The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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"Ganser, an oft-employed stage and television actor, has recorded about 200 audio books. He knows what he's doing behind the microphone, bringing nonfiction material to life in a way that makes it seem the stuff of a great novel you just can't put down.".... AudioFile
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With the cooperation of Billy Graham, award-winning Time® magazine writers Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy chronicle the history of Billy Graham's remarkable ties to 11 U.S. presidents.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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There is a photo section of Mr. Graham with each President. The authors are editors of Time magazine -- their writing is concise and clear. Their research (who met who when, the religious background of each President, ect.) is considerable. All in all, a must read for political junkies and Billy Graham fans.
The insights are countless:
* Harry Truman hated Graham
* Eisenhower's bland civil religion policies may have obscured some real spiritaul awakening during his presidency.
* LBJ considered Graham one of his best friends. He would phone Graham in the middle of the night to come to the White House bedroom to kneel and pray with him. Long after LBJ left office and was demonized by both Republicans and Democrats, Graham regularly visited him on his ranch. Graham was truly a pastor to him.
* Nixon used and manipulated Graham, but also cared about him. The "Two Nixon" portrait rings true.
* JFK was thoroughly secular and was amused but fairly disinterested in Graham. JFK once asked him why Protestants believed in a 2nd Coming while his own Catholics did not. Graham gently reminded JFK that the 2nd Coming was a part of the Apostles' Creed and Catholic dogma.
* Carter despised Graham. Not surprising, given that Carter's theology is not remotely evangelical and that Carter liked very, very few people in general.
I ended up respectinga nd liking Graham more AND less as a result of this book. Most horrifying was to learn more of his almost complete lack of ecclesiology. To him the Church seems to have value only as an instrument to bring people into a personal relationship with Christ. There is no sense of the centrality of community, or how the Church is not the means but the end. So when Graham sees Nixon criticized for starting Sunday worship inisde the White House, Graham's response is "Mr. President, the critics are pastors who fear peopel worshipping outside church."
Graham also was often too quick to allow his political favorites to be known even if he technically avoided all out endorsements.
And yet, it is also clear that Graham's pastoral heart and care for the presidents as men was sincere.
The book partly clears up what appeared to be a major inconsistency in Graham's approach to various presidents. Graham has been eager to support presidents currently in office regardless of whether they are Right or Left, Dem or Rep. The authors show that this is probably less about pandering to power and more about a deeply held theological conviction that God has ordained our rulers and we must help them whether or not we voted for them.
The authors are very knowledgable in both politics and contemporary church life and thought. The writing style is clear. They are thorough without being slow or ponderous.
A truly wonderful book.
Billy Graham must be unique in knowing eleven different Presidents and in sharing genuine friendships with nine (or ten) of them. From the time of Harry Truman all the way until the present day and the presidency of George W. Bush, Graham has been America's most widely known and widely respected preacher. He has served as pastor to most of the Presidents for almost half a century. This book, authored by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, editors at TIME, tells the story of Billy Graham in the White House--of Billy Graham's remarkable friendships with these Presidents. I begins with Truman and ends with George W. Bush. Each President receives a chapter or a number of chapters detailing how the life of Billy Graham intersected with his life.
Rather than relay how Graham interacted with each of the Presidents, I thought it might make sense to simply relay a few of the points that I found most interesting.
* I found it interesting that several of the Presidents seemed to use Graham for their own purposes. They may well have genuinely appreciated him and counted him as a friend, but they certainly also knew the value of a photo arm-in-arm with America's most recognized evangelical leader. This was particularly true of Richard Nixon. I had never read before of the length and depth of Graham's support of this President. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see how Nixon used Graham and other people, but it was amazing to see Graham's lack of discernment in seeing Nixon for who he was. There were few Presidents Graham endorsed with more passion, and none who let him down so greatly. Yet Nixon did seem to genuinely count Graham a friend and their relationship continued until Nixon's death. People speak of there being two Nixons and from his portrayal in this book it is easy to see why.
* It surprised me to learn that, of all the Presidents he knew, Graham had the least meaningful relationship with Jimmy Carter, but perhaps this is because they were, in many ways, so similar. Carter was outspoken with his faith and did not need to be associated with Graham in order to extend his credibility and so he avoided him.
* I was interested to see how much Graham struggled with the lust for power. He is known for his care in ensuring that he did not succumb to the many moral temptations that can befall popular preachers and his efforts to avoid even the appearance of moral sin. From reading this book I could see that throughout his career he struggled with the desire for power. This sometimes led him to be meddlesome and to give unwanted (and unneeded and unheeded) advice. His reflections later in life show that he is aware of this tendency and is even embarrassed as he thinks about it now. It seems that it was often his wife who kept him grounded when the desire for power rose up within him. As the authors say, "Fascination with power would forever be his weakness; and against its lure he often had no protection beyond the ever levelheaded Ruth telling him that he needed to stay away from politics and keep his eye on his evangelical mission."
