Tony Snow Interviews Billy Graham
This is an excerpt of the interview with Billy Graham only from the entire show.
SNOW: Earlier this week I talked with the Reverend Billy Graham about
religion, politics, America's future, and his own. I began by asking
about George W. Bush's answer to the question of his favorite thinker or
philosopher. Bush chose Jesus Christ.
GRAHAM: Well, from my point of view, it was a wonderful answer. I mean,
to millions of young people especially in the United States, Jesus
Christ is the greatest man in this -- in the history of the world. And
to me, he's the greatest person in the history of mankind and the
universe. We can't prove it, I can't put it in a test tube or in an
astronomical formula, but by faith I believe it because the Bible
SNOW: Sir, soon after Governor Bush gave that answer, a number of other
politicians on the stage quickly jumped up and said: Yes, and I believe
in Jesus as well. Do you think those kind of public avowals by
politicians help or hurt the spread of the Gospel?
GRAHAM: I couldn't answer that, but I'm glad to know that we do have
political leaders that believe in God, and that has been true from the
days of George Washington. I just did a little book on George Washington
that they're giving away now to all the visitors at Mount Vernon. And I
was myself amazed, in studying once again the life of George Washington,
how often he referred to his faith in God.
SNOW: You have been a friend, a counselor, confidante of presidents
as far as President Truman. Is it your experience, sir, that when you
talk to presidents that going to the office makes them more arrogant or
GRAHAM: I think it makes them more humble. I think most presidents are
amazed at the overwhelming responsibility they have when they enter
office and the tremendous amount of work there is. See, a modern
president today has far more responsibility than a president a few years
ago. And I personally, if I were rewriting the Constitution or had any
part in it, I would suggest a president or a -- that he would be more
like a monarch and then have a prime minister under him.
SNOW: Do you think also then that presidents should have even more
limited terms? Do you think that eight years in the White House is too
much for a mere mortal? GRAHAM: Yes, I think it's too much at the White
House. I think that there's too much -- I don't necessarily think
there's too much authority. I believe we need an authority. But we need
that authority disseminated and delegated to others that have been
elected by the American people.
SNOW: Back in the United States, a number of divisive social issues
where Christian doctrine seems to be running head long into social
practice. Let's begin with an old controversy, divorce. Do you think
it's too easy to get a divorce in this country?
GRAHAM: That's a very difficult question to answer, because some people
just reach the point where they can't make it together and it would be
better for their family and so forth if they were separated.
I'm against divorce. I think the Bible teaches that divorce is wrong,
but at the same time, I also believe that the Bible has a leave way;
Jesus said, except for adultery, that the -- a person should not be
divorced and should not be separated, and I think that is exactly the
teaching of the New Testament. But in the Old Testament, men could have
more than one wife under certain circumstances. And in many of the
religions of the world like Islam, you can have three or four wives. And
there must be reasons for that. And I think that some of them are valid
SNOW: What do you think about the recent advocacy of gay marriages?
GRAHAM: I'm against it. I think the Bible would be definitely against
SNOW: Do you think there's a temptation sometimes among members of the
cloth to be too judgmental of people they think are sinners?
GRAHAM: Yes I do. I think we should love them, and welcome them, and
open our arms to them, and then we don't totally accept them into our
fellowship as believers and as Christians until they have repented their
sins and changed their way of living.
GRAHAM: But as far as day-to-day friendship and being together at
various functions, I don't think that there should be any difference at
all. I have many friends that don't claim to be followers of Christ.
SNOW: There's been some controversy in Chicago because the Southern
Baptist Convention has announced plans to send evangelists into that
city to try to convert Jews and Muslims. Is that the sort of thing the
Baptist Convention should be doing?
GRAHAM: I'm a Southern Baptist, and I normally defend my denomination.
I'm loyal to it. I believe in them. They have some of the finest people
in the world in our denomination. But I have never targeted Muslims. I
have never targeted Jews. I believe that we should declare the fact that
God loves you, God's willing to forgive you, God can change you, and
Christ and his kingdom is open to anybody who repents and by faith
receives him as lord and savior.
