When Billy Graham Saved Scotland
Of Scottish ancestry and a graduate of St. Andrews University, DR. ROBERT BLACK WOOD ROBERTSON saw three years of action between Tripoli and El Alamein in World War H. For the last two years Dr: Robertson and his wife, the photographer Katharine Tweed Robertson. have been living in the sheep country of the Scottish Border, and while there came under the spell of Billy Graham. This is a chapter in his forthcoming book, Of Sheep and Men, to be published by Knopf this month.
DURING the closed season for sin, which synchronizes pretty exactly with the lengthening evenings and the end of the winter run of salmon, religion becomes the principal pastime of our parish, as it has always been the principal national pastime of the Scots. So, when Evangelist Billy Graham picked on our little country of Scotland for one of his biggest jamborees to date, he was not bringing an unknown commodity to our people.
It might have seemed that way on superficial examination. For example, only eight persons attended the morning service in our village kirk the Sunday before the Billy Graham All-Scotland Crusade began. This had always been about the average attendance, and it was a fair index of the strength and popularity of organized religion as presented by the Church of Scotland in our area lodav , but not of the religious interest of the people. The question “Are y e gaun tae Billy Graham.”’ showed that. My wife and I were asked that question one hundred and eighty-six times inside the week.
We already knew the official attitude toward the Graham Crusade of the Kirk ol Scotland. I’here was a day when the “Sword of Gideon,’ as it calls itself, would have smitten, as only the Scottish Kirk could smite, anyone holding to doctrines differing from its own who Iried to interfere on a national scale with the spiritual and religious life of Scotland. Yet here it was today saying: “Please, Billy, come and save Scotland!“ Here was our world-famous band of clergy voluntarily and gladly taking back seats to a foreign preacher who was by no means an intellectual theologian, assisted by a trombonist, a crooner, and a stunt organizer. Truly the Sword of Gideon had crumbled into rust!
But what was “oor Meenister” going to do? We soon found out.
“Oor Meenister" is not of the Kirk of Scotland, but of that dissident and fiercer body, the Fre Church of Scotland, which is so strictly Calvinistic that it believes the national church is “halfway to Rome.”
But, like his “high church” colleagues, he was going to admit that his eight y ears’ training for, and fifteen years in, the ministry had been in vain. He was going to admit his incompetence and his inability to attend to the spiritual welfare and salvation of the small group of souls in the parish committed to his care. He was going to Billy Graham, and he was taking along with him as many of us, church members and sinners alike, as he could persuade to accompany him on his bus to Glasgow, there to have done on us in an hour and a half the job we had been paying him to do for fifteen years. A special bus would leave at two thirty on Tuesday. We were to bring sandwiches and a flask of tea, or such refreshment as we required on the three-hour journey. A collection would be taken on the bus, which would be our parish contribution to the All-Scot land Crusade.
My wife and I were first on the bus. We sat. as sinners do on such occasions, in the back seat and watched the salvation-seekers from our village a rrive.
There came first Hamish Dundas, Hamish is perhaps our most solid parishioner. He keeps thelocal smithy six days a week and haggles over tinprice of a shoe nail as though it were made of uranium. But on Sunday a metamorphosis takes place and Hamish changes from his old overalls into dark suit., high stiff collar, and black tie, his uniform as leading member of the kirk session, He keeps the seventh day holy as only an elder of the Free Scottish Church can keep it, carrying out his elderly offices for the adults, teaching Sunday school to our fourteen village children and Bible class lor our live adolescents. Between times on the Sabbath lie conducts family worship for his wife and mol her and sister, provided, that is, that no godless Englishman, breaking the Sabbath by jaunting over ihe Border, needs his horse shod—and provided the salmon are “no’ runnin’.”
A Scottish elder’s womenfolk follow him around with a dumb apathy and self-effacement similar to that of Oriental women cowed through tin’ ages by their lords. So when the black-hatted, blackcoated Jlamish entered ihe bus and took, as befitted his station, the front seat, two silent purdahed figures, his wife and daughter, slipped unobtrusively in behind him.
