I’m reading President George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, and I’m finding it difficult to put it down. I’m puzzled by one anecdote near the beginning of the book that I thought deserved some comment. The story is about a Bush family gathering in Kennebunkport in the mid-80’s, and the Reverend Billy Graham was their special guest. At a discussion session after dinner one night, President George H. W. Bush asks Reverend Graham a question, and here’s how the younger President Bush recounts what happened:
“The first question was from Dad. He said, ‘Billy, some people say you have to have a born-again experience to go to heaven. Mother [my grandmother] here is the most religious, kind person I know, yet she has no born-again experience. Will she go to heaven?’ Wow, pretty profound question from the old man. We all looked at Billy. In his quiet, strong voice, he replied, ‘George, some of us require a born-again experience to understand God, and some of us are born Christians. It sounds as if your mom was just born a Christian” (Decision Points, p. 31).
In the introduction, President Bush says that the book is based mainly on his recollections, though he has been able to confirm many of the stories through government documents, personal notes, news reports, and other sources (p. xii). Nevertheless, he says, “If there are inaccuracies in this book, the responsibility is mine.” This sounds like an inaccuracy to me, and I have to believe that the President is not remembering correctly what Graham said. Perhaps he misunderstood him at the time. I don’t know, but I have a hard time believing that Billy Graham said anything like what President Bush reports here.