I just finished reading The Preacher and the Presidents, a book about evangelist Billy Graham and his relationship with eleven U.S. presidents and their wives and families. While I was at times bored with the details of political plans and strategies, I was fascinated with Dr. Graham’s basic character and his manner of reaching both the high and the low among us mortals.
Although I’ve never attended one of his crusades, I have listened to snippets of many of his sermons. I also have a daily devotional book of his that I purchased at a mountainside flea market and keep on my bookcase at work. It’s entitled Day by Day with Billy Graham, and it’s soothed my soul on many a crazy, stressful day. I’ve always known that he was a charismatic and effective evangelist, but I didn’t realize just how phenomenal he was (and is) until reading the book about his relationship with the presidents from Truman to Bush (both of them).
The essence of the book is that although Dr. Graham associated with the powerful movers and shakers of the world (yes the world), he always remained humble and spiritual. Certain of his mission to spread the good news of the gospel, he wasn’t wowed by money, fame, or fortune. In fact, as I read about the presidents and other world leaders, I realized that Dr. Graham probably touched more lives in a positive way (worldwide) than any political leader. Even so, he was not without his critics and pundits. Amazingly, he was often cricitcized for being too forgiving, too conciliatory, and not judgmental enough. Huh??? And get this, many of those criticisms came from well-known religious leaders.
The gist of Dr. Grahams’s message is this: We all want to be loved, both the prince and the pauper, and God truly loves us all. If you want to read details of luncheon dates, prayer breakfasts, golf matches, and traveling to Russia, read the book. My most lasting impression is that Billy Graham remained a man of integrity and faith despite his access to the rich and powerful.