Next came Auld Kenneth’s two sisters, staunch kirkwomen both, the elder ihe leader of the parish temperance movement and the younger the secretary of the parochial branch of every society for the abolition of everything else. They negotiated their skirts up the three steps into the bus with the practiced dexterity of legless nuns and succeeded in making the two well-upholstered and luxurious seats directly behind the Dundas family look like uncomfortable pews.
Auld Kenneth himself arrived a minute later, easing his weather-beaten neck in its unaccustomed collar, but carrying as always his battered old lambin’ stick, and accompanied by his two scrawny collie bitches. These, at the words “Come by, Meg! Come by, Tim!” leaped onto the bus and stood motionless in the aisle, awaiting their master’s instructions on how to deal with the few sheep already collected in this peculiar pen.
“ \ c canna bring your dogs, Kenneth,” came 1 lamish’s elderly edict from the front seat.
“ Alt’ w hv for no’;" expostulated Auld Kenneth in bewilderment. “They aye come tae kirk vvi’ me. Can they no come tae Billy Graham?”
“Ye canna bring your dogs, Kenneth,” the kirk session repeated its decree. Kenneth glanced from his collies to 1 lamish, then back again, as if of two minds whether to order them to “hand that ane ool o’ here!” (which 1 hey would have done at a flick of Kenneth’s calloused hand). But instead he submitted to ecclesiastical authority, and at a toss of his head and the traditional “That’ll do,” his dogs bounded out of the bus and away back up ihe glen to his cottage live miles away.
Then the village adolescents burst into the bus
all live of them. Headed by Flossie, Tam’s sixteen-year-old, and her pal, the diker’s daughter, they giggled their way aboard, throwing loud “hellos” in all directions, and scrambled toward the rear seats, as far from respectability as they could get. There was some jostling among the three lads following ihe girls, for each of them had ihe idea of spending the next three hours in the seal next to Flossie. But she out maneuvered them all and settled in the back corner opposite us, with (he diker’s daughter as a barrier between herself tind the ihrustful young males. Two of these dived into the seat in front of the girls and immediately turned around to kneel on the seat.
The third lad, the little red-headed gowk, Wee Kicky, was forgotten by the others and sat farther forward alone, feeling as far out of things as only a fifteen-year-old tagging along with sixteen-yearolds can feel.
Mrs. Chisholm came next. Nobody in the village really knows Mrs. Chisholm. She speaks only to the Minister and to the village children, always calling the latter “my poor wee things” and weeping over them even when she encounters them in the midst of their boisterous enjoyment. The children, in defense, call her “Greetin’ Gertie,” because of her proclivity for weeping, and clam up at her approach. The more charitable adult villagers have tried 1o be kind to her and to find out how they can help her to bear the ghastly and apparently unconimunicable sorrow lluit is bespoken by her every gesture. They have been obliged to desist and to admit that she is “a wee bit nervous, but they excuse this euphemistically described Border condition by pointing out that “of course she’s at a difficult time o’ life.”
Mrs. Chisholm hurried into the bus with a pseudo-tense jerkiness and slumped silently into the loneliest seat she could find, more oblivious 1o than oblivious of the thirteen pairs of eyes watching her. All of us fell silent too, even Flossie and her noisy friends, for they, of course, had been “poor wee things’ only two or three lambing seasons before.
I lamish Dundas’ clearing his throat in his dignified elderly way was insufficient to bring life back to I he bus after Greet in’ Geri ie’s arriv al, and we all hoped that the next to come would be somebody less deflating.
It was. But unfortunately it was so explosive that we became if possible ev en more silent. For it was none other than Old Jerry Nolan.
