- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

Billy Graham’s 90th birthday was Nov. 7 and, predictably, one of the books that landed on my desk about the famous evangelist was penned by Basyl and Aram Tchividjian, two of his 19 grandchildren.

“Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched,” is a tribute filled with colorful photos and peoples’ testimonies. Being that Mr. Graham has been in and out of the hospital a few times this year, the grandsons probably sense he might not be around too much longer.

Other Graham grandchildren are likewise building reputations based on their famous grandfather. There’s Will Graham, son of evangelist Franklin Graham, who himself began leading crusades about two years ago. There’s Tullian Tchividjian, a pastor who last year came out with his first book “Do I Know God?”

I got a press release about this book and noticed how strongly the family connection was played up. I am sure this young man has something to say, but why can’t he say it on his own merits?

If these young men were the progeny of Joe the Plumber, would they have gotten this attention?

Of course not.

I am wearied by how the children of famous evangelicals make money off their parents’ reputations. Several years ago, I got a copy of “In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart,” a book by Ruth “Bunny” Graham, Billy Graham’s third daughter. She was in the midst of her third divorce. Were it not for her famous dad, this book would never have been published.

Christian publishers who market this stuff want you to believe the apple does not fall too far from the tree. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson’s children, Danae and Ryan Dobson, have built careers around the name of their famous dad. Sarah Zacharias, daughter of evangelist Ravi Zacharias, who probably has the most natural talent of anyone I’ve mentioned thus far, also drops her father’s name when it comes to marketing her books.

So does Jonathan Falwell, whose book blurb tells us he is carrying on the legacy of his famous father, evangelist Jerry Falwell.

Maybe it can’t be helped. Maybe the rest of us would do the same if given the chance. All the same, it’s annoying for us lesser-known - and probably jealous - folks who don’t have famous last names and who will never crack the celebrity culture that afflicts the Christian publishing world.

The king of this son-of-famous-evangelical genre is Frank Schaeffer, the youngest child of world-renowned theologian Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, an author in her own right. Frank has been living off the name of his parents for years. His latest, “Crazy for God,” was outrageous in that it trashed his parents and L’Abri, the Christian community his parents founded in Switzerland.

I had thought that Frank may have gotten a life after — having written critiques such as “Bad News for Modern Man” in 1984 that criticized evangelicals - he came out with two thoughtful books about his son who fought in Iraq . But no, he’s back, portraying evangelicals as dimwits even though he has hauled in plenty of shekels as a writer, speaker and filmmaker in the evangelical subculture.

I would just like to know if any of those same mindless evangelicals actually bought his book.

Contact Julia Duin at [email protected]

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