Funk on Faith

Bob Dylan on Billy Graham: ‘Like rock ’n’ roll personified’

Bob Dylan, singing the praises of Billy Graham.
Bob Dylan, singing the praises of Billy Graham.

When you’re a reporter/columnist, readers send you cool things that they hope you’ll pass along to a broader audience. So this week, I want to use my megaphone to share three things: I’m hoping you’ll find the first one interesting, the second one moving, and the third one wise and amusing.

1. My former Observer colleague, Lew Powell, alerted me to Bob Dylan’s recent salute to Billy Graham.

You read that right: In an interview with AARP magazine, Dylan – born Jewish as Bobby Zimmerman – sang the praises of the Charlotte-born evangelist, saying he kinda paved the way for Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and other stadium-filling rockers.

The print magazine ran only a brief Dylan quote about Graham, now 96 and living in Montreat. But Lew, who blogs for North Carolina Miscellany, sent me a much longer quote from AARP’s uncut online version of the interview:

“When I was growing up, Billy Graham was very popular. He was the greatest preacher and evangelist of my time – that guy could save souls and did. I went to two or three of his rallies in the ’50s or ’60s. This guy was like rock ’n’ roll personified – volatile, explosive. He had the hair, the tone, the elocution – when he spoke, he brought the storm down. Clouds parted. Souls got saved, sometimes 30- or 40,000 of them.

“If you ever went to a Billy Graham rally back then, you were changed forever. There’s never been a preacher like him. He could fill football stadiums before anybody. He could fill Giants Stadium more than even the Giants football team. Seems like a long time ago. Long before Mick Jagger sang his first note or Bruce strapped on his first guitar – that’s some of the part of rock ’n’ roll that I retained. I had to. I saw Billy Graham in the flesh and heard him loud and clear.”

2. My predecessor on the faith beat, Ken Garfield, sent me the 2014 Charlotte Douglas International Airport chaplaincy report. Ken is now on the chapel’s board.

The report has stats: In 2014, 1,900 people attended the airport chapel’s twice-daily Catholic Masses and 547 showed up for its morning prayer and Scripture service.

But what moved me was the section listing the ways the 17-member chaplaincy team, directed by Catholic George Szalony, goes about its ministry. A sampling:

▪ As part of the “fallen soldier” program, “we meet with families prior to arrival of the soldier, accompany them plane side and do a very brief prayer with the family and fallen soldier before the coffin is placed in the receiving vehicle.”

▪ “We have been involved in reaching out to passengers with a family death notice.”

▪ “Employees and airport police routinely bring emotionally distressed passengers to the chapel or to one of the chaplains.”

▪ “Team members routinely escort elderly or non-English speaking passengers to their gates and stay with them till boarding the plane.”

3. Let me pass along some faith-based one-liners from reader Jack Fenlon:

▪ “Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on the front door forever.”

▪ “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

▪ “When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.”