ISovv 1 his was a Scottish bus, organized by the Free Church of Scotland, under the personal supervision of the Minister (il was high time he appeared, with people such as Jerry stepping aboard!) and it was proceeding to the .Vll-Seol land Crusade meeting, the main purpose of which was to save Scotland from Sin and bring it back into the arms ol the I rue Kirk. And here was this Nolan, getting on the bus with a friendly smile and a greeting from everybody, from the elder in the front seat to the sinners in the back, and sitting down near Auld Kenneth Lindsay without any apology or explanation at all. It was outrageous!
For Jerry, I should explain, is an Irishman. Nobody can blame him for that, of course, and no doubt there are some good Irishmen, the same as there are good Russians and even, they say, good Englishmen. Bui he’s not only an Irishman, he’s the barman at. the House of Sin. The chief wrecker of homes in the parish. The man who provides the Minister with excorialive material, spoken under ecclesiastical privilege, for at least fifty sermons every year. Where does this man Nolan think our bus is going? To Phil the FI liter’s Ball, or Finnegan’s Wake, or somewhere? Because, far worse than being a barman, the man’s a Catholic! Indeed, this was Saladin walking into the tent of the King Richard of the All-Scotland Crusade, Where was the Minister?
The next comer, fortunately for the peace of Christendom and the safety of her Majesty’s lieges in Scotland, was not the Minister but (we all breathed again) Barry Caven.
i don’t think Barry had any advance intention, of “gaun tae Billy Graham,”for Barry’s religion, as far as anybody knows, is something akin to early Druidism. But as he passed down the lane where the bus was Idling up, some Pietish instinct told him that here was just the kind of human tangle which, by adding his mysterious presence, he liked to complicate still further. So he took a seat.
Like us and the adolescents, but for a different reason, he sat far back.
One of Barry Caven’s most disconcerting traits is making people talk about the subject that is uppermost in their minds but which they think it would be tactless and in bad taste to discuss. If Barry goes to a funeral, In* talks about death all the time. In the presence of millionaires, he always talks about money, and if he entered a convent he would immediately open a discussion on sex.
This being a religious excursion on w hich we w ere embarking, it seemed to Barry that we should discuss modern ritual, and with a dead-pan face he inquired of Ilamish Dundas his opinion concerning total immersion of the adult as opposed to baptism of the infant as a necessary prelude to salvation. Ilamish, whose ancestors had fought and died on the Border hills in attack on and defense of minor liturgical issues, reddened slightly, but gave the Free Kirk’s present party-line reply concerning its doctrinal differences with Billy Graham: that the Kirk did not want to stress the incongruities of its association with the Baptists, for Billy was an honorable man, and his team of evangelists . . . “So are they all, all honorable men!' concluded Barry (’a\en for him; then turning to Jerry Nolan, to whom nobody had yet spoken, he inquired whether Old Jerry thought that there was at least a psychological if not a doctrinal resemblance between the Roman confessional and Graham’s technique of collecting penitents before him and remitt mg their sins.
Jerry’s reply, which might have caused an uproar in our predominantly Presbyterian bus, was fortunately lost in 1 lie bustle attending the arrival, only half an hour late, of the Minister.
“Good day, everybody! Good day!” The Minister beamed. “What a fine turnout! Billywill be proud of the response of our parish to his Crusade. Now let me see how many we are. . . . Counting myself, 1 make it seventeen souls and the driver.”
“That makes eighteen,” said Barry in a loud, clear voice.
“Nearly a tithe of the parish! Now let me see who we are. Mr. Dundas, and of course Mrs. Dundas, and Miss Dundas, and the Miss Lindsays — all my old faithfuls — and you too, Kenneth, though I haven’t seen you in kirk for a week or two.”(The old herd fidgeted uncomfortably and gazed glumly at his feet like a reproved ten-yearold.) “Now who have we here? . . . Oh! . .
11 is shortsighted eyes had focused on Jerry. They blinked slowly three times, then passed quickly on to Mrs. Chisholm. “Ah! Dear lady. I thought you would answer the call. And there’s Flossie, and the other young people. I hope you’ve all brought your Bibles with you. Billy Graham teaches that we should base even our everyday lives on the Bible.”
