Monday, May 30, 2016
When The Reverend Billy Graham Faced Angry Witch Doctors
Talk about a clash of cultures!
Back when your Strange World blogger was a newly minted infant just home from the hospital, American evangelist and ambassador of fundamentalist Christianity Billy Graham flew to Africa for a campaign.
In late February 1960 the Associated Press reported that "native medicine men have been parading around outside the meeting in their weird costumes, muttering incantations."
Then, several days later, it happened. According to a United Press International story, three "witch doctors" who were, it was assumed, attempting to "fix a curse" on Graham walked up to the speaker's platform.
This occurred after the meeting as the crowd was exiting. The committee of "Jaluo witch doctors" was led by 90-year-old Okelo Onoko, who smoked the traditional conjure pipe.
But the Reverend Graham approached the committee, looking them squarely in the eye, and declared: "God loves you and Christ died on the cross for you." This was accomplished by a translator.
Of course we know that Graham continued a thriving worldwide evangelistic ministry for decades and is alive today at the ripe old age of 97.
So much for Jaluo folk magic, I suppose.
Then too, it doesn't escape me that this incident was perhaps a media creation (or least embellishment), which thought occurred to me after reading Life magazine's coverage of Graham's African tour in its March 21, 1960 issue.
Therein we are treated to large a photo of Graham and a "witch doctor," with a caption that reads:
"In Kenya, Graham touched the Calabash pipe of a "witch doctor" who turned out to be a phony, part of gag done by local journalists."
Okay, so it seems safe to assume that journalists covered this story with, to say the least, a lighthearted attitude. Such culture clashes can have humorous aspects.
In my mature years now I tend to think the idea that the Great Spirit sends missionaries to other cultures in order to set them straight spiritually is wrongheaded.
My thought is that nature itself presents a divine message that interacts with the seed of divine awareness planted in each of us at birth. This work has brought about uncountable expressions of spiritual belief, but none without its charm and interest.
All part of this strange world I find so fascinating.