This story thankfully wound itself down a few weeks ago, but the odd “summit meeting” between Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and Pope Francis reminds me of a story Billy Graham confesses in his autobiography, “Just As I Am.” As a young, sometimes brash evangelist, he was honored to be invited to the Truman White House for a chat. Graham and three associates dialogued with the President about the Korean War and Graham’s recent crusade in Los Angeles. When he offered to pray for the Chief Executive, Truman hesitated, then agreed.
Out on the White House lawn, however, reporters and photographers swarmed around. “What did the President say? What did you say?” Graham shared what he could remember, and when someone with a mike called out, “Did you pray with President Truman?” he blurted out that, yes, they had prayed together. A wise guy with a camera suggested that Billy and his companions kneel right there on the White House lawn and reenact the prayer as best they could.
Graham foolishly acceded to the dare, and newspapers were filled with the offbeat story. Truman was deeply offended that a visiting preacher had so violated White House protocol, quoting an American President without permission. Columnist Drew Pearson reported later that Graham was persona non grata at the White House, and the ban remained in place for a long time. “I did visit Mr. Truman many years later at his home in Independence, Missouri,” Graham writes later. “I recalled the incident and apologized profusely for our ignorance and naiveté.”
Ms. Davis should take note. More to the point, perhaps so should her opportunistic handlers.