“Jack Calvin and good old Johnnie Knox had th(' same idea a while ago,” remarked Barry Caven, thereby bringing the ministerial gaze to bear on him at last.
“Now who have we here? Why! By . . . by . . , hookey! It’s Mr. Caven!” The shock of finding Jerry Nolan on the Dus had not yet worn oil’, and this time the poor Minister could not. conceal his amazement, “I didn’t know, Mr. Caven, that you . . . ah . . . that you . . . well, anyway, welcome to our company! Billy has asked us to bring anybody and everybody’. And many outside the Church may have their lives changed this evening. 1 hear that even an actress heard Billy’s call last night, and forsook her disgraceful wav of life, so there’s no reason why a . . . ah .
“Tramp?” suggested Barry helpfully.
“. . . why other unconventional souls shouldn’t hear the call,” the Minister finished hurriedly.
“If the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Inc., is calling on ns to forsake this world’s goods, tell cm I heard t lie call at Capernaum two thousand years ago, ' said Barry, hut the Minister evaded this dangerous topic by turning to my wife and myself with a brief nod of recognition, then ordered the driver to start his bus. But there were two further incidents before we got out of the village.
uwx the lane a ragged, trousered, but obviously female figure, well known to us all, stepped out and held the bus for a few moments. This was Mrs. Tam. She spoke to Flossie through the window, ignoring the Minister’s obv ious irritation.
“After the meet in’ gang ool tae the shops, Flossie, an’ get me a jar o’ potted shrimps.”
“Okay, Mither,” replied Flossie; then added, to the amusement of all those in the rear seats, “But what if I get convairted tae Christ, Mither? Then I’ll hue to stay behind and get eoonseled, an’ the shops’ll a’ be shut.”
“Ye can get convairted tae ony bluidy thing ye like, but dinna come hame withoot they potted shrimps,” admonished our village doyenne.
“Wouldn’t you care to join us, Mrs. Elliot?” ft was not the Minister, but Barry Caven, who issued the invitation. “We may all have our lives changed tonight.”
“Ye’re a" bluidy daft, that’s what ye are,” replied the doyenne, and waved the bus on.
The second interruption occurred at the House of Sin. Passing that establishment, the Minister, the elder, and the church members, as is their custom, all averted their eyes and found something very interesting to engage their attention in the blank empty held on the other side of the road, so they did not see the aging red-faced citizen in a greasy old tweed cup and plus fours who dashed out of the bar door waving a battered blue paperbacked book with as much vehemence as an evangelist waves a Bible. The driver saw him, however, and braked hard to allow him to jump aboard and slump down, breathing heavily, in the seat beside Auld Kenneth. We were finally off.
None of us knew Old Greasy Cap, which was rather astonishing, for we know everybody within ten miles of our village. The respectable folk in the front seats turned to take one look at him, noted with obvious horror his choice of attire for churchgoing, and turned back quickly. The rear seats began a whispered colloquy in an effort to diagnose him. Even Barry Caven was stumped. It was agreed that if we could see the name of the unusuallooking scripture he was clutching, that would furnish the main clue, so my wife was detailed to find out the nature of this well-thumbed tract before we reached Billy Graham,
Interest in our latest-joined pilgrim was temporarily banished when the Minister announced that, as there would be no time for attending to the inner man when we arrived in Glasgow, we had better all partake of the sustenance he hoped we had brought with us. Owing to the unusual circumstances, he would dispense with the saving of grace and the blessing of food, but before we opened our Masks of tea, Mr. Dundas would take up a collection, which would be our parish contribution to the All-Scotland Crusade.
Hamish removed his black hat with alacrity and moved around the bus. When he came to Barry Caven, with mute but irresistible demand, I tried to slip Barry a shilling under the seat. But Barry pushed it away and announced with quiet dignity and without excuse, “I have no money.”
It then transpired that the Minister, owing to the pressure of work connected with the evangelical rev iv al in our parish, had omitted to bring his own sustenance.
