Best of Bweinh! — The Pope v. Billy Graham
Originally printed in April 2007, here’s a true interfaith dialogue!
|In this corner, supporting Pope Benedict, is Mike J!||And in this corner, backing Billy Graham, is Job!|
Sit down, Billy. The Holy Father is about to educate your behind.
Seriously, let’s think about this, people. In one corner, you have a backwoods preacher from the American South. Quite a dandy in his early days, Billy donned the white bucks and powder blue sportcoats for Youth for Christ rallies as far back as the 1940s. Two whole generations of evangelical women cursed Ruth Bell under their breath for shattering their dreams and taking Billy off the market.
Even today, women admire him and men want to be him; pianists want to play for him, and even Michael W. Smith and dcTalk knew they had hit the big time when Billy Graham asked them to play for a “youth night” in a late ’90s California crusade.
All of this makes Graham a beloved figure, a bona-fide American religious folk hero.
It does not make for a worthy battle.
Because in the other corner, resplendent in papal garb, his robes billowing proudly behind him, his miter defiantly piercing the sky, is Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger.
He’s not a folk hero. He’s a junkyard dog.
He was known universally as the Vatican’s “doctrinal watchdog” prior to his selection as the 265th pope of the Catholic Church. And as if his international reputation were not enough, the Catholics that knew him best, the ones from his native Germany, referred to him as Der Panzer Kardinal — “the Tank Cardinal.” Why? Because he’s such a ruthless defender of the faith.
But you don’t have to take my word for it! Ask the late Father Jacques Dupuis (if you could), or Sri Lankan theologian Tissa Balasuriya. The former had the temerity to suggest that God was active in non-Christian religious traditions, the latter the unmitigated gall to refuse to sign a Vatican-approved statement of faith. Dupuis wound up trashed in a document Ratzinger wrote; Balasuriya was excommunicated, before the ever-gentlemanly Pope John Paul II restored him to the church.
You can mess with a guy named Billy. You cannot mess with a Ratzinger. You wind up trashed, excommunicated…or worse.
The man’s first papal encyclical was entitled Deus Caritas Est — “God is love.” Notably absent was any statement of Benedict’s own feelings. The obvious message: God is love, and Benedict ain’t.
The man is a flat-out papal bull.
The very notion that Pope Benedict could somehow best Billy Graham is so ludicrous I almost asked to be recused. No chance in heaven! Benny’s only advantage is that if he gouged Graham’s eyes or hit below the belt, he could absolve himself on the spot while the Rev. filed all that messy Grace paperwork.
But I still don’t see it. Graham didn’t win prominence by an ancient tradition of selection by peers; he received it by the eons-old tradition of selection by God. And Graham’s a natural fighter; whether Nixon or Parkinson’s, he handles his problems personally with sleeves rolled up and pride rolled down. So l’approvazione, papa, lo porta! Let’s go to the arena floor…
In this corner, at a holy 210 — the man who put “I can” in Vatican, the Stonin’ Roman…Germany’s own Joseph A. Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI!!!
And in this corner, weighing in at a lanky 205 — The Master Pastor, The Great Wheaton Beatin’…Charlotte’s own Rev. William F. Graham, Jr.!!!
*ding ding ding*
“Look at Graham charge from his corner! I haven’t seen anything like this since Joel Osteen fought the Dalai Lama in that New Delhi kick-boxing match last June! The Pope is on the ropes, medallions flying everywhere!!”
“Bob, this is tough to watch. I think Ratzinger forgot to drink his holy water, and he’s gonna need a miracle.”
“Graham continues his crusade! An uppercut to the the Father’s midsection and a roundhouse to the nose!!!”
“Bob, it appears the Rev. is nailing all 95 theses to Ratzinger’s chin tonight! I’ll bet the Pope wishes he were still a Cardinal so he could fly far, far away!”
“Good call, Gary. Ooh, a stiff right hook from Graham, and the Pope falls to his knees in exhaustion — or is it prayer to Joseph? Patron saint of lost causes?!”
“Pope Benedict XV felt that one!”
“Hold the chariot, Gary, the Pontiff is up and he’s going after Graham with fury in his eyes!!! The Catholics here are yelling ‘inquisition, inquisition,’ as Benedict rains blow after blow on Graham’s head and body.”
“Wow, Bob! Nothing apocryphal about that last punch! But it’s amazing how Graham’s hair stays right in place!”
“Is that LA Looks he’s got in there?”
“If I gambled, I’d go with Dep, Bob.”
“Golly Gee! Now the Protestants are up as Graham delivers punishing blows to the caretaker Pope!! Everyone’s a Calvinist tonight; this is pure destiny!! The Pope is down for the count!!!!”
*ding ding ding*
“And it’s over — Graham by knockout!”