Mrs. Ruth Graham has died. She was more famously known as Mrs. Billy Graham. She was 87.
Why this matters to Hillary Clinton's campaign? Or, to Barack Obama's campaign, or any among the Republicans running for president?
In many ways, he's retired. Ruth's death only magnifies this. The next president is likely to be "Billy Graham free."
Billy's 88. In 2008, then, he'll be at least 89. With Ruth Graham's passing, a woman Billy has remained devoted to since he met her in the lawn of the esteemed Wheaton College, he may simply not be himself. His own health is faltering.
Billy has been counsel to all American presidents since Eisenhower. While he no doubt offered spiritual insight and prayer, he also offered friendship, and the kind of advice and support which comes from a friend. Presidents have few friends who aren't pushing a political agenda.
Bill Clinton and George W Bush share in common a great respect for Graham, and cite him as a major influence in their spiritual life. With Jimmy Carter, they all recently joined together to help christen the Billy Graham Library.
I saw Billy Graham at a Crusade once. He's the real deal. He's sincere, and is not about the Almighty Buck. Not all evangelists are as inclusive, as diversely thinking, and as committed to something bigger than themselves as him. In fact, noting the need for Christian ministries to have honest finances, he helped found Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).
What Ruth Graham's death represents is the beginning of the end of an era. Billy's still around, but not the jet-setter he once was. This is a sad day for him.
Hillary, Obama, and rest aren't losing God. If they believe, they believe. Graham's not God. He never claimed to be. And, if they believe, losing Graham will not be losing their only counsel. Hillary Clinton, until recently, never claimed to be anything more than an occasional church-goer. She has never said, unlike husband Bill, that Christ is an important part of her life. She is, for all intents and purposes, a practical atheist.
The jury is still out on Obama. It looks like he has a faith in Jesus Christ, but how deep is hard to say. How much of his faith is wrought of looking to God to solve Man's problems, and how much is wrought looking to Man to solve God's problems is known only to Barack Obama and to God Himself.
But, he was born August 4, 1961, meaning while he grew up probably very aware of Billy Graham, any personal connection to him is unlikely. George W Bush met him through his father, and later, as he sought out his own spiritual renewal. Obama had no such process, and has not had familial connections.
What Hillary and Obama are losing, though, is the tradition of Graham's counsel. That tradition is, in a sense, extending back far before Graham, but to the original settlers who came for religious freedom. We aren't losing that freedom to believe, but, with major voices as respected as Billy Graham's no longer in the big picture, the White House will seem, perhaps, more secular. No one wants a state run religion, and no one wants a president with a phony, politically convenient faith. However, if they do have a true faith, we want them to be wise in its context. Billy Graham offered that wisdom, albeit imperfectly.