“But,” he said, fixing my wife with a look of Pickwickian benevolence, “I have no doubt that one of the Indies will allow me a sip of tea from her flask.”
I was the only person on ihc bus who knew how awkward was this particular situation, for the flask was filled, not with tea, but with a pint of exquisitely cold and very dry martinis. Barry saved the day by telling the Minister that my wife had already promised him a cup from her flask; and as soon as the reverend gentleman had gone scrounging elsewhere, Barry reached over the back of the seat for his cup of tea, which he had great difficulty in holding steadily for the next two minutes.
When we had munched our sandwiches and emptied our flasks, a somnolent silence settled over the bus awhile. It was broken by the unknown pilgrim, who leaned his greasy cap close to Auld Kenneth’s well-brushed Sunday bowler and shouted in his ear:
“It should be a guid meetin.'”
“Aye!” Kenneth allowed that it. would. “I hear they’re expectin’ fifteen ihoosand.”
“Are they noo! I didna ken it held that many.”
“Oh, aye!” maintained Kenneth. “An’ it’s tae be on the televeesion as week”
“Is it indeed! If I’d kent that, I’d hae bided at hame. It micht hae been cheaper,”
Bowler Hat looked at Greasy Cap reprov ingly, and llamish the elder turned half around in his seat.
“I dinna think it’s oor money they’re after,” they both said together, and llamish added: “I think the success o’ the meet in’ is tae be judged by the number that gaes up.”
“Oh, aye! That’s so,” conceded Greasy Cap. “And there should be a lot of stairters the day. There’s twa-three young ‘uns I’m interested in, an’ if they dinna gae up the day, it ‘ll brak my heart.”
The trend of this conversation had me puzzled, so I turned to my wife, only to find her equally perplexed. But I noted a look of delighted comprehension coming over the face of Barry Caven, so I raised my eyebrows in inquiry.
“The book,” whispered Barry with huge glee. “That blue Bible! I can guess now what it is! ”
Barry refused to explain further, and the remainder of the journey to Glasgow passed somewhat tediously.
AT KELVIN HALL, which is Scotland’s largest place of assembly, we found hundreds of buses exactly like our own, but bearing the names of widely dispersed villages all over the country. As each bus arrived, the bodies, if not yet the souls, of its occupants were immediately grabbed by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Inc., and we found ourselves under a discipline as strict as that of the barrack square or the stockyard. Our group was placed under the command of a ferociously cordial young Christian who handed each of us a yellow ticket before marching us into the hall to our appointed seats near the front. “Watch Greasy Gap,” Barry whispered to me.
Our unknown pilgrim had grabbed his yellow ticket from the young man, glanced down at it covertly behind his hand, then looked wondcringly back into the innocent face of the steward.
“He’s looking at it as though it were a halfcrown tip he’d got at the entrance to the racecourse,” I commented, and Barry burst into a long-pent-up laugh.
“And that’s exactly what he thinks it is! He thought he was getting on the bus for the Lanark Races, and lie’s never heard of the All-Scotland Handicap. I wouldn’t be surprised if that book under his arm is —”
“It’s Guide to the Turf” announced my wife, who had sidled lip as instructed to read the title.
Inside the hall we were surrounded by ferociously cordial stewards, or “Gollic Dogs as they had already been named by Barry Cavcn.
“We’re outnumbered about three to one,” he said anxiously, “and I don’t want to sit right up in the middle of the pen with the others. But there’s always one or two sheep get through the line of dogs, so come on!" and, grabbing my wife and myself by the arms, he doubled on his tracks and we managed to retreat about ten rows before we were borne down by reinforcements of Collies.
