The Rev. Billy Graham is now with his Creator. I suspect there will be no more men who can transcend the divides of this country in the way Graham could. He was unique in his ability to share the gospel through radio, television and even the internet. He did so with an intensity in charm that one lacking familiarity with his message could capture his point while those who were intimately familiar with the faith could fall deeply in love with it.
To the extent Graham's death has elicited criticism and attack, much of it has to do with his common man approach. Some were left wanting. Others see a common man who garnered uncommon attention and think there must be something fraudulent about him. Elite opinion makers and leaders, often drawn to worldly comfort and not gospel suffering, have a hard time relating to Graham because they have a hard time relating to the common man.
That lack of ability to relate to common people is also one reason we see elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives. Planned Parenthood gets a government subsidy to cover the costs of rich, white hedonism. Therefore, it must be protected at all cost. The NRA, on the other hand, likely has its sticker on the back of a gas guzzling pickup truck, and must be evil.
Into this modern American divide, it is hard to see how a new Billy Graham could take hold. The phenomenon of the Bill Graham crusade seems only possible in a post-World War II world where Americans still shared a common tongue of idiomatic expressions. We have become so tribal that it is hard to imagine many people able to transcend their tribe. It is harder still to imagine anyone claiming Jesus Christ as the only way to eternal life being able to transcend the divide.
American gun culture is increasingly wrapped up in that divide. There are 320 million Americans and just as many guns. There are gun owners who favor restrictions on guns, but the most ardent proponents of gun control want nothing less that a total confiscation of guns. They see an Australian gun buy back program as a model for the United States while ignoring the second amendment. They have concluded they can reshape the Supreme Court instead of amending the constitution. But that desire pushed a lot of people to vote for the present President.
Coastal elites in this country, the very ones who would have ridiculed the mass of people at a Billy Graham crusade, will also ridicule gun owners and gun rights. These opinion leaders blame the NRA for the deaths of kids in school. At the CNN forum, anti-gun zealots heckled the story of a rape victim who wished she had a gun for protection. Another told Senator Marco Rubio it was as if Rubio himself had gunned down students. Good luck trying to find common ground.
Except, the truth is guns remain one of the last shared bits of commonality in the United States. There are Democrats in places like Montana, West Virginia, Missouri, and Indiana who hunt, shoot recreationally, and have houses full of guns. The San Francisco and New York left may scoff at them, but their Democratic senators are up for re-election this year. The left's zealous pursuit of gun control will only make it harder for these Democrats to get re-elected.
Democrats must walk a finer line on this issue legislatively than their most vocal activists would have anyone believe. In the same way, one of the keys to the National Rifle Association's success is that it has worked hard to maintain bipartisan street credibility. One would never know it from the media or the loud voices on the left, but the bipartisan consensus in this country has been for gun rights, not gun control. That is not going to change when the loudest voices scream "murderer" at all gun owners.