Faith and politics have been inextricably linked since ancient kings first sought the wisdom of the priests. Though we tout the separation of church and state, religion and politics have always been dance partners, willing or not. The Preacher and the Presidents follows the modern incarnation of that dance in the relationships between world-renowned Christian evangelist Billy Graham and the men who have occupied the White House, one after the other, over the last 60 years. From Truman to George W. Bush, Graham met with them all, developing intimate friendships with men as diverse as Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan.
The Preacher and the Presidents, by Time magazine editor Michael Duffy and reporter Nancy Gibbs, tells how and why a self-proclaimed simple preacher from North Carolina achieved unparalleled access to the leaders of the world. Written with the full cooperation of Billy Graham, this book is no puff piece. From the beginning, Graham asked the authors to share the bad as well as the good. The result is an insightful and thorough account of Graham's life among the presidents, both his blunders and blessings, from his na•vetÅ½ with the duplicitous Nixon to his support of the Clintons during impeachment and its aftermath.
As well written as it is researched, the book grants a fascinating look into the private faith, hopes and fears of the men and families who have lived in the White House. Indeed, there is as much to be learned about the presidents as about Graham, who became one of the few persons these men could count on to carry no agenda save their own well-being. The result was an outpouring of trust few others have known. Gibbs and Duffy also reveal how Graham's presence contributed to the rise of faith-based political activism in both parties though he himself steadily grew in a conviction not to take sides. Whether your interest is politics, faith or simply the history of modern times, The Preacher and the Presidents offers a compelling read and a reminder that the secular and the sacred are never truly separate.
Howard Shirley is a writer from Franklin, Tennessee.