From our new position we had a better view ol the thousands of Scottish villagers being herded in toward the pound, and we could see better the props and effects which were to assist in their redemption. Some fifteen thousand people were soon collected under the roof, but a thousand or two who had failed to pass the screening to which we were all subjected on entering had been penned in annexes to watch the proceedings on television, perhaps because they were bad security risks who might try to contradict Billy, or perhaps because their souls were such that even Billy in the flesh could not save them. Curiously enough, the only member of our party wheeled into the annex was Jerry Nolan, the Catholic barman, whom one of the Collie Dogs had spotted with unerring instinct. Greasy Cap had got through the screen, probably because he would be a magnificent showpiece on the sinners’ parade at the finale; but two of the Collies had been specially detailed to keep an eye on him.
In the center of the fifteen thousand gaping Scots was a large, solid-looking, black-draped rostrum. “Just like the Kaaba!” commented Barry Cavcn, who had no doubt seen that famous shrine in his wanderings.
Behind this was a choir of two thousand, the males on the left all dressed like flamish Dundas and the females on the right dressed in white like Aimee McPherson’s Angels. Some attempt had been made to ease the eye a bit by putting the younger choristers at the front and sides, like icing around a cake, but the choral core was a few hundred middleaged songsters, collected from the Glasgow churches, over whom the lights had been arranged in such a way as to dim their appearance though not their Voices.
The choir was already in action when we arrived. They were being led, or energetically followed, by an athletic young man who seemed to be throwing an imaginary medicine ball to basses, tenors, then altos, but most often to the sopranos.
The other scenery of interest included sundry cranes, trolleys, scaffoldings, traffic lights, and all the impedimenta one would normally expect to find on a Clydeside wharf rather than in the House of God. This, we were told by another sinner whom Barry had instinctively selected as a conversational companion, was the TV, moving-picture, and landline apparatus, which was going to carry “The Message” to about fifteen per cent of the population of Scotland, assembled in town halls, Viliage churches, and school houses in highlands and lowlands and islands.
But our fifteen thousand fellow Scots interested us even more than the evangelistic paraphernalia. The uniformity of the types represented was frightening. “I can see at least five hundred Flossies between me and the Kaaba,” my wife whispered. “Each one accompanied by one or more gawky boy friends. And there’s at least fifty Greetin’ Gerties sprinkled among them.”
The beginning of the service then interrupted our audience analysis.
A BILLY GRAHAM gospel gathering need be described Only to the incurious and sensible few who have never left the Plain of Philistia, for the procedure, the music, and often enough the sermon, are identical, whether the performance takes place in Glasgow, or Paris, or London, or Delhi, or Madison Square Garden. At the sound of the last tone of some unseen time machine, the Medicine Ball Man faces about smartly and orders us all to Rise and Pray.
“Every head bowed! Every eye closed!”
“And keep the barrel of the rifle on the toe of the right boot, not in the bluidy mud!” muttered Barry Caven as he rose, causing some unseemly mirth among a few ex-service sinners around us who had paraded under Sergeants in Charge of Funeral Parties in the past.
We were kept standing during a long prayer, a Bible reading, a bit of community singing, and an admonition to be good and not whisper or cough — about twenty-five minutes in all — and then, having been advised to reach into our hip pockets for our wallets before sitting down, we were allowed to slump gratefully into our seats.
“Here comes the Sunday-school superintendent,” whispered Barry as the leading man made his blatantly unobtrusive entry on stage and sat down modestly in a corner of the kanba.
The collection was then taken up by the Collie Dogs so smoothly and efficiently that there were men staggering out the doors of the hall laden with sackfuls of money almost before the organist had reached the second bar of his palliative music; then the chief crooner of the Crusade gave us a number; and then, at last, the main act was on.
The sermon is a sort of national institution in Scotland, and it is expected to fit a pattern which has been precisely defined since John Knox preached the first. It must consist of six parts; the Text, followed by a Firstly (explanation), a Secondly (theology), a Thirdly (illustration), and two Finally Brethrens, the first of which should give us a brief tantalizing glimpse of the Heaven we have undoubtedly forfeited because of our sins or because we are not of the Elect, and the second a much longer description of the Hell we are undoubtedly doomed 1o for all eternity.
