Turning Apolitical To Stay Political: Billy Graham, Evangelical Religion, And The Vietnam War

Zhang, Grace

This essay explores the intersection between Evangelicalism and foreign policy in the context of the Vietnam War. As a handle into the topic, it focuses on examining how Billy Graham, a prominent religious actor, negotiated the public sphere and private halls of power in order to influence politics, and specifically the American foreign policy decision to intervene in Vietnam. More than just a religious figure, Graham was a political actor who was able to adapt to a changing political climate by shrewdly turning to an apolitical message in the public sphere in order to sustain his political role in the private sphere. Within the White House, Graham practiced a unique and masterfully subtle style of ‘friendship politics.’ He cultivated a level of intimacy with President Johnson and Nixon unmatched by any other religious leader at that time and often leveraged this connection to influence foreign policy. By examining the political maneuvers of a man at the forefront of Evangelical Christianity, this paper aims to shed light on how a religious group sought to find, and found, its way into the White House, a platform that was used to nudge diplomatic decisions towards the Calvary.


Also Published In

The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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April 25, 2016