* Similar to that, it was interesting to see how Graham struggled with keeping his vocation separate from his political leanings. Time and again he would attempt to remain silent during elections, but time and again he would find himself embroiled in controversy, In the end he would, more often than not, endorse a candidate (sometimes explicitly but just as often merely implicitly).
I found The Preacher and the Presidents a very interesting read. Though I read it as an evangelical, I read it as one who is perhaps unusually ambivalent towards Billy Graham. In some ways the book gave me new appreciation for Graham and his desire to ensure that everyone, even Presidents, had searched their hearts and had understood the gospel. In some ways it changed the way I think of Graham's ministry. It certainly opens up an aspect of his life that, to this point, has been largely unknown. Though clearly positive towards Graham in their tone, the authors deal sensibly and fairly with some of the more troubling aspects of his career (including his well-publicized anti-Semitic remarks and his tendencies to be meddlesome). Other aspects of his career that concern some conservative Christians (his ecumenism and some of his more recent comments that seem almost universalist) fall outside the narrative of the book so receive no attention.
I enjoyed this book from cover-to-cover and would commend it to those who are interested in the subject matter. Its presents a fascinating and unique little slice of history and does so in an engaging way. I'm glad I read it and I suspect you will be too should you make the time to do so.
Perhaps not as well known yet made clear in this book, Billy Graham has personally ministered to 11 American presidents through the years. It's amazing to read about the reach of this man, and to contemplate the affect that he's had on the course of history.
This book, while definitely not a "tell-all", is chockful of interesting tidbits of meetings with movers and shakers, and reveals the authors' commitment to a well-researched and well written book on one of the most interesting living Americans.
Whether you agree with Mr. Graham's religious beliefs or not, you will find this a fascinating book about a well-intentioned, highly committed religious leader whose reach and influence may very well have colored some of the decisions made by US presidents over the years. This is definitely a story of one of the "Men behind the Man".
Written by two Time magazine correspondents, this is neither a scholarly nor a profound book. But it has three things going for it.
1) With the recent death of Billy Graham's wife, Ruth and Mr. Graham's own failing health, there is a real timeliness to this book.
2) The authors had personal access to Mr. Graham and his associates and interviewed widely both those who were supporters, observers and even critics of his life and ministry. They have done that work well. The opening and closing chapters of Graham's reminiscences as well as his remembrances of each of the presidents he befriended are almost worth the price of the book all by themselves. Mr. Graham has always had a personal humility that has allowed him to admit when he might have been wrong. That trait shines through his comments in this book. I think it also accounts for why even his non-followers have almost nothing bad to say about him personally.
3) This may be the most valuable resource of all. In reviewing information going back to 1950, with Graham's meeting with Truman, as Time editors the authors had unlimited access to a wealth of background news data not usually available to the average reader. This includes personal files from the Luce estate, when Luce strongly backed Graham early in his ministry.
So with all that good data, what kind of book is this. If someone has followed the Graham ministry closely, (as I have, having been a teen singing in the NY Crusade choir in 1957) this book repeats a lot of material that is often found in other sources. In fact, the many Graham biographies, (of which Pollock's is probably the best) as well as Billy's own autobiography, "Just As I Am" are quoted extensively. So there is a lot that is not new here.
But those other biographies focused on the religious impact of Billy Graham. A book written about The Preacher and the Presidents casts a spotlight on Graham and politics and looks at it from the view of political correspondents, and that is both a refreshing and different point of view.
From that point of view this is a fascinating book. Graham's fascination with politics shows through and yet his steadfastness in trying to use politics to advance the gospel he proclaimed is amazingly consistent. Whenever he was tempted by the potential for political power, there were two constraints; his wife was an amazingly good touchstone for him, and there was his own humility that kept him from taking himself too seriously or thinking too much of himself.
For me, as an evangelical believer who loves politics, I think the most interesting insight was that Mr. Graham, while working on the public political level, always continued to see himself as a minister to this presidents. To him it made no difference, president or pauper, he would preach the gospel to them. And the fact that so many of those presidents, the most powerful men in the world, so seduced by power (and other things, as Bill Clinton demonstrated) recognized that Graham was truly interested in ministering to them, and from Eisenhower on, with the exceptions of Kennedy and Carter, they have all responded to that. Kennedy did not since as a Catholic, (and a Boston Catholic at that) Graham's religious perspective was so alien to his own. Yet, Kennedy still asked Graham persistent questions about the second coming of Jesus. Who knows if Kennedy had lived, if he too might have fallen under Graham's spiritual influence. Carter did not court Graham, and as another Bible believing Baptist he would not have sought out that spiritual help, but Carter was often involved in early Graham ministry of crusades in Georgia, and he too testified at the opening of Graham's library four months ago in North Carolina what an influence Graham was on him too.
So if you are interested in how politics and religion can intersect then this is a good read for you. If you think that politics and religion are too intertwined in American life, then you probably will hate this book and possibly blame Billy Graham for some of it.