Graham, perhaps because he is at least partly of our race, followed the pattern pretty closely. For good measure he gave us three Texts, a sort of triple dip, then fifteen minutes of explanation which would have satisfied those with an IQ oven as high as 80. His Secondly, or theological argument, was that the Bible said so, and if we did not accept that as a good enough authority, Billy Graham said so too, and we could come to him and say, “But look, Billy—” if we wanted to. (Already I could see several little Flossies around us deciding to take him up on this offer.) His Thirdly was a masterly bit of soap opera, well relayed through the electronic pulpit, during which we met the Graham family in cozy intimacy. At the end we loved the beautiful wife even more than we love Lucy, and we felt we had known the wonderful children, especially “little Ruth, whom we always call Bonny,” all their lives.
The first, or glimpse-of-Heaven, peroration was rather vague, leaving us with the impression that Heaven, if not actually in the Blue Ridge mountains Of North Carolina, bears a distinct resemblance to that balmy district. But the second peroration was the masterpiece. Hell, we gathered, was an even worse place than Glasgowon a wet March night, and we were given such a vivid impression of it that some of us could not help thinking if ever BGEA, Inc., goes bust, one at least of its sermon writers has a job ready waiting for him as a contributor to horror stories.
But, unlike the Scots ministers, Billy gave us a lctoul. If, he invited us, we would get up now out of our seats and come forward, while the choir sang softly, and stand reverently before him, it was North Carolina for us, and hundred-year-long chats with big blond Billy Graham. If we didn’t —and here he looked directly at Barry Caven and raised the big Bible which was his principal prop as though to bang all the sinners in the hall over the* head if we didn’t, it would bo Glasgow, and all the additional horrors he had mentioned, for all eternity. And we would rawer have the chance to choose again.
“Come ... he went on, in a voice Cone would have envied. “Come . . . God is speaking to you now, right at ibis very moment. Come . . . you come and talk to God, just as you would talk to me. Come, all of you. Jesus is here, right here . .
A hush, a low humming noise from the choir, the Bible is slow ly lowered to the lectern, and t he splendid golden head is lowered in prayer. There is a smothered snuffling from a thousand young female nasopharynges within earshot of us, the owners of which are probably dreaming of an eternity in Heaven, N.C., with this godlike male — and then!
Every Collie within a hundred yards of us looked sharply up in our direction, and to my horror I realized the ejaculation had come from my wife.
“Jesus Christ!” she repeated, less audibly this time. “There goes Flossie!”
And sure enough, there went Flossie, weeping and stumbling down the aisle to get to the Throne of Grace before her contemporaries stole all the best places.
They were not long in following her lead. From all parts of the hall a hundred Flossies surged forward, not screaming and kicking and shouting “Love me, Billy!” as they had no doubt all done on other occasions, but this time trying to outdo each other in reverence, though elbowing each other as reverently as they could to get into the front row.
We felt almost proud of the initiative shown by our parish, especially when we saw Greetin’ Gertie make the next move. With both hands clutched to her breasts, she leaped from her seat, pushed away a Collie Dog w ho tried to head her off, and ran down the aisle. As soon as she was under the arc light in front of the Kaaba and within speaking distance of the Muezzin calling to her, she tried, unconsciously no doubt, to outsmart the Flossies. A stumble, a shudder of obvious agony, an earsplitting noise which yet succeeded in remaining a moan rather than a shriek, and she assumed a moderately comfortable horizontal position behind the assembled adolescents.
At this moment I admired Graham’s pulpit technique, or audience know-how, or whatever it is. He did not move a muscle. The piercing blue eyes were closed; the well-coi(lured head was bowed.
And just as well!
For there were already fifty more Greetin’ Gert ies staggering down the aisles, like boxers unconscious on their feet. And, had Graham shown a flicker of Christlike compassion for our poor Mrs. Chisholm, there would have been so many women of menopausal age liltering the deck that the hundreds of ambulance men present would not have been able to carry out the wounded quick enough. But Graham, by his immobility, let them know that reverence would gain his attention quicker than released repressions, so the Greet in Gerties braked hard.
