Always a rebel with a cause

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Franklin Graham says he’s still a “Rebel With A Cause”.

Billy Graham’s son – who is well known for his own preaching, humanitarian work and political views over the past decades but will always be associated with his famous father – spoke to around 11,600 people in John Stiff Memorial Park in ‘Amarillo on a hot Sunday. afternoon two weeks ago. It was the biggest audience of his eight-city God Loves You Route 66 tour which began on September 19 with 8,700 people in attendance in Joliet, Illinois, and ended on October 2 by 6,800 in San Bernardino. , California. The total attendance for the tour was around 56,000 people.

Preparation for the event took months and included 165 churches in the Texas Panhandle. Many members brought in family and friends “without church”.

Franklin Graham preached on September 26 from a small podium on a large stage filled with drums and other equipment from the touring musicians. Spread out in front of him were thousands of local and regional people, most of them sitting on lawn chairs, some with umbrellas for protection from the 86-degree sun.

Worshipers praise God during music for Franklin Graham's Route 66 God Loves You Tour event at John Stiff Memorial Park in Amarillo on September 26.

Its message was a basic evangelistic call, with the story of “Blind Bartimaeus” from Mark 10: 46-52 its scriptural focus.

Graham had told me he would tackle cultural issues and the state of the country, and tackling them is all he did, listing theft, taking God’s name in vain, worshiping idols, lying, adultery, sex outside marriage, murder and abortion as examples of sins that do not meet God’s standards.

An estimated 11,600 people attended the Amarillo stop of Franklin Graham's Route 66 God Loves You tour at John Stiff Memorial Park on September 26.

“Any kind of sexual relationship outside of a marital relationship is a sin against God,” he said. “And let me tell you what a marital relationship is: it’s a man and a woman. … This is how God defines marriage. God made us male and female.

While calling the abortion a sin, Graham continued, “In a crowd of this size there are a number of women who have had an abortion. … Will God forgive you for what you have done? I am here to tell you that he will absolutely forgive you.

Mike Haynes

“But you must come to him with faith in Christ. The point is, we are all guilty of breaking one or more or all of God’s laws. There is no one who can keep the laws of God. … God sent his son to save us, to save you, to save me. And all we have to do is be ready to accept it by faith. Wow. What the hell. What a great God that he loves us so much.

Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait, formerly of DC Talk, offered songs of worship during Franklin Graham's Route 66 God Loves You Tour event at John Stiff Memorial Park in Amarillo on September 26.

Although such views have only been the traditional beliefs of the Christian church for 2,000 years, they make Graham a controversial figure in a world that increasingly embraces relativism without moral absolutes. That is why, in a short press conference before the event, I asked if he still considered himself a “rebel with a cause”. This is the title of his 1995 book which describes his rebellious youth and his eventual full acceptance of a call to preach the Word of God.

– Of course, he answered without hesitation. “What I mean by ‘rebellious’ – I believe in speaking the truth and standing up for what is true. And I don’t care if it’s politically correct or not. I’m just going to say what I believe the Bible teaches, and that’s what I believe, and if that works on people’s feet, I’m sorry.

A man reaches out to God as Marcos Witt sings during Franklin Graham's Route 66 God Loves You Tour event at John Stiff Memorial Park in Amarillo on September 26.

“But this country of ours is in difficulty. We have turned our backs on God; politicians want you to look to them to solve all your problems. They only make the problems worse. And it would be better if the politicians got out of the way and let people like here in West Texas do what they’re doing, and things would be a lot better. Our country is just in trouble morally, spiritually, economically, we are in trouble.

While Graham broadcast these beliefs, the spotlight for the day was focused on the words “love” and “hope”. The North Carolina evangelist emphasized Bartimaeus’ faith that led Jesus to restore her sight. “There was no hope for a blind man,” he said. “All he could do was sit on the side of the road and beg.

“Being a good person has nothing to do with salvation. It is to accept the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. “It is not by works, but by faith. And Bartimaeus cried out in faith.

Billy and Franklin Graham's longtime friend Dennis Agajanian performs as a waving Texas flag during the Route 66 God Loves You tour stop at John Stiff Memorial Park in Amarillo on September 26.

Christian group Newsboys, led by Michael Tait, echoed the message with songs such as “He Reigns”, as did Marcos Witt, who sang in English and Spanish, and Graham’s longtime musical colleague Dennis Agajanian. .

A chapter of “Rebel With A Cause” recalls the first meeting of Agajanian and Franklin Graham – on the campus of Texas Tech University during the 1975 Billy Graham Crusade in Lubbock.

A counselor speaks to a woman at the end of Franklin Graham's September 26 message at the Route 66 God Loves You Tour Amarillo stop at John Stiff Memorial Park.

At the September 26 event, Agajanian skillfully chose his guitar and sang old hymns such as “Nothing But the Blood”. And he made the crowd happy with “Amarillo By Morning”.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat reminiscent of the Grand Ole Opry or Woodstock, Agajanian said, “Jesus Christ is a greater savior than you are a sinner. He loves you, man.

After Graham’s message, locally trained counselors met throughout the park with those who stood up in response, giving them a guide for the next steps of the Christian faith.

Singer Marcos Witt performed in English and Spanish during Franklin Graham's Route 66 God Loves You Tour event at John Stiff Memorial Park in Amarillo on September 26.

Franklin Graham traveled to Alaska after the tour to welcome a new group of wounded veterans attending one of the retreats his organization offers each summer. I suspect he was planning to repeat something he said to Amarillo:

“Let’s live the life that God called us to live. Let us do it forgiven, purified, knowing that we are on our way to heaven.

Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016 and has written for the Faith section since 1997. He can be contacted at [email protected] Go to www.haynescolumn.blogspot.com for other recent columns.

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