hearing Billy Graham in that pastoral moment in ‘74, trying to minister to a bunch of students dazed and confused. I hate, however, to hear at this late date where Billy once gave voice to “slashing” throats. Metaphorical throat slashing was a Richard Nixon thing; it belongs to the secular world of politics and power; it’s not what the prophet does or advocates as rule of thumb.
We’re at this point again in America — that is, if we’re ever NOT at this point — where the Almighty is invoked at every juncture to give the stamp of approval to anything and everything, including the most heinous and despicable things. Prophets abound but for every Ezekiel or Jeremiah there are a thousand false prophets, urging us that it’s OK to hate, cheat, steal, kill, destroy, maim or plot, and they’ll cite chapter and verse in the Good Book to prove it. As it turned out where Watergate was concerned, a Quaker almost took a Baptist down with him. The president didn’t let the Quaker heritage of peacemaking get in the way of his paranoia and raw pursuit of power; the Baptist evangelist, who often opened his stadium-filled revival services with the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” ended up backing a man and policies that were anything but great.
I’m just saying, if you’re mad enough to slash throats, maybe you better re-read things before you make God an accomplice to some crime or hitch Him to some flaming political star or party platform. It’s the hummingbird in us that makes us think so small. America today is the drone of millions of tiny wings beating faster than the eye can see; that’s why we can’t hear each other.
Bob Morgan is a retired, award-winning journalist and an author.