And then, perhaps because he peeked, or perhaps because he knew from previons experience, he seemed to realize that there was, as Barry put it, “a much higher proportion of yowe-lambs than tup-hoggs in the pen so far,”for the next appeal went out to the males. The therapeutic monotone rose again above the music.
“Come . . . there are many in this hall carrying a burden of secret sin . . . come and cast it down here . . . here, before me . . . old and young, men and boys . .
No elderly gentlemen answered this call, but again our village was in the van. this time it was fifteen-year-old Wee Ecky, Flossie’s youngest and gawkiest suitor. With a face as red as it was determined, and trying to make himself even less conspicuous than he was, Ecky slipped into the ring, and several score other young lads made their embarrassed way forward to lay their secret sin at the feet of this Hero of the Christian Cnion.
“That’s a damned shame,’ was Barry’s rather angry comment this time. “Five minutes chat with an intelligent schoolmaster or the village doctor would have solved the problems of any of these laddies.”
Next came the call for those who had already made the “Decision" but wanted to take the opportunity’ to rededicate their lives. This was Hamish Dundas’ signal. At an approving nod from the Minister, he arose and strode down the aisle “in solemn sanctimonious state, his dutiful women behind him. And, lest there be any of the fifteen thousand observers so undiscerning as to mistake this for a repentant sinner instead of a rededicating kirk elder, he withdrew his large Bible from under his armpit and clutched it to his tummy, rather as Moses must have clutched the second edition of the Tablets as he’ came down the mountain.
Other Moses-like figures, followed by their grim odalisques, were converging from all directions. The crowd around the kaaba now began to look as though the queues for a Roy Rogers film, the outpatient department of a psychiatric clinic, and the General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland had become unaccountably commingled.
But Billy hadn’t scraped the bottom of Scotland’s hallelujah barrel yet. He knew that there were several hundred Aidd Kenneth Lindsay’s in his audience, and again I admired his craft as he urged their women to bring them forward. Auld Kenneth, I am sure, had no more intention of declaring for Christ than for Confucius, but his women hauled him up. Halfway down the aisle, he “minded that he’d left his hat and slick on the seat" and had to go back for them — more, I feel, to gain time to cover his embarrassment than because he wanted to appear before his Saviour properly dressed.
That left only four in the parish pew ahead of us. The Minister at one end. Greasy Cap at the other, and the two six teen-year-old boys in the middle. Billy had slipped up badly in his attempt to lure those boys into the fold. He had told them that if they came forward, they would be “Babes in Christ,”and no sixteen-year-old was going to stand for that, however much he loved Flossie and wanted to accompany her into the mysterious inner room of the temple, where she was going to be “coonsoled.”
The night’s quota had now been reached, so the handsome gospeler swung himself off the rostrum and disappeared. The Babes in Christ, now guarded by a veritable regiment of Collie Dogs, were paraded ostentatiously before the thousands of us who had missed forever our chance of salvation, and then led on into eternal life, which lay somew here through a rather dingy door at the back ol Kelvin Hall. Then. as a sort of sublime non sequitur, a minister of the Kirk blessed all of us who were left, “now, henceforth, and forever more, and the show was over.
The pulls in the vicinity of Kelvin Hall were crowded that night as they had not been since the Cup Final.
Billy Graham has gone from Scotland now.
The Kirk’s assessment of the results of the AllScotland Crusade have not yet been published, but the report and statistics of the effect on our Free Kirk parish are av ailable. Here they arc:
|Total number of Crusaders||15|
The Minister preached to a congregation of eight souls the Sunday after the Crusade, and none of the “eonvairted" showed up, even though, I am told, he preached in an attempted American accent with a hint of a Southern drawl, and banged his Bible on the pulpit four times.
The All-Scot land Crusade had made its assault on our parish, as it had on the rest of the country, and had passed on elsewhere.
“I tellt ye ye were a’ bluidy daft,” commented Mrs. Tam.