SNOW: Just about a week ago, Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation
Islam, told a group that he had a near-death experience that had utterly
transformed him, and that he wanted now to be a man who promoted unity
and harmony among people and spoke a moral message. Do you think
Minister Farrakhan could in fact be a unifying religious figure?
GRAHAM: I doubt if he could. I know him. And he has asked if he could
come and see me, and I want him to come and see me, but about the time
it was being arranged, he became very ill. But his views and my views
will be very far apart, and it would be very difficult for us -- we
could be friends, but it would be very difficult for us to say that we
are the same, or that we could be the same religiously.
SNOW: Reverend Graham, let's talk about your own spiritual life. God
spoke to you at a young age. How did that happen?
GRAHAM: Well, I'd grown up in a Presbyterian church, but I really didn't
know Christ personally in my heart. I knew him, but I didn't know him.
And there's a difference between an intellectual faith and a personal,
heart faith in which I opened my heart to him and let him rule my life.
And it was at that point that made the big change. And I was about 16
years of age at that time. And it didn't happen overnight. It happened
in one sense. It happened in the fact that I went forward at an old-
fashioned revival meeting and received Christ into my heart and my life
began to change. But it was a gradual change. And I didn't see any
flashing bulbs. I didn't see any -- hear any thunder. There was no great
emotional experience. It was just saying: Yes, Lord Jesus, I want you to
be the lord of my life.
SNOW: You say God speaks to you. Has God ever said to you, "Billy,
you're too full of yourself. You have to remember who's in charge here"?
GRAHAM: Well, I've said that to myself a billion times in my heart,
because I know God is in charge. Not me, I'm nothing. I wouldn't be
anything except for the power of the spirit of God.
SNOW: You have probably spoken to more people than anyone in history
by your own count 210 million people. There have to be an awful lot of
temptations there. It's a very exhilarating experience. How do you tamp
down your ego?
GRAHAM: Well, you know when you get to be my age, you don't have too
many temptations along those lines. And I have been offered every kind
of thing that you can imagine throughout my life if I would compromise
here or compromise the other way. Whether it'd be an office, even the
office of the president of the United States. And I remember when
President Johnson thought that I should run for president and he said
his organization would back me, or the other party did the same thing.
Those were not even temptations. I just said: I will never do anything
in my entire life except preach the Gospel.
SNOW: When you get to Heaven, who's going to speak first, you or God?
GRAHAM: When I get there, I'm sure that Jesus is going to say that
will welcome me. But I think that he's going to say: Well done, our good
and faithful servant. Or he may say: You're in the wrong place.
SNOW: You really worry that you may be told you're in the wrong place?
GRAHAM: Yes, because I have not -- I'm not a righteous man. People
me up on a pedestal that I don't belong in my personal life. And they
think that I'm better than I am. I'm not the good man that people think
I am. Newspapers and magazines and television have made me out to be a
saint. I'm not. I'm not a Mother Teresa. And I feel that very much.
SNOW: Sir, as you look forward, do you think Americans are -- that the
United States itself is going to be facing better times or worse times?
GRAHAM: I think we're going to -- it's going to be the best of times
the worst of times. I think that this is exactly where we are right now,
because we've now got the tools at our command to change the world for
the better or for the worse.
SNOW: What's your happiest memory? GRAHAM: My happiest memory is when
received Christ into my heart. And the second happiest probably was when
the girl I was going with, by the name of Ruth Bell from China, said,
yes, that she would marry me. She's the most marvelous wife that a man
could ever have.
SNOW: And as you look forward, what is your fondest wish?
GRAHAM: My fondest wish is that the lord would come back and bring peace
to the world, because I'm deeply disturbed, as I look into the future,
about all of these new -- all this new technology that can destroy the
SNOW: Reverend Graham, I want to thank you again, and have a happy new
GRAHAM: Thank you, and the same to you, Tony.
SNOW: When we return, something completely different: our panel on the
new and improved Linda and Monica.
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