Peale and Graham
I listened to both charismatic preachers.
By Ken Shelton
I supposethat I could blame my grandmother, Helen Liddell Jones, for my affinity to preachersNorman Peale and Billy Graham, since she was a big fan of them in the1950’s. In fact, from 1950 to 1965 Ilikely listened more to them than I listened to Mormon David McKay.
About 18months after Peale died on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1993, I found myself meetingwith his widow, 95-year-old Ruth Stafford Peale, in their offices in Pawling, NewYork and attending church with her on Sunday at the scenic Christ Church onQuaker Hill. I then collaborated withher in publishing In God We Trust (1996)and with her friend Scott Ventrella in publishing and promoting Power of Positive Thinking in Business (1997).
Norman Vincent Peale (1898 –1993) was a prominent minister who servedas the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, New York, from 1932 until his death. As an author he isbest known for popularizing the concept of positive thinking through his best-selling book The Power ofPositive Thinking. Peale was a personal friend ofPresident Richard Nixon,and Donald Trump attendedPeale’s church while growing up (and married his first wife, Ivana, there). Peale’sministry was controversial, and he received frequent criticism both from churchfigures and from the psychiatric profession. Raised as a Methodist and ordained as a Methodist minister in 1922, Pealechanged his religious affiliation to the Reformed Church in 1932 when he began a 52-year tenure as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in NewYork City. In1935, Peale (a Freemason)started a radio program, “The Art of Living”, which lasted for 54 years. Undersponsorship of the National Council of Churches, he later moved into television.In 1945 he launched (with his wife Ruth) Guideposts magazine, a forum for celebrities and ordinary people torelate inspirational stories. His sermons were mailed monthly.
In1984, President RonaldReagan awarded Peale, for hiscontributions to the field of theology, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the United States). Pealehad met or personally known every US president of the 20th century. Fivepresidents (Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush) spoke well of him in the documentary about his life,Positive Thinking: The Norman Vincent Peale Story.
Uponhearing of Peale’s death, President BillClinton said: “The name of Dr. NormanVincent Peale will forever be associated with the wondrously American values ofoptimism and service. Dr. Peale was an optimist who believed that, whatever theantagonisms and complexities of modern life brought us, anyone could prevail byapproaching life with a simple sense of faith. And he served us by instillingthat optimism in every Christian and every other person who came in contactwith his writings or his hopeful soul. Dr. Peale lifted the spirits of millionsof people. While the Clinton family and all Americans mourn his loss, there issome poetry in his passing on a day when the world celebrates the birth ofChrist.” TheReverend Billy Graham said at the National Council of Churches on June 12, 1966: “I don’t know of anyone who has donemore for the kingdom of God than Norman and Ruth Peale or have meant any morein my life for the encouragement they have given me.”
Billy Graham(1919-2018) was arguably theworld’s best-known evangelist. After finding God as a gangly 16-year-old inNorth Carolina, he became America’s pastor, preaching for nearly six decades tomillions around the world in crusades. He packed stadiums, counseled presidents, befriended Johnny Cash and led Kathie Lee Gifford’s family to Christ. Graham once said, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead,but don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I willjust have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Over the course of his career, even more than Peale, Grahamcapitalized on modern communication technologies — from radio, books, televisionto satellite to the internet — to give his ministry a global reach. He spreadhis influence through a combination of religious conviction and a commandingstage presence. He refused many offers to get involved in politics, saying: “IfI get on these subjects, it divides the audience. I’m just promoting theGospel.” He even refused to speakprimarily as a Southern Baptist—he spoke for neither a particular church nor aparticular people, preferring to fill the role of national clergyman and have aglobal reach.
He,too, was not without critics. Some mainline Protestant leaders and theologiansaccused him of preaching a simplistic message of personal salvation thatignored societal problems like racism and poverty. Nonetheless, Graham gainedand retained the respect of most Americans, earning him dozens of appearanceson Gallup’s annual list of the world’s 10 most admired men and women. With awarm, courtly manner that was readily apparent both to stadium crowds and tothose who met him face to face, Graham could be a riveting presence. At6-foot-2, with a handsomely rugged profile fit for Hollywood westerns, he wouldhold his Bible aloft and declare that Scripture offered “the answer to everyhuman longing.”
Grahamdrew his message from mainstream evangelical Protestant belief: Repent of yoursins, accept Jesus as your Savior and be born again. In a typical exhortation,he declared: “Are you frustrated, bewildered, dejected, breaking under thestrains of life? Then listen for a moment to me: Say yes to the Savior tonight,and in a moment you will know such comfort as you have never known. It comes toyou quickly, as swiftly as I snap my fingers, just like that.”
Healways closed by asking his listeners to “come forward” and commit to a life ofChristian faith. When they did, his well-oiled organization would match newbelievers with nearby churches. Many thousands of people say they were firstbrought to church by a Billy Graham crusade. It is estimated that he preachedthe Gospel to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries andterritories since beginning his crusades in October 1947. And he reachedhundreds of millions more through books, radio, television, video and film. “Thisis not mass evangelism,” Graham liked to say, “but personal evangelism on amass scale.”
Covey Crusade/Ghost Shelton
Perhapsunconsciously I helped fashion the Covey Crusade in the likeness ofPeale and Graham (P&G). Certainly we used many of the same methods from1983 to 1995, the 12 years that I was most closely linked to SR Covey. And, much like P&G, we embraced a muchwider audience beyond our own religion and endured much criticism from withinand without the faith. For example, Iwas oft confronted by mad Mormons accusing me/Covey of “Priestcraft” andaccused by mad non-Mormons of packaging and selling disguised Mormonism. Nottrue! We, like P&G, were extrapolating and expanding true principles beyondour own religion.
Asfor me, I never wanted a Shelton Crusade, preferring to play my role as ghost—amostly anonymous agent and invisible writer/editor/agent/publisher.