“True Christian Loyalty in Our Hearts”: A Christian Defense of American Patriotism

  • Michael G. Long


“Third, we should earnestly seek, as Americans, a revival of patriotic loyalty.” With typical dramatic flair, Graham was preaching yet another Hour of Decision sermon, this one titled “Labor, Christ, and the Cross,” but the title was not really helpful. The sermon had less to do with labor than it did with the talk of the town in 1953—the infamous McCarthy hearings. Graham was a rabid anticommunist from the earliest days of his ministry, and he simply could not let the hearings pass without commenting on American subversives and the faithful patriots who sought to squelch them. With a hermeneutic stretched to the limits, he began his patriotic reflections with none other than Jesus: “His whole ministry pointed like an arrow to Golgotha and the fulfillment of the divine purpose for his life.” Divinely faithful, Jesus was the best example of loyalty for any individual who would serve God and country, no matter the cost. Just so, “his unwavering spirit of loyalty has inspired patriots to willingly die for what they believed to be right.”1


Civil Disobedience Founding Father American Democracy Civil Religion Constitutional Convention 


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  1. 1.
    Graham , Labor, Christ, and the Cross (Minneapolis, MN: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1953), 5.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Graham , The Ultimate Weapon (Minneapolis, MN: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1961), 6.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Robert Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Daedalus, vol. 96, no. 1 (Winter 1967): 14.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Roderick P. Hart, The Political Pulpit (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1977), 69.Google Scholar
  5. Edwin Scott Gaustad, A Religious History of America (New York, NY: Harper & amp; Row, 1990), describes Graham as a kind of patriarch of what Benjamin Franklin had called ‘public religion’ (367). And William McLoughlin, “Pietism and the American Character,” American Quarterly (Summer 1965): 163–186, has described Graham’s sermons as a “blatant equation of Christianity with American patriotism and the free enterprise system.” I agree with all three characterizations.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Graham , God and Crime (Minneapolis, MN: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1956), 6.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Graham , Four Great Crises (Minneapolis, MN: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1957), 2.Google Scholar
  8. 28.
    Quoted in Edwin Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation (San Francisco, CA: Harper & amp; Row, 1987), 65.Google Scholar
  9. 45.
    Graham , Americanism (Minneapolis, MN: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1956), 5.Google Scholar
  10. 50.
    Graham , America at the Crossroads (Minneapolis, MN: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1958), 5–6.Google Scholar
  11. 51.
    Engel v. Vitale, 370 US 421 (1962), quoted in Steven K. Green, “Evangelicals and the Becker Amendment,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 33 (Summer 1991): 547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 66.
    See Martin, A Prophet with Honor, 269–285. See also Randall Balmer and Lauren F. Winner, Protestantism in America (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2002). “During the 1960 presidential campaign,” they write, “Graham met in Montreaux, Switzerland, with Norman Vincent Peale and other Protestant leaders to devise a way to derail the campaign of John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee, thereby assisting Nixon’s electoral chances” (228). On this point, A. James Reichley is wrong when he writes that Graham “skirted the anti-Catholic enthusiasm that galvanized most evangelicals against John Kennedy” Faith in Politics (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2002), 292.Google Scholar
  13. 67.
    There is a paucity of material on Graham and nationalism. For one study, see Barry Hankins, “Billy Graham and American Nationalism” (M.A. thesis, Baylor University, 1983).Google Scholar
  14. 68.
    Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: The Free Press, 2000).Google Scholar

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© Michael G. Long 2006

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  • Michael G. Long

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