Okay, I'll say it.
Billy Graham did enormous damage to American Christianity.
Many of those who "came to Christ" at his "crusades," never came to Jesus the Christ at all, but only to their own fears of hell-fire and damnation. Many, I know, were looking for an out from troubled lives - alcohol, poverty, a lousy job and who-knows what else.
And they came forward in droves, driven in large measure by mass-hysteria, fearfulness and longing.
They joined local churches, many of them led by men (mostly) who were poorly trained, who "knew the Bible" by rote and were able to string together verse-upon-verse to the "delight" of the congregation, while slowly spinning the web of pride (in being saved) and hatred (of the unsaved).
I have no doubt that Billy Graham was a decent sort of a man, but his message was a mess, and those who "came to Christ" via this message laid the foundation for the Right Wing destruction of the American Christianity.
When Hearst told his newspaper chain to "puff Graham," Hearst recognized a religion that could serve his own conservative purposes, and so emerged the strange and now deadly relationship between Capitalism and American Christianity.
Sadly, it was American Christians who were duped and played for fools. Hearst and his capitalist culture trumped everything and won the day, and men like Billy Graham bore the message that America was godly and good, Communism was godless and bad, and that American Capitalism was god's will for the world.
Yes, Graham tore down the rope of racial division at his crusades, but only to give the audience a message that has proved both hollow and tenacious. Hollow for want of a full biblical message, and tenacious because its "true believers" cannot admit how flawed the whole enterprise is (after all, look at the money, look at the buildings - the very things that impressed the disciples when they strolled through Jerusalem with Jesus, and which Jesus dismissed with a snort).
Yes, yes, yes, there was good in it, too, because good shows up in all kinds of places, but clear-headed thinking is needed. The mess we have today has to be studied and its roots discerned if we're ever going to find a way out and help American Christianity recover its mind and heart, the fullness of God's Counsel and the power of Scripture's prophetic message proclaimed by Jesus.