Just As I Am Not: A Poet Visits the Billy Graham Library

Billy Graham, 1966, photographed by Warren K. Leffler, from the U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, courtesy of the Collections of the Library of Congress.

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Just As I Am Not: A Poet Visits the Billy Graham Library

by Michael McFee
Southern Cultures, Vol. 16, No. 2: Southern Lives

"Do they keep an eye out for the possible wayward soul (like, say, a middle-aged guy with scraggly graying hair who stays at the margins of the group and keeps scribbling in a little black book) and hope—no, pray—that the cheerful performance of their duties and the powerful unfolding of Billy Graham's life and message might lead this poor lost person to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior?"

Music is in the very air at the Billy Graham Library. From the moment you leave the massive asphalt parking lot, hymns rise like a holy fog from the ground, through squat green speakers lining the sidewalks and crossing the grass, constantly piping “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” or “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” It’s vaguely soothing and a bit spooky, as if you’re standing above a choir in a cavern, or walking over lost souls stranded in subterranean purgatory on the outskirts of Charlotte, who lift up their heads and sing to us humans still on the surface of earth: Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, to Him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all!