The world’s best-known evangelist, the Reverend Billy Graham, has died. He was 99 years old. During his lifetime, Graham went on to become an international media sensation, a preacher to a dozen presidents and the voice of solace in times of national heartbreak. He was called “America’s pastor.” He was also extremely homophobic.
In 1974, when a young woman wrote to the famous evangelist about her sexual love for another woman, Graham replied with a violent threat: He said homosexual perverts, with their “ungodly spirit of self-gratification,” will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
“[L]et me say this loud and clear!” he added. “We traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.” Several years earlier, he had described homosexuality as “a sinister form of perversion” contributing to the decay of civilization.
Graham’s God clearly took no pleasure in gay relationships, even one marked by love. “Your affection for another of your own sex is misdirected, and will be judged by God’s holy standards,” he told the young woman.
For the criteria of “God’s holy standards,” the fundamentalist turned to the Bible, of course, concluding without reservation that the Word of God “praises the marriage of a man and a woman” but “speaks only negatively of homosexual behavior when it is mentioned.”
Convinced by the Bible’s fierce condemnation of homosexual acts, Graham advised the young lesbian to repent of “this insidious temptation” and return to the welcoming arms of Jesus. “Such reformation is possible for you,” Graham claimed. “Seize it while there’s still a chance.”
As writer Michael G. Long clearly points out: “So make no mistake about it: However moderate he appeared at points, Reverend Billy Graham was just another bigoted preacher spouting anti-gay theology grounded in outdated biblical interpretation.”