Saturday, June 25, 2005

How people observe us

Andy Newman's been all over the Billy Graham Crusade. He's a reporter with the New York Times and I've met him half a dozen times. We first met one day several weeks ago when he grilled me for five minutes trying to get a reaction to the 10-story high billboard of an underwear model that faces the Billy Graham office on Fashion Avenue. It's incredible how a skilled reporter can ask the same question so many different ways fishing for a quote. That was one I chose not to provide. We met again at the press conference on Tueseday, where he was one of 500 credentialed members of the media. Then again last night, this morning at Bible Man and again this evening. So far, he's published four or five articles on the Crusade. One, "At Crusade, Spirit Meets Science in the Altar Call," from today's paper, is an interesting take on the central moment of a Crusade evening:

"The act of answering the altar call is understood to be spontaneous, personal and deeply felt. "But the structure of the event, like that of so many religious rituals and ceremonies, is also carefully choreographed and intensely overseen. And perhaps nowhere more so than at a Billy Graham Crusade like the one that began last night at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.

"Indeed, when Mr. Graham issues his call and the candidates, known in the Graham organization's parlance as inquirers, begin moving down the aisles, their decision to stand up and start walking is just the beginning.

"The inquirer is met at the foot of the stage by a trained volunteer counselor, chosen on the spot from a pool of thousands to match the inquirer's sex and approximate age. The counselor offers a warm welcome, a copy of the Gospel of John and a quick tutorial in how to receive Christ. (Step 1: Confess your sins. Step 2: Surrender your life to God's control. Step 3: Ask for his strength daily to stay on God's pathway.)"


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