I've observed that birthday parties are often more about the person throwing the party than the one being honored.
Children's birthday parties, for example, can become de facto competitions between parents who want to outdo other kids' parties: who has the biggest inflatable slide or bounce house? Who has a real pony, or three? Who has a clown or a magician? Who can send home party favors that cost more than some of the presents received?
I was always more saddened than impressed at children's parties that served parental agendas.
And I was saddened, too, when I saw the tables turned last week. Billy Graham turned 95, and was feted by 900 people at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. I have no problem with that: Graham has made many friends and worked with a lot of people in his long career. He certainly deserves a nice party.
But he deserved better than what came of it. Was I the only one feeling a bit galled to see the likes of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Rupert Murdoch hogging the spotlight with Graham, hoping some of his laudable legitimacy might rub off on them? Graham's son Franklin, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and an outspoken proponent of conservative politics, was no doubt behind the obvious public relations ploy.
Where were Palin, Trump, and Murdoch when Graham was preaching up a storm through crusade after crusade? Were they supporting him then, or following the gospel he preached so earnestly? Did they come to the party in hopes of bettering their spiritual lives, or did they come to be seen with America's most respected religious icon?
I've always admired Billy Graham, even when I thought he made some major mistakes, like using his influence to help swing elections in the Southern Baptist Convention during a time of real turmoil. Graham himself has said one of his greatest regrets is having gotten too involved in politics -- yet others used Graham's birthday to try putting his stamp of legitimacy to some rather sketchy politicos.
It's certainly possible that I am wrong about this and every person attending the party did so in perfect sincerety and no selfish motives, but still I have to wonder